Screen Capture: Amazon.com
Welcome to a new frontier in American political polarization: book sales. Amazon has launched a new interactive 'Election Heat Map' that uses sales data from the past 30 days to show what people are buying and (presumably) reading around the country, applying the now-familiar red and blue labels to politically oriented books. Amazon plans to update the national map daily.
Overall, the picture is pretty bleak for blue books. Only 43 percent of national book purchases from Amazon have been classified blue, and just four states and the District of Columbia have purchased more blue than red. Earlier on Friday, both Minnesota and Maryland were labeled as neutral, but apparently some eager red-book buyers went ahead and fixed that.
The system isn't a perfect science. A quick glance over Amazon's top 100 best-selling "blue" and "red" books reveals some questionable selections. Robert Caro's multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson is about a Democrat, but it's so critical of Johnson personally that Democrats might not consider it true blue. David McCullough's Truman is also classified as blue but, like the Caro book, it does not build a case for either party. On the red side, Christopher Hitchens and Yale professor Jacob Hacker, author of a recent economic agenda for liberal groups, look out of place.
But the map is interesting nonetheless, if only in its display of how widely purchased right-leaning books are throughout the country compared with their left-leaning counterparts. As of this writing, Michael Grunwald's The New New Deal is leading Team Blue nationally and Edward Klein's The Amateur is leading Team Red.
The picture is a bit different in Washington, where the top-selling blue book is A Civil Action, Jonathan Harr's 1996 account of an epic legal battle against polluters. On the red side in the nation's capital, perhaps aided by a Paul Ryan bump that Mitt Romney can only hope applies to national politics as well as book sales, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged was in first place until midday. Later it was knocked into second place by Politico's Glenn Thrush and his questionably red new e-book, Obama's Last Stand.