Hamilton dropped from Amazon’s top-20 list
But that doesn’t mean we’re no longer a city of readers — just ask the public library
For the first time ever, Hamilton has failed to crack Amazon Canada’s annual lineup of the top 20 Canadian cities that love to read.
According to the online shopping giant, Saskatoon, Kingston and Kelowna, B.C., took the top spots for 2017.
But Hamilton, which always squeezed in at No. 19 or No. 20 since the list debuted in 2013, dropped off the chart entirely.
What’s more, neighbouring Burlington, which has been shut out in previous years, finally elbowed its way onto the list, ranking No. 15 among the top 20.
The Seattle-based company, which operates Amazon.com and Amazon.ca, compiles its list of “Canadian Cities that Love to Read” using annual sales data from its print and Kindle ebooks on a per-capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents.
On a personal note, I’m sure no one will be more surprised by Hamilton’s failure to make the cut this year than my wife. She’s convinced I’m personally responsible for making Amazon.ca Canada’s largest online retailer.
Not a fortnight goes by that a book doesn’t arrive in the mail at our homestead. We’re not only running out of space to store them, my wife is running out of patience. It’s got to the point where I’m reduced to sneaking them into the home and squirrelling them away in the back of closets and empty dresser drawers.
In my defence, buying books is my only vice, or at least the only one I’m willing to admit to while sober, and reading them is a big part of my escape-to-Shangri-la retirement plan. Still, the question remains: Why did Hamilton lose its place on the Amazon list?
An Amazon spokesperson noted via email that it wouldn’t have taken much for us to be bumped since we only ranked No. 20 last year. Beyond that, he couldn’t speak to any changes in customer behaviour.
Is it possible Hamiltonians aren’t reading as much as we used to? Probably not. The thing to remember is the list is based on Amazon sales. Maybe Hamiltonians simply aren’t ordering as many books from the ecommerce colossus as they did in previous years. After all, Amazon isn’t the only player in the game.
This city is home to two superstores owned by Toronto-based Indigo Books, plus three Coles stores that operate under the same corporate banner. In addition to its brick and mortar outlets, Indigo also has an online operation that offers Amazon-like discounts.
Furthermore, Hamiltonians can shop at a dozen or so local independent, used and specialty bookstores, as well as taking an easy drive to Burlington, which has its own collection of big box and autonomous bookstores.
It’s pretty clear there’s no shortage of choices besides Amazon. But the strongest evidence that Hamiltonians aren’t turning their backs on reading comes from Paul Takala, chief librarian and CEO for the Hamilton Public Library.
“We do have a very strong readership in Hamilton,” Takala says, citing library data.
Based on provincial statistics released earlier this year, among larger libraries serving populations over 250,000, Hamilton ranked first in circulation per card holder and third in circulation per capita.
Additionally, circulation of library materials last year was 6.74 million, down a touch from the high of 7.2 million in 2012, but still more than two million ahead of where we were at amalgamation.
Takala notes there’s also been a rapid growth in other library formats such as ebooks and audio books, which again speaks to people’s love of the written word.
Overall, Takala suggests we shouldn’t read too much into the Amazon rankings since they’re based on limited data. But, as befits a librarian, he cautions we should never underestimate the importance of literacy, a key determinant for health and wellbeing.
“With the city of Hamilton’s focus on poverty reduction the Amazon stats clearly show an opportunity for renewed emphasis on reading in all its forms and the library is happy to work with others to advance that agenda.”
Tangentially, I bet my wife’s personal agenda is to get me to kick my addiction to Amazon.ca and become hooked on the library instead.
Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. firstname.lastname@example.org 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel