Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, is the author of a study that attempts to rank the nation’s most literate cities. According to the study, San Francisco ranks no. 9, between Denver and Portland.

You might ask how could a study could produce results indicating San Francisco is less literate than Denver. Tat’s a good question, since the study’s report of its methodology is a little murky. But it seems to have involved counting the following factors:

  • number of bookstores per 10,000 population (SF is 2nd)
  • the population’s education level (SF is not in the top ten)
  • internet factors including number of access points, number of book orders, amount of online newpaper reading, etc. (SF is 9th)
  • number of libraries (SF is not in the top ten)
  • newspaper circulation (SF is not in the top ten)
  • number of magazine and journal publishers (SF is 7th)

In sum, the city is fortunate to have a large number of bookstores and some journal publishers. On the other hand, we have a poor daily newspaper and a population that is divided between the very highly educated and the barely educated.

Isn’t this methodology questionable? If you have a lot of local bookstores mightn’t you be less likely to buy a large number of books on the internet than if you don’t? Are these factors really indicators of the degree to which a community is literate?