Watch worldwide book sales, live


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The Book Depository is a British-based online bookseller that ships to countries around the world, for free. To bring that point home, it has built a map that shows who bought what, where, just now. The window of the map moves to reach the most recent purchase, zooming back and forth from Germany to Singapore to the United States to Australia to Norway. In each location, the title pops up. It’s hypnotic.

That’s partly because it’s a simple, elegant interface. But it’s also because it shows what books other people are purchasing, and that’s inherently interesting to people who like books. As novelist Antoine Wilson wrote on Twitter, the titles reveal ‘A never-ending catalogue of desire, desperation, and hope.’ It’s true, there are a lot of self-help books in the mix.


The Book Depository is England’s largest online bookseller. It offers mostly English-language books and ships them, free of charge, to more than 100 countries around the globe. The list includes Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands — and the U.S.

In July 2011, Amazon announced its acquisition of the Book Depository. Booksellers and publishers in the U.K. protested that the purchase would mean a de facto monopoly in online bookselling, but the deal was officially given the go-ahead in October, in part because the Book Depository’s international (map-demonstrated) growth.


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— Carolyn Kellogg