Via Worldmapper, a “collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.”

The most books borrowed were in the Russian Federation. There were high rates of borrowing in Western Europe, Japan and Eastern Europe. In these regions most territories reported some book borrowing.

In other regions reported book borrowing was lower, and many territories reported very little borrowing. Where many people cannot afford books, it appears they often cannot borrow them either.

The data, gathered from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, is available in various formats at their Books Borrowed map. As contrived as the stats may be, I still find it interesting that North America borrowed only .694 books per person. The grand total average for the world is 1.160 books per person.

I thought that finding a second data point would be informative, so I looked at the Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2004 report from the Institute of Education Sciences. It reports that in 2004, public libraries circulated 2 billion, or 7.1 items per person. Um, big difference. Granted, North America does not equal the United States, but what gives? Canada can’t bring the average down that much! Both studies cite about between 200 and 300 million circulations. However, the UNESCO data reports 291 million people in the US (in 2002), but the IES report’s population data “are based on the total unduplicated population of legal service areas.” So they didn’t include the 3% (according to them) of the US population unserved by public libraries. Even this couldn’t bring the figure of 7.1 circs per person to .694. I don’t get it.

My curiosity isn’t strong enough to resolve the issue because it is a beautiful day outside and I think I’d rather be riding my bike than deal with more numbers! At the very least, enjoy the pretty map.

Also take a look at the maps for Internet Users 1990 and Internet Users 2002