How to judge a book by its network

Taking advantage of the ‘customers who bought this item also bought’ feature of online commerce, this study constructed a co-purchase network of political books and science books. Researches found a clear division, which they label “partisan differences in the consumption of science”.

Both groups bought science books — more than 400,000 between them. But it was relatively unusual to find books that appealed to both liberals and conservatives. Members of each group — and their good friends — had different ideas about what made a good book. Buyers of “blue books” (the liberals) tended to pick from basic science topics, including physics, astronomy and zoology. “Red” customers preferred books that discussed applied and commercial science, such as medicine, criminology and geophysics. And whereas liberal choices tended to reflect mainstream thinking, “red books” tended to be co-purchased with a narrower subset of science books on the fringes of each subject.

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