Makeover Monday | Week 37 | 2019: James Patterson Book Checkouts in Seattle

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There is a dataset we’ve had in our backlog for months and I’m excited that Andy decided to use it for this week. It’s about book checkouts at the Seattle Public Library, particularly those of work by James Patterson.

James who? Due to the size of the dataset, Andy limited it to a single author. I’ve never heard of James Paterson, I have to admit, but I don’t read a lot of fiction these days. I used to read more of it when I was at uni and I particularly liked dark and gruesome Swedish crime novels but all that blood and murder just got a bit much and these days I prefer to read uplifting positive stuff that helps me be a better person. If I need negative awful stories I just switch on the news for 5 minutes.

So it’s time to learn more about James Patterson.

But first, here is the original viz featuring work by Jane Austen:

What works well:

  • The viz grabs my attention through the design and colors, it makes me curious to find out more.
  • The color choice works at first glance.
  • Showing the data in a chronological pattern

What could be improved:

  • What??? The title makes me curious at first, but upon reading the subtitle it makes me wonder what I’m actually looking at. Is it checkout numbers of web search numbers?
  • Looking at the color legend there seem to be DVD checkouts as well, so are these counted like books?
  • Individual circles rather than lines that connect make it very difficult to spot trends.
  • Interesting points like the large blue bubble at 100 peak volume in late 2009 are not explained or annotated.
  • What is ‘peak volume’?
  • What is the key takeaway? What am I supposed to learn from this viz?

What I did:

  • The data is fascinating and I dug around a bit, created 12 different charts to gain a better understanding before settling on a simple bar chart.
  • What I found most interesting is just how many books were co-authored or authored by James Patterson. I have to admit that publishing 30 books a year to me sounds a bit odd. I haven’t read any so I can’t and shouldn’t judge his work but it does sound a bit like quantity over quality. However, my research reveals that he has won numerous prizes and with millions and millions of copies sold, his stuff can’t be that bad.
  • My viz focuses purely on the number of titles published each year – because I am short on time today and with a busy week ahead.
  • Aside from practicing simplicity I wanted to try some formatting ideas for the title as well.

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