Now Available: Show Me the Numbers, Second Edition

Approximately two years ago I began working on a new edition of my book Show Me the Numbers. The work took longer than I originally hoped. When you travel as often as I do, the large blocks of time that are needed to focus on writing are hard to find. I’m pleased to announce, however, that Show Me the Numbers, Second Edition is finally available.

You might wonder why I wrote a second edition only eight years after the first. Has that much changed? Although relatively few changes have taken place in data visualization, I’ve learned a great deal more than I knew eight years ago. Most of the changes that I’ve made to the new edition are the results of broadened and deepened expertise.

Show Me the Numbers was the first of three books that I’ve now written. When I wrote it originally I had only recently begun focusing on data visualization despite having worked for nearly 20 years in information technology, mostly in business intelligence. I devoured the work of Edward Tufte and others, compiled the best of it, ran it through the filter of my own experience, then organized and expressed it to address the practical needs of people who work with data. Since writing the first edition of the book, I have taught data visualization courses internationally to thousands of people, written scores of articles, white papers, and two more books, and have worked with and advised many diverse organizations. As a result, my expertise has matured. The second edition of Show Me the Numbers is the result of this maturity.

In addition to my professional development, a few things have been happen­ing in the world that affect graphical communication—some positive, which I describe in the new edition, and some negative, which I warn against. On the positive side, two people in particular have shown that important stories involving numbers can be told in compelling ways. Even though Al Gore did not invent data visualization (or the Internet), the compelling nature of the graphical displays in his film An Inconvenient Truth began to change the tide of opinion about global warming. Those graphical displays moved people thanks to expert assistance from Nancy Duarte and Duarte Design. Another person who has used graphics to capture the imaginations of many in recent years is Hans Rosling of GapMinder.org. When this Swedish professor took the stage at the 2006 Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) Conference and told a story about the relationship between fertility and life expectancy throughout the world from 1962 to the present using an animated bubble chart, a new era of quantitative storytelling began.

On the negative side, the availability of bad graphs has increased since the first edition of the book. This expansion of bad graphical presentation has been made possible by the Web and has been fueled by uninformed so-called experts and self-serving software vendors. During the past few years, the number of people who claim expertise in data visualization has increased dramatically, but unfortunately many of them do not exhibit best practices. This is especially true of many graphic artists whose data-based visualizations are greeted with fanfare even though they don’t actually inform, or do so poorly. Flashy visual displays are engaging, but unless they invite people to think about data in meaningful ways that lead to understanding, they fail in their purpose.

The new edition of Show Me the Numbers is 93 pages longer than the original, but the list price of this beautifully printed hardback is still only $45 (less expensive from Amazon.com). Here are some of the highlights:

  • A new preface
  • A new chapter entitled “Silly Graphs That Are Best Forsaken,” which alerts readers to some of the current misuses of graphs such as donut charts, circle charts, unit charts, and funnel charts
  • A new chapter about visual quantitative narrative entitled “Telling Compelling Stories with Numbers”
  • New appendices entitled “Constructing Table Lens Displays in Excel,” Constructing Box Plots in Excel,” and “Useful Color Palettes.”
  • Material about geospatial data displays
  • Updated figures throughout, plus many that are new

I believe that Show Me the Numbers is now a much better book that won’t need to be revised again for many years to come. If you like the original, I’m confident that you’ll love this new, more comprehensive and polished edition.

Take care,

14 Comments on “Now Available: Show Me the Numbers, Second Edition”


By Chris. June 19th, 2012 at 7:30 am

Is there an eBook version available for purchase somewhere?

By Jacques Warren. June 19th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Congratulations Steve! I sure will get it!

By Peter Hopwood. June 19th, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Steve,

Congratulations on getting the new version released and out to the market. I’m looking forward to taking a look.

Peter

By Gregory Lewandowski. June 22nd, 2012 at 8:40 am

Congratulations Stephen!! Just ordered from Barnes and Noble.

Looking forward to the new edition and the new information presented in the approachable and consumable style that are your trademarks.

With my recent launch of an internally facing DataViz community, this is perfect timing!!

Thank you,

Gregory (lewandog)

By John Tibbutt. June 26th, 2012 at 7:27 am

Hi,

Is this available in the UK yet?

thanks,
John

By Stephen Few. June 26th, 2012 at 11:14 am

Hi John,

It is now available through Amazon.co.uk.

By JD. June 29th, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Hi Stephen,
I just wanted to say 1) Just bought the book 2) Thanks to all your books, I can safely say that I’m the smartest person in the room at my company when it comes to visualizing information and creating meaningful displays. Your books can boost a career!

By Stephen Few. June 29th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Chris,

Sorry for the delay in responding. An electronic version of the book is not currently available, not because it wouldn’t be useful, but because I haven’t found a way to distribute a book that was designed for print as an electronic file in an effective way. When a printed book is read, the left and right pages are both visible simultaneously. For this reason, I can make comments on the right-hand page about figures that appear on the left-hand page, because both are visible. I work hard to make sure that that figures and the text that refers to them are simultaneously visible, whenever possible. If you viewed the book onscreen as a PDF document, unless you did so as a two-page spread (assuming you have a screen that is large and high-enough resolution to do this effectively), the reading experience would be compromised. If you wanted to read the document on an iPad, even one with a retina display, you would be forced to do so one page at a time, because the screen is too small for viewing a two-page spread. I know, because I tried it. The option of making my books available on a Kindle or any other e-reader is not available because these devices re-flow the text and figures rather than maintaining the formatting that I worked hard to produce for optimal reading.

If you are aware of a viable solution, I’m all ears.

By John Tibbutt. July 2nd, 2012 at 5:46 am

Thanks Steve, my copy arrived this morning. Looking forward to getting stuck in.

John

By Scott Eaton. July 3rd, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I look forward to reading the new edition. Your books were the basis for the standards that I created and used to create dashboards at my last job and these standards will be used at my current job as well. Your books are very insightful and educational. Please keep up the good work.

By Jeremy Gollehon. July 3rd, 2012 at 11:09 pm

“Flashy visual displays are engaging, but unless they invite people to think about data in meaningful ways that lead to understanding, they fail in their purpose.”

I love this quote and have said similar until I’m blue in the face. The problem is some people believe the purpose is to engage first and which created the desire to be informed. What they don’t realize is what they see as engagement is just regurgitation of the crappy charts and graphs they’re used to viewing. I believe “inform first” is a better mindset. Inform and engagement will follow.

I’ve read all your books and can’t wait for this one to arrive. Ordered today.

By UC Johnson. July 23rd, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Just ordered the book, and can’t wait to get my hands on it. Specifically looking for ways to improve reports I create for meetings by making them easier to grasp. I am looking forward to put “words of wisdom” into practical use at our company.

By ryan osullivan. October 1st, 2012 at 7:09 am

Here’s a suggestion for the electronic version of the book, simply include an icon or the notation ‘pp’ which indicates that the comment refers to the previous page.

Looking forward to a pdf version, I’ll be first in line as the function to search for text, add annotation and book mark to a pdfs are a key requirement for me.

I would even help you with the conversion, I used to be an on-line copy writer.

By Stephen Few. October 1st, 2012 at 7:51 am

Ryan,

Forcing readers to jump around to see what I’m describing is what I want to avoid. I work hard to create effective learning experiences in my books and courses. Not being able to see what’s being described undermines learning and is just plain annoying as well. Electronic versions of my books can be developed that solve these problems, but not as easily as placing little icons in the text.