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Bottlemania: Big Business, Local Springs, and the Battle Over America's Drinking Water Paperback – July 7, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159691372X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913721
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Royte (Garbage Land) plunges into America's mighty thirst for bottled water in an investigation of one of the greatest marketing coups of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As tap water has become cleaner and better-tasting, the bottled water industry has exploded into a $60 billion business; consumers guzzle more high-priced designer water than milk or beer and spend billions on brands such as Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani that are essentially processed municipal water. It's an unparalleled—and almost exclusively American—social phenomenon. With journalistic zeal, Royte chronicles the questionable practices of Nestle-owned Poland Springs and documents the environmental impact of discarded plastic bottles, the carbon footprint of water shipped long distances and health concerns around the leaching of plastic compounds from bottles. Not all tap water is perfectly pure, writes Royte, still, 92% of the nation's 53,000 local water systems meet or exceed federal safety standards and it is the devil we know, at least as good and often better than bottled water. This portrait of the science, commerce and politics of potable water is an entertaining and eye-opening narrative. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—With a seamless blend of first-person observation, detailed anecdotes, and hard research, Royte explores the history and ramifications of those ubiquitous plastic and glass bottles. She addresses the economic, ecological, and cultural weight of water as she visits massive New York aqueducts, struggling rural villages in Maine, and high-tech treatment plants in Missouri. Her findings reflect the distressing trend of our heavy footprint on the environment and its resources. From petroleum-laden bottles and gas-guzzling shipping containers to serious flora and fauna shifts in small-town ponds, the "purity" of bottled water may be murkier than you might have imagined. This book will intrigue a younger generation of readers who might ask, "Wait, major corporations didn't always own water?"—Shannon Peterson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author


Elizabeth Royte is the author, most recently, of Bottlemania: How Water Went On Sale and Why We Bought It. Her previous books--Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash and The Tapir's Morning Bath: Solving the Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest--were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year in 2005 and 2001. Royte's writing on science and the environment has appeared in Harper's, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, and other national publications. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and a contributing editor for OnEarth. Her work is included in The Best American Science Writing for 2004 and for 2009, the environmental omnibus Naked, and Outside Magazine's Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison. A former Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow and recipient of Bard College's John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service, Royte lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their daughter. She blogs, somewhat irregularly, at www.royte.com/blog

Customer Reviews

An entertaining, informative, and insightful read.
BananaMan
It is really sad, I think, that Royte could not be bothered with supporting her arguments with attributable facts, because her basic points are valid.
Jerry Saperstein
Why do we drink so much bottled water when tap water is just as good, if not preferable?
Jon Hunt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Sreeram Ramakrishnan VINE VOICE on May 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a remarkably interesting read that I am afraid hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. Ever since I read an article on "Fast Company" on the phenomenon of bottled water, I have been intrigued by it. A recent review in "Seed" introduced me to this book. I am glad that I read it.

Despite the "funny" review of a top 1000 reviewer (imagine that) that considers this book as propaganda for more regulation, it is quite the opposite. The book comes across as a systematic analysis of how the industry evolved and some on-the-scene reporting of key players like Nestle and Poland Springs. The chapter on the latter, neatly cataloging the unimaginable conflicts of interests and a apparently pliant local public officials, alone is worth the price of the book. It is impossible for a reader not to be shocked at some of the reporting (the author almost always avoids any preachy tone). The contrasts and comparisons drawn between the Freysburg and Kingsfield communities is an interesting read as well. There is another chapter that outlines some actions companies like Coke are taking to evaluate their footprint. Another chapter worth mentioning is "Something to Drink?" - the last chapter which takes a broader viewpoint and ties the topics to global warming and related issues. You will learn fun stats as "a cotton t-shirt is backed by 528.3 gallons of water and a single cup of coffee by 52.8 gallons".

Now, the negatives - The book takes a decidely US-centric narration. There is no extensive discussion on similar issues outside of the US (though there is some mention on the Coke debacle in India). The first-account narrative style helps to provide a very down-to-earth method to convey the ideas, but sometimes distracts from highlighting some of the salient points being made.

Nevertheless, an informative, entertaining read that will certainly question the utility of an entire industry.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By J. R. Lebowitz on June 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title is cute and catchy and implies the book is a lightweight screed about the erstwhile evils of drinking bottled water. Yes, the initial starting point for Ms. Royte's inquiry was asking some simple questions about the impacts and equities of a corporation bottling huge quantities of Maine springwater. But this is an important environmental book, in the same league as "An Inconvenient Truth".

This is because Ms. Royte's simple questions about bottled water lead her and us on an exploration of a whole hidden world of our water and sanitation resources and infrastructure that lies behind our taps. How does bottled springwater differ from tap water in terms of harmful biological and chemical contaminants? How did the fad of chugging water out of throwaway plastic bottles catch on? Where does our tap water come from? How is it treated? Is that necessarily good for us? What is happening to the watersheds that all of us depend on? How can they be protected? How are water and sanitation systems interrelated? Are these groundwater and freshwater issues affected by other environmental trends, like global warming? And so on.

Like Ms. Royte, you will probably come to the end of this brisk, readable work knowing a lot more about your own water and sanitation then you did when you began and have a much better appreciation of the somewhat unsurprising policy conclusions she reaches: that protecting our public drinking water "commons" makes more sense than drinking water bottled at distant plants.

Although judging by the cute title and cover art the topic might seem a bit frothy and more of a treatise on marketing and product development, the author's target is much wider.
Read more ›
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Peter Crabb on May 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Royte has written the best book available on the bottled water industry. Focusing on Nestle Waters North America and its Poland Spring operations in Maine, Royte's writing is knowledgeable, even-handed, and hip, and has none of the hyperbolic mewling that many environmentalist writers fall prey to. She provides sweeping and insightful coverage of the history, hydrogeology, chemistry, technology, politics, economics, and social psychology of the commodification of water. Readers will develop a better appreciation of just how unhealthy, environmentally destructive, and frankly crazy it is to buy and drink bottled water. An enlightening joy to read. Thanks, Elizabeth!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Todd Bartholomew TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Bottlemania" is a continuation of the dialog started by Royte in her book "Garbage Land" in 2006, this time looking more specifically at the bottled water business that has sprung up in the past decade. Royte takes a multi-disciplinary approach to analyzing the industry looking at the science, the marketing, the commerce, and the politics of selling water and the results are disturbing to say the least. Royte's prose is always engaging and entertaining as she investigates the industry with a reformer's zeal and she asks hard questions that consumers should be asking themselves: in a time when we have perhaps the cleanest tap water why do we spend billions on bottled water, what is the true cost of this industry, how do the practices of the industry harm communities and consumers, and perhaps the most fundamental question of all, is bottled water really all that good for us? Royte casts a wide net, looking at the adverse environmental and economic impact bottlers have to local water sources, concerns over BPA in plastic bottles, the lack of recycling for those plastic bottles (a theme explored in "Garbage Land" as well), the heavy carbon footprint for transporting water to consumers, comparisons of tap water and bottled water, and how the water companies subtly play on consumers fears through their marketing. In the end "Bottlemania" is a call to invest in our failing water infrastructure to ensure continued water safety and to avoid the potential for water scarcity. Many of the best water systems waste a considerable amount of treated potable water through leakage before it even reaches consumers homes; something that will be unthinkable in a time of water shortages.Read more ›
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