Selling water for profit in the 17th century

by krm | Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Few things are as precious and important in our lives as water. What other material substance has been classified as a human right? Does the universal daily need for water mean, however, that it must always be in public hands, or should private companies be allowed to control access to it and make profits from selling it? Would private enterprise somehow commodify a human right and create a profit-controlled gateway to a basic necessity? Although the instinct to keep water in public hands has been strong, some societies have been willing to privatize their water utilities. Thames Water in London, for example, is a private company supplying the metropolis. Created in 1989, it serves millions of people in southeast England every day. Even in urban areas where the provision of piped water is in public hands, for-profit companies supply any increasing quantity of water people drink in bottles for sale.

For-profit water companies are not, however, only a new phenomenon, the product of Thatcherite liberal economic policies that created Thames Water, or an earlier 19 th century era of laissez-faire capitalism when many private water companies supplied cities. Indeed, for-profit water companies have a...Read More

From Here to There: Amazon Sales Rank

by krm | Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Numbers, numbers, everywhere, nor any figures to cite.

In my last post, I talked about Amazon buy buttons and the inner workings of a book’s availability. In my experience, availability is usually the number one concern for authors and publishers. Once the book is available and being sold, authors tend to track their sales rankings, sometimes obsessively.

The algorithms behind Amazon’s best-seller rank have confounded authors and publishers for years. Before I delve into what I have gleaned, it is good perspective to remember that everything on an Amazon book detail page is marketing – from the description to the reviews to the rankings. The whole goal of the page is to get you to buy the book. Publishers put forth the best marketing copy, cover design, endorsements and reviews with the hope of driving sales. Amazon then layers in additional marketing with the use of algorithms, keywords, special offers, and rankings.

There are around 14-15 million books on Amazon. I have been unable to find a credible source for an accurate count, but Bowker reports 38 million books in its database. At least 700,000 new books...Read More

Victorian Journal Hits Golden Milestone

by bjs | Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Newspapers and other periodicals played an important role in the life of Victorian Britain, Ireland, and the British Empire. For the past 50 years, the journal Victorian Periodicals Review (VPR) has published research on the editorial and publishing history of those periodicals. Alexis Easley , editor of VPR and Associate Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, joined us for a Q&A after the publication of the 50th volume's first issue .

What does it mean to you to be editor at the time of this important milestone?

It is both humbling and deeply gratifying. Over the past 50 years, the journal has gone from being a photocopied newsletter to a major international journal. The rapid expansion of digital archives of newspapers and periodicals in recent years has led to immense growth in our scholarly community. It is thrilling to be part of this scholarly network — and to take part in the collective project of illuminating the fascinating history of the Victorian press.

The new issue includes a memorial to Michael Wolff , the journal's founding editor. How bittersweet is...Read More

How to beat a conservationist at their own game

by krm | Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I want to address my Republican and conservative friends for a second — really anyone that is sick and tired of all this talk about climate change. I’d like to let you in on a little secret: a surefire way to piss off the tree-hugging conservationists that annoy you so much.

Before I tell you how to do that, let’s talk about The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero .

This is a book about self-reliance, accountability, and setting a good example. It’s a road map to the tools and technologies that will save you money and allow you to keep your family safe. Because you may not believe that climate change is real, that we’re the cause, or that it’s dangerous . . . but the United States military does. So does Exxon Mobile, and other big oil giants. The Carbon Code is a conservative take on climate change, focused on how individuals — and their choices — matter.

You’ve probably heard climate advocates pushing for policies like carbon taxes, clean energy grids, divestment from petroleum companies, and so on. It can seem like you have nothing in...Read More

In the Beginning: A Story of World Domination

by krm | Monday, April 17, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Silence deafened the laboratory. The raging spring storm outside finally penetrated the transformers powering the west side of campus, stealing life from inside the science complex. In one instance, the monotonous sounds of motors, fans, and compressors were hushed. The professor rose from his slumped form, his laptop screen now blank. The incubators serving as nurseries to his beloved flies were quiet but still warm. “Any minute,” he thought, “the emergency generators should kick in.” But there was no sound on the roof, other than the muffled cries of wind racing across the flat surface, to indicate that backup power was imminent. The room was silent. Only the storm outside provided relief from the denseness of the dark, eerily silent, laboratory. Scrittle scrattle . “What was that?” Scrittle scrattle . There it is again. And closer this time. “Is someone there,” the professor said as he moved slowly toward the open laboratory door leading to the hallway. No response. Maybe it was just a tree branch scraping against the side of the building. Of course he immediately knew that was impossible. All of the nearby trees were still just infants; none were tall enough to...Read More