We’ve covered the emergence of e-readers in the book market from a couple of different angles, but this one is news to us. According to CNET News, a recent study shows that e-readers like the Kindle have a less negative impact on the environment than printed books. Apparently, even when one considers the mining and manufacturing required to produce an electronic device, e-readers still come out on top.
So why are traditional books so bad for the environment? Mostly because of wasteful practices on the part of publishers and book sellers. The Cleantech Group, the company responsible for the study, states that, “In 2008, the U.S. book and newspaper industries combined resulted in the harvesting of 125 million trees, not to mention wastewater that was produced or its massive carbon footprint.” The idea is that replacing printed books, magazines and newspapers with electronic files will eliminate the need for cutting down trees and pulping materials that are returned to publishers.
Of all printed paper products, Cleantech has found that books are the worst offenders, with the highest per-unit carbon footprint in the publishing industry. In calculating their results, Cleantech “[took] into account the fossil fuels necessary to deliver to the bookstore and the fact that 25-36 percent of those books are then returned to the publisher, burning more fossil fuels.”
The key, though, is that users would have to give up reading printed books in order for e-readers to make a positive environmental impact. In addition, companies like Amazon must establish good recycling practices for the devices and their batteries.
Are you willing to give up reading printed materials in order to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle? Does this study influence the way you feel about reading e-books?