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Are ebooks more environmentally friendly than printed books?

(C) Ingo Paschke on Flickr

Are paper books bad for the environment?

In 2008, the US book and newspaper industries combined resulted in the harvesting of 125 million trees to produce books. Approximately 30% of these books were then sent back to the publisher unsold and pulped which adds to the carbon footprint of the publishing industry. It is clear that paper books can have a huge impact on the environment and the publishing industry is currently a massive contributor to deforestation.

However, paper copies of books, if treated well, can last for hundreds of years and be read numerous times which means that more people are able to read books without contributing to the destruction of the environment.

Are ebooks bad for the environment?

The carbon footprint of producing a single e-reader and making sure that it has charge is approximately 168kg while a book takes around 7.5kg of carbon to produce. Therefore e-readers need to be used to read at least 23 books before they start to become environmentally friendly.

Additionally an e-reader is much lighter than a suitcase full of books which can reduce the carbon footprint of travelling.

The latest Kindle is part of the tenth generation of Kindle devices so consumers who always want to use the latest gadget might find that they are replacing their e-readers before they have read 23 books on it. Disposing of e-readers responsibly can also be a challenge.

Are paper books better than ebooks?

This is clearly a very complex issue and will largely depend on how each individual consumes books. For someone who reads a large number of books and takes good care of their electronic devices, an e-reader is a good environmental investment. If you don’t read that much or like to be able to lend books to friends and family then sticking with paper books might be the best option.

sources:
The Eco Guide: https://theecoguide.org/
The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/
NY Times: https://green.blogs.nytimes.com/

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Are ebooks more environmentally friendly than printed books?

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