Thursday, April 11, 2013

Will The "Saving The Planet" eBook Save The Planet?

No trees are destroyed in the making of an eBook. Sounds like a good thing, n'est-ce pas? You don't have to take a living tree, kill it, mash it into pulp, squish it into paper, print a book on it, read it, and, some day, send it off to book heaven. A book, it could be argued, is pre-trash.

So shouldn't an eBook, which is kind of nothing, be a lot better environmentally speaking?

Some would say that it depends on how many books you read. Producing devices for reading eBooks  requires resources, as does producing traditional books. How many traditional books do you have to replace with eBooks to offset the environmental impact of the creation of the reading device? As few as fourteen? As  many as a hundred? Estimates vary.

Some would say that it depends on what kinds of devices the eBooks end up being read on.  If readers move to some kind of tablet that they use not only for reading but for accessing the Internet so that they no longer need a desktop or laptop, they'll be using a lot less equipment and the resources required to make them.

Some would say that it really just depends.


Ms. Yingling said...

Very timely post. I'm in the middle of weeding AGAIN, and the new books I just got have started to look like "pre-trash" to me, sometimes. I've decided that for middle school students who rarely know what they want, seeing actual books helps them so much to make a choice that going to e books would be hard in my library. Luckily, we have a local business that recycles books.

Gail Gauthier said...

I like my Kindle, but I am finding that the book as artifact--I guess that's the word to describe what I'm thinking of--is very attractive. I've got plenty on the Kindle, but I get distracted by books from the library or books at a bookstore or books from a used book sale because I can SEE them in a way I can't see books I KNOW are on my Kindle.

Either there will always be that distraction, or it's a generational thing, and after a generation (or more) of people shifting their reading to an e-reader, the true book won't be as much of a draw.

Jen Robinson said...

That is very interesting. I hadn't seen anyone talk about the environmental startup costs of e-readers before (though I did see an interesting piece about this relative to electric cars - turns out that creating those batteries generates a lot of carbon emissions). Anyway, food for thought!

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest reasons I feel guilty about not switching to E-Books is the environmental argument. Your point about how resources are also needed to make e-books makes me feel a little less guilty. :-)

Gail Gauthier said...

I don't think there's anyone who's interested in trying to live something even remotely like an environmentally neutral lifestyle who doesn't feel guilty about something.