Utne Blogs > Environment

One E-reader Equals 22.5 New Books

by Will Wlizlo

Tags: E-Readers, EcoGeek, Environment, Will Wlizlo,


It is easy to write-off e-reader devices—such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Sony’s Reader—as wasteful gadgets further fueling our throwaway economy. E-readers are made from plastic, silicon, and heavy metals and will one day lie in non-biodegradable purgatory at the bottom of a landfill. Conventional wisdom holds that, at least, e-reader users aren’t contributing to society’s waste by buying bound books.

EcoGeek, ecstatically commenting on a carbon-impact study released by The Cleantech Group, enumerates some of the ethical perks of transitioning to digital books: “Authors are getting paid more, consumers are paying less, and as long as the devices replace the purchase of more than 22.5 new (not used) books in the lifetime of the device, it will be a positive force for the environment. This seems to be roughly one year’s use of the Kindle. Of course, if you’re replacing newspapers and magazines with your Kindle, chances are you'll go carbon negative faster than that.”

(Thanks, The Book Bench.)

Source: EcoGeek 

Image by goXunuReviews, licensed under Creative Commons.

7/21/2014 3:45:00 AM

I truly like your type of composing.

7/14/2014 8:37:42 AM

I bought an e-reader for my wife but she did not get used to the small screen and gave it to our daughter. I guess E-readers will have a lot of popularity among youth, I am more interested in ways to optimize the http://www.actechwi.com/technologies-s/1814.htm growth box and think that nothing can change the sensations you have when reading a real book.

katherine rinne
2/1/2012 10:47:35 PM

This analysis does not reflect the social and ethical impacts of manufacturing an e-book, or any other electronic device. I speak specifically of the rare earth minerals that are mined by what can only be called slave labor. I know that there are probably people in paper manufacturing, etc., who have difficult working conditions (poor pay, long hours, etc.) but there is simply no comparison to the labor needed for mining. Nor is there quite the same problem with recycling that is inherent with electronic products.

susanne alexander-heaton
10/31/2010 12:57:31 PM

This trend is a good one and it is happening much faster than publishers would like to admit. Currently, out of every 100 hard cover books that Amazon sells, 143 e-books are purchased for Kindle readers! This stat is from Daniel Hall and John Kremer.

9/23/2010 9:14:40 AM

I would suggest that libraries are an ecological alternative to e-books.

jeremiah ross_2
9/4/2010 7:52:45 AM

Of course e readers are a wasteful piece of consumer electronics. There is no reason why you can't do the same thing on your phone except the desire for proprietary infrastructure from the various manufacturers.

9/3/2010 11:45:35 AM

Just wanted to note that the Cleantech report has been challenged, and the 22.5 "break-even" figure does not seem to have been well-supported. See the discussion at http://ecolibris.blogspot.com/2009/09/new-report-finds-kindle-greener-than.html

9/2/2010 11:44:02 AM

Okay so you have an e-reader and you are saving the environment. What about the vivacious appetite to hold the work of art, to smell the pages as they wear? What about the hunt to search for that one copy of that one book you've been looking for for months? What about the fact that when you own a kindle or a reader or a nook you are only renting the copies of the books you want to read and they can be taken away at any point if the network collective decide it's not a book people should have? No thank you e-readers.