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Is Reading A Book Bad For The Environment?

Topics: Clean & Green, Technology | 3 CommentsBy admin | September 9, 2009

One of the many reasons books and I are entering couples counseling.

I have a troubled relationship with books, and when I describe it, it sounds like a should see a couples’ counselor. I’d like to spend more time with them, but I have myriad excuses, mostly relating to feeling distracted or too busy. Or I say I’d like to get together when I can spend some quality time together. Which is a cheap out, because I can speed read (I can comfortably read 950wpm according to spreeder.com, try it yourself). The fact is that as much as I love the tactile feeling of kicking back with a good book – the feel, the smell – it also started seeming intuitively wrong a number of years ago. I worked at a now-defunct book store when eBooks were first being discussed as a possibility, and they intrigued me. My bibliophilic coworkers would sneer at me, tsk-tsking me for questioning the sacred nature of a physical book, which was a little ironic: the store sold remainders and reprints. For the record, the publishing industry is not particularly green; only 5% of the paper used in books is recycled, around 35% of books printed are never read, and instead are returned to the publisher and end up in landfills, and around 70% of the world’s paper supply comes from natural forests, rather than tree farms. So what’s an eco-minded book lover to do? The fact is that although eBook readers ultimately are greener than printed books (although there’s a fair amount of debate on the topic), they still, frankly, kind of suck. Compare these reviews and prices. The most popular reader – Amazon’s Kindle – gives off a decidedly “Etch-A-Sketch” vibe, and the devices that have cooler features or more aesthetically appealing designs have crappy battery life or some other limitation. And all of them are over $250.00, for a device that essentially only reads books. As I mentioned a while back in Bound For Extinction: Books, there are other options like books-on-demand services. In fact, for a slightly recursive, M.C. Escherian experience, you can buy How To Self-Publish For Free With Createspace.com: An Easy Get Started Guide, which is published by on-demand publisher CreateSpace, sold on Amazon.com as both an eBook and a printed book, and teaches you how to use the two to publish a book. And no, I haven’t read it. Although I might soon if this new Asus reader is all it’s cracked up to be. Which it’s bound not to. One last thought: if you care about the impact of your books on the environment, there are lots of resources like EcolLibris out there that focus on ideas for more sustainable publishing.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by » Bright Green Environmentalism? - Dissociated Press on 04.17.10 10:26 pm

    [...] because a lot of our choices have such far-reaching and difficult to trace consequences. The books vs. eBooks debate or drinking bottled water are classic examples. And then there’s that first question. [...]

  2. Posted by July 27, 2010: My Annual Green Rant! Mailbag! « Josephmallozzi’s Weblog on 07.27.10 8:29 pm

    [...] reading physical books (http://dissociatedpress.com/2009/09/is-reading-a-book-bad-for-the-environment/), [...]

  3. Posted by Is The Printed Book Dead? at dissociatedpress.com on 08.27.10 1:19 am

    [...] book is imminent. Although as recently as September 2009 I was pondering the pros and cons of eBooks vs their dead tree counterparts, a few pieces of information finally tipped the scales for me recently, which was a relief, because [...]