In 2008 the US book and magazine industry sector was responsible for the felling of 125 million trees. Many publishing firms are environmentally aware and use sustainably sources for their paper supply. Simply put, they plant a tree for every one they cut down. However, not all do this and even those who do usually fail to take account of the large quantities of water and thermal energy used in the production of the paper.
The carbon footprint of the average book is 7.5 kg of CO2 during its lifetime. However, if you ho into your car, drive to the shopping district to buy your book, and then drive home again, the carbon footprint of that book will be doubled. It’s amazing how relatively small actions like this make such a difference.
So it should be no surprise to learn that electronic book readers – such as the Amazon Kindle– are kinder to the environment. Over and above the fact that no paper, ink or water are used in the production of electronic books, the delivery method – internet download using either standard connection or 3G wireless technology – is friendlier to the environment.
Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that e-book readers have no environmental impact. Clearly they consume both energy and materials in the course of the manufacturing process of the reader device. Additionally, they require electrical power when in use. Even when these factors are factored into the equation, they are still considerably better for the environment than the continued use of traditional printed books, magazines and newspapers.
It is estimated that in 2009, e-book readers will be “carbon neutral” – the CO2 saved by the use of electronic media will almost exactly balance the CO2 used to manufacture and power the devices. Looking forward to the not so distant future, as usage increases, the manufacture and operating “cost” will be more than offset by the savings achieved by avoiding the manufacture and distribution of conventional paper based books and magazines.
The majority of people will purchase their Kindle reader based on the fact that it’s convenient, trendy and that it offers a way for them to save money on books. The fact that it’s more environmentally friendly will probably be a secondary consideration for many – even so, it will have a significant positive impact in the future.