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The Kindle and the Environment

kindleHere at EcoGeek we've been long-time supporters of e-book readers. The publishing industry (including books, newspapers and magazines) is a serious environmental threat with a huge carbon footprint and raw materials that result in the harvesting of some 125 million trees per year.

So we were excited. But as the realities of ebooks set in, and they actually began to explode in popularity (with now selling more Kindle books than hard-covers) we got apprehensive. Would this new trend really be good for the environment? The answer...thankfully, is a resounding "Yes."

The Kindle device itself, of course, has a carbon footrprint caused by manufacturing and shipping all of its parts around. And it does use electricity (though, really, a very small amount compared with devices like laptops or even some cell phones.) But while I still love real books for a lot of cialis cialis online reasons, I've got to give it to the where can i buy real levitra Kindle. Authors are getting paid more, consumers are paying less, and (according to a study from The Cleantech Group) as long as the devices replace the purchase of more than 22.5 NEW (not used) books in the lifetime of very cheap cialis 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.

But if you're thinking about getting a Kindle for green reasons, make sure you know you'll be replacing more than 20 new books on the thing before you upgrade, otherwise you're not just wasting your money, you're hurting the environment.

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Comments (29)Add Comment
What about the library?
written by Andrew E, August 29, 2010
It seems to me that ecologically oriented people should be borrowing books from the library instead of purchasing them new. Most library systems in large cities have ways that you can order in books that are not at your local branch. Even though this movement of books around the city wastes some energy, the cost for each book is likely small since books are shuttled around in bulk.
2 Questions
written by beforewisdom, August 29, 2010
1. Kindles will go obsolete, break or end up being thrown out in one way or another. What about those environmental costs and the environmental costs of manufacturing them?

2. Books don't have to be made out of tramadol dosage for dogs trees. Hemp or recycled paper is plentiful. Growing crops for paper would take carbon out of the air. No plastic made or metal made.

Just some thoughts
written by Ray, August 29, 2010
My local library does not have, and doesn't seem interested in getting many of the books I want to read.

I'm sure my Kindle will break or become obsolete some day, but I'm at 66 books purchased now and I have no plans or desire to "upgrade" to a newer model.

Yes, we CAN make books out of responsible materials, but no one does. Therefore it's an e-book reader or the current publishing empire that just does not seem to care about the environment as long as their profits stay up.
Why only the Kindle
written by Katherine, August 30, 2010
As a big supporter of the Nook (full disclosure, I work at Barnes & Noble) I'm wondering why this is focusing only on the Kindle. The Nook appears even more green to me with the software upgrades rather than new generations of devices.

The Nook also has a wider library with its use of the ePub format, making it more accessible for more people.
Know your thinktank sponsors......
written by lawrence, August 30, 2010
Before you go believing what the report said, and used it to justify buying more gadgets, maybe you should check on the business sponsors or donor of this "think tank" .
You didn't think this through.
written by I. Disagree, August 30, 2010
Books can be borrowed, sold on, or given away. Books work in the third world, in places without electricity. Some books I have are over 50 years old, and are still books. Libraries allow all kinds of people, including those without money, to find and buying levitra use information; and that is a model that just can't work with e-books as it stands.

The Kindle or Nook don't do newspapers and magazines, so your argument about the "enormous" footprint of the publishing industry isn't comparing like for like.

Actual book printing, and the life time of books, isn't remotely as damaging as you make it sound; nowhere near as bad as the production of e-readers.
written by Barbara Genco, August 30, 2010
Wondering about what will happen to all those ebook readers as folks upgrade? Will they be recycled or just more toxic trash for the landfill. Some municipalities still don't ecen recycle paper (aka books). How green is all that tech trash?
Sgree that libraries are a much greener solution.
22 books says it all
written by Chris, August 30, 2010
How many books have you read in the last year? Do you like technology and fancy playing with reader yourself? Think about it: there are far more tech geeks than books worms. The average use of a book reader would be far less 20 books before it becomes an embarrassment and is not even passed on.

However people will never give up their mobile phone, which has just become their mp3 player and camera. With an external screen it could also take on the job of a book reader. Just an indea... one day. First use what you have until it dies.
Applies Only To Throwaway Books
written by Charles Siegel, August 30, 2010
“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.”

I am sure this calculation makes the error of not considering how many times a book is reused.

The calculation applies to books like the latest thriller, which people read and then throw away.

By contrast, textbooks are generally reused several times. There are now stores that rent text books rather than selling them.

I buy 80% to 90% of my books used. I am sure that in some cases, I am the viagra online 50mgs fourth or fifth owner.

You have to replace far more than 22 of these used books with Kindle versions before you become carbon positive.
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
written by Lupa, August 30, 2010
Buying a brand-new ebook reader (and replacing it in a few years when it dies) isn't green. Buying used dead tree books that already exist and saving them from being pulped or thrown in the landfill is. Whenever you can use resources that are already in the consumption cycle, that's the better choice than utilizing new resources.
Fostering good habits
written by terra, August 30, 2010
I have a Sony Reader and not only do I love reading books on it, but it has also made me use the library even more. That's right... I have realized even more concretely that I don't want to own books. I'll download them to the Reader or get them from the library. If those options aren't available, I'll borrow from friends.

Additionally, I use my Reader for school, and have downloaded countless journal articles as pdfs to avoid printing.
written by Kerry, August 30, 2010
Frankly, this sounds fishy to me.

I don't have a Kindle and have never even seen one in person, but isn't it likely to be manufactured out of many of the same petrochemicals and buy kamagra conflict minerals that make up laptops, cell phones, and mp3 players? And what happens when it breaks or becomes obsolete? Is it recyclable or does it just end up in a dump somewhere?

I buy 90% of my books used and have books in my house that were printed 50 years ago or more and are still in good condition. My parents have a family Bible that is more than 200 years old and still readable, though yellowed and fragile. Somehow I doubt any Kindle owners will be able to say the same! On the extremely rare occasions one of my books does become so damaged it's unreadable, I can easily recycle, or even compost it. Again, can Kindle owners say the same?
written by Grant, August 31, 2010
I didn't buy a Kindle but when I got my Droid X I downloaded the app. I love ALWAYS having my textbooks with me to read when time permits. Since I would have my cell phone anyway that is much more green. Even beats the library.
Trees are a crop like any other.
written by Mike, August 31, 2010
I don't doubt that e-readers can be better for the environment than print books but I hate reading about "saving trees." Paper is mostly made from trees grown on tree farms for that purpose. When you quit using paper that land is retasked to other things, like urban sprawl. Its like saying you wanted to save corn plants by getting everyone to stop eating corn. A year latter there would be no corn because no one would plant it. With trees the cycle is 15 years instead of one.

It's worth the try
written by Jess (The Cozy Reader), September 01, 2010
If everyone jumped on the wagon to get an e-reader then the impact on the environment would be substantial. But there are so many people with negative outlooks on them for one reason or another and it's usually because of ignorance.

The publishing industry will evolve around e-readers by printing less books as the demand for digital copies out weight the demand for print copies. How does printing less books NOT help the environment?

I agree that buying used books helps but that doesn't tell the publishers how they need to adjust their industry habits.

I've owned my Kindle for almost 3 years now. I've purchased a ton of e-books rather than paper books. I've saved myself quite a bit of money even though I paid a hefty price of $399 for the original Kindle. Not only do I save paper (trees) by purchasing the digital copy but I save on shipping and packaging which all negatively affect the environment.
Not mentioned yet is ...
written by Barney Sperlin, September 02, 2010
the fact that you don't own books on Kindle. They can take them away any time the wish (and already have once). If I have a book I get to keep it, loan it out, give it to someone who cares about it, etc.
Not that it's important...
written by Bill Webb, September 02, 2010
Not that I think this discussion is of any real importance, since it represents substantially less than 1/10th of 1% of a humongous problem that's on us now, not in x-years, but "green" solutions have to take into account the levitra lowest price energy and buy viagra in us petroleum that go into growing all those "green" alternatives. After they're out of the ground, the cost of transportation to the paper mill, manufacturing the paper, transporting it to the printer, etc., etc., etc.

Overall, the footprint is far greater than it seems at first -- negligibly less than paper from other sources.

Libraries and lending are the way to go but, lacking that, ebooks kick dead vegetation all the way past the curb and up onto the sidewalk.

Oh. I read the NYT on my Kindle every day. They must not have heard about the "no newspapers or magazines" part.
Don't forget ... Book!
written by ElGranj, September 03, 2010
Just a reminder, dont forget Book! smilies/smiley.gif
written by Toni, September 03, 2010
I do not understand why people buy Kindle type devices. I download books from Amazon on my Iphone and love it. Some of my books scroll pages, so I do not even have to move. In answer as to "why not use the library." The point is "your book is always with you". I have 200 classics on my phone, plus the downloaded books to read, including audio books. This way, I always have something to read when I am waiting.

The most "green" read, in my opinion...
written by Christa, September 03, 2010
I prefer to download books from and listen to them on my iPod or iPhone. They are reasonably priced. There is no shipping involved so no emissions from the manufacture and transport of a new product (like a Kindle or paper book). And I own a phone (iPhone) anyway so am not buying yet one more product that could end up in a landfill someday contaminating the water supply.
Aren't we using electronic devices already?
written by Bill, September 06, 2010
I bet it will not be long before many people above the poverty line throughout the world will have an all-purpose personal electronic device that they carry with them pretty much all the time. This will replace all of the separate technologies that will be incorporated into the new device, televisions, books, newspapers, computers, calculators, etc. The combined environmental effect of daily viagra replacing all of these things with one smaller, less energy hungry device will be positive.

If e-readers are not quite more efficient than good old fashioned books on their own, they will certainly make up for it when the e-reader is combined with such a device that people are already using. The marginal impact to include books on an already highly used device will not even come close to the marginal impact on the environment of printing a book separately.
I love my e-reader
written by Victor, September 09, 2010
Loving Also what about environmental pollution that isn't carbon based, isn't our society heating up with advertising and anti-competitiveness, that is also an environment to be worried about. True we have no old growth forests in the entire US except small preserves and buy viagra online no prescription rugged places, but deforestation isn't synonomous with logging. In logging you don't develop the land for something else, you let it go back to trees. The use of oil is all that you're saving in an e-reader, and to put it bluntly, one is probably going to use that oil up anyway because gas will be so much cheaper so you'll drive to the supermarket like you've done a 100 times before.
I do like the intent of the article, carbon tracking, I think that's they way to go so one may make informed purchases. It takes baby-steps to grow into an adult.
Tech Geeks and Bookworms
written by Carol, September 12, 2010
Reply to Chris, Aug 30:

"There are far more teck geeks than books worms (sic)." Excuse me?! There are probably at least 10 bookworms for every tech geek on this planet, and as long as people keep writing books in any format, other people with or without access to any sort of technology will continue to be bookworms. I just happen to be both. I also write e-books. I think Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc are great, but I'm not giving up my personal hardcover and paperback library of over 1000 volumes any time soon. I also am an ardent library user, with access to libraries in my province of Ontario, Canada, from 1 mile from my home up to 350 miles away through InterLibrary Loan.
Book swapping
written by CalibansKitchen, September 22, 2010
I love the best place to purchase viagra online idea of the idea of ebooks, but can't quite let go of my physical book.(I personally love paperbacks -- they're like the laptops of book reading.) I also agree, it seems greener to not buy a new device but to download software for your ipod or smart phone or computers. But if you like actual books, this site is a good way to get them and send the one's you've read back into the world to be read by people who want them.
Why is it all or nothing with you people?
written by Deborah Jordan, September 29, 2010
These discussions that tout one thing being ultimately better than another really do no service to anyone. Each type of technology has a better application than the other, at times. We have to recognize that in some ways paper is better, and in others electronic is better. Now, focusing on how each serves different people, situations, etc. and making those more green is a better time spent. Print media is not going away in the next few years. Get over that idea. It will take decades, still, for it to be phased out, if ever. So, finding ways to make that more green is what we need to do (like using alternatives to trees - the hemp idea, better processes, etc.). We also definitely need to find more eco-friendly electronic devices, too. We all know these devices contain very toxic heavy metals and processes that need refining. Even the mining of the metals in South America is very destructive to the earth, and uses human labor to mine. So both are still not at their best and both need to refine disposal methods.

Bookworms like my sister, an author and poet, will not use e-readers. She thinks they're blasphemous. She relishes the texture of the paper, the scent of the book. It's like a religious experience for her to read real books. It's sensual. For someone like her, there is no other way. Her library collection is beautiful and generic cialis india a real asset to her because she uses her books to find teaching material for her classes (she's also an English professor). In places where people can't afford expensive gadgets, books are the only access to information. Besides, studies have shown that print media is not as wasteful as one might think.

For students, however, I think using e-readers make a lot of sense. No heavy texts to tote around, less cost?, having all of your materials in one device is like heaven. No more forgotten books. Just don't loose your device - or you loose your entire collection. Kinda risky. More risky than just loosing one book.

Until we have real concrete studies with impossible-to-dispute facts (when is that ever possible?), then it's an open discussion. Choose what makes sense for you and try to make the best choice possible (like buying used or borrow from the library). No guilt, no stress.

Oh, a tip: check with your local library to see if they have an account with an online book service like Safari. ( I live in Riverside, CA and my library sent me a code to access this service. Now, I don't even have to wait for books to be returned; I can get the electronic version online! How wonderful for libraries to be able to offer both - physical books and e-books (for free)!! That's a great model for the future.
It's not all or nothing here
written by Deborah Jordan, September 29, 2010
(Sorry if my post is repeated. I submitted my first one, but the submit button didn't seem to work. Forgive the redundancy, although re-written differently.)

We shouldn't be taking sides here. Print will not go away tomorrow, nor should it. We need to recognize that both paper and electronic media have their place. It's a matter of choosing what's right for you and making the most eco-friendly choice possible.

Both paper and electronic devices have environmental impacts, and you should understand that devices use very toxic minerals that are mined in South America - the mining and the human toil are both costs here. Also, we need to make sure to dispose of both paper and devices properly. If you cannot recycle your books, take them to the library. They can sell them or put them on the shelves. And absolutely do not throw away devices. Call your city govt. to find out what to do.

For some people, like my sister, who's an author and English professor, reading a book is like a religious experience. She will not use an e-reader. Blasphemous! Her library collection is impressive and beautiful. She usually buys new books, because she will keep them forever. She also uses her books for teaching (and if the book is only for teaching, she will buy used) and being able to see her collection in the real world makes it easier for her to pick books and plan lessons. Having material cooped up in an e-reader would make it hard for her to visualize and plan her lessons. Being able to have several books open at once, moving from one to the other, is something not possible with an e-reader. The view is too restrictive. There are some things, like working with documents, that is easier to do when it's on paper.

Books are also more accessible to the majority of the planet. Only the affluent around the world can afford an electronic device. It's a form of economic discrimination and enter site buy levitra narrow-mindedness to say that only e-readers are the best thing, as not everyone can afford them. Those that suggest e-readers are best obviously lives in an affluent bubble. Most of this world is economically challenged and knowledge is only available through books for most people. To say most people are tech-geeks is seriously deluded. Just travel somewhere - anywhere - and you will see the opposite.

However, if you can afford them, e-readers make a lot of sense for some people, like students. If you already have a smart phone, you may be able to get an eBook app, no purchase of another device necessary. Students can greatly benefit from not having to lug around heavy books, buy expensive texts, not need to print out PDFs., etc. The good thing about the Nook, however, is that you can highlight and make notes, which is something you can't do with the normal cell phone app. Casual readers would also benefit from having several books available at all times on their e-readers or cell phones. How great it is to be able to have a choice of reading material without carrying the physical things.

So choose what you need without reservation. Just try to pick the recommended site order usa viagra online most eco-friendly thing possible and get over it.
written by edd, March 01, 2011
i dont have a kindle yet but i have been thinking about it. Q. what are they made out of? and are we damaging the environment with the amount that is being made?
written by phone number lookup, February 22, 2012
Looks like i'm going to join the Kindle craze after reading this.
It's Not That Easy to Measure the "Green-ness" of an E-reader
written by Jill, April 25, 2012
As an English major and lifelong book lover, my home is lined with shelves of books of every genre; however, I'm also frugal and borrow many books from the library, particularly those that I know I'll never re-read. I would be very saddened if printed books ceased to exist. Some just need to be held so that you can fold the page corners, highlight with abandon and make marginal notes. I also take bags of used books back to the library; the Friends of the Library can resell them, and they stay in circulation...

I bought a Kindle last year and have downloaded >70 titles. The portability of the reader and generic cialis online pharmacy access to many free classics has "re-Kindled" my love of reading. But the device developed lines on the display (fortunately while still under warranty) and was replaced by Amazon. The CSR advised that the defective units cannot be repaired but are "recycled". I suspect that, like cell phones, they have a pretty brisk obsolescence factor.

The statistic quoted above (22.5 books vs one Kindle), would have to factor in the replacement rate of e-readers, as well as the fact that many printed books are passed from one reader to another; library copies can be loaned out dozens of times before they wear out.

Anyone justifying the rx online viagra purchase of an e-reader solely on the "green" benefits could be deluded into thinking they're doing something great for the environment, but isn't necessarily so....

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