Paperless Books: Does the Gadget Make it Greener?

Going green — By Stephanie on July 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm
sne 50k Paperless Books: Does the Gadget Make it Greener?

Going paperless to save the world?

Every where I look these days, someone is carting about one of the new paperless book gadgets.  First came Amazon’s Kindle, then Barnes & Noble introduced the less expensive (but equally as good?) Nook.  Many other electronics manufacturers quickly followed suit.  You can even download books right onto your iPhone, iPad or BlackBerry devices.

Sure, I probably have gadget envy, but I’ve really been wondering about electronic books, aka e-readers.   Are they truly greener than the print editions?

Potentially, yes.  But there are several considerations.

At first blush, paperless books seem to be a greener way to enjoy your summer reading or even study for college exams.  After all, the trees required to create the pages, ink to print them, glue for binding and even leather or petroleum-based materials for hardcovers can be saved simply by going with ebooks instead.  Also, considering the fact that many people enjoy bringing books with them when they travel, you can save packing space and weight (and ultimately fuel) with an electronic book device.

iPadNook Paperless Books: Does the Gadget Make it Greener?

Many options are available for readers to go paperless

Yet, there is another side to the green coin.

Unless you have a solar charging device, you’ll be plugging into outlets to re-charge your paperless book reader, increasing your energy usage.

Perhaps even more importantly, as the technology continues to advance and new, faster, more “realistic” paperless book devices are available, what will be the fate of the earlier models?  Just like cell phones, computers and other electronics, electronic book readers will need to be properly disposed of – recycled – so as to avoid environmental contamination from batteries and other internal components.

Personally, my biggest concern is that people (myself included) may simply be excited to get another cool gadget to add to their burgeoning electronics collection.  It could be another example of needless consumption in the 21st century.

For me, the jury is still out.  If I want to avoid the majority of the environmental impact of “real” books made from paper, I’ll head to the library.

Its the ultimate in recycling.

Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. Nick says:

    Another great post.

    I have had a kindle for almost two years and have read over a hundred books on it. That is a lot of energy and resources spared. If I keep my wireless off I can can read my kindle without plugging it in for two weeks. Just think about that, two weeks of reading and no outlet or other resources needed! As a consumer we need to influence the market telling to companies produce energy efficient devices like the Kindle. Once the kindle displays the page it no longer needs any power, power of the e-ink :) . HP just released they are going to make a device with a similar type of screen. It’s all about the power and how we use it.

    Again, thanks for the great post.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Nick – great comment! I agree that its about how people use devices like these. They can definitely be a greener alternative to paper books. Or, an added drain on resources. Cheers to you!

  3. Nick says:

    OK so this is exactly what I was talking about. Amazon states that if you turn of the wireless you can read from one full charge for an entire month!!!

    “Battery Life of One Month – A single charge lasts up to one month with wireless off”

    Now that is cool :) .

Leave a Comment