For a while now I’ve been pondering the eco pros and cons of real books vs. Kindle – or any other wireless reading device, mainly because a few months ago I was slightly considering getting a reader. I read fast and it’s a hassle to carry around enough books to sustain how quickly I read. Also, my son Cedar has been interested in possibly getting a reader.
I’m not on board with adding more electronics to our world, seeing as how we’re already over-saturated. However, on an eco-scale, I’m just not sure which is the better choice – a digital reader or real books. That said, I thought we should take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Cons of old school paper books
- Although more publishing companies are using recycled content paper, the vast majority of books are still printed on virgin paper which is a HUGE waste of trees, water and other resources.
- Books that are thrown away will languish in the landfill for a good long while. Biodegradability, even of paper, is highly overrated greenwashing.
- Entire books usually cannot be recycled with your other paper recycling, due to the glue in the binding.
- According to Eco-Libris, more than 30 million trees are cut down every year to produce the books sold in the U.S. alone.
- Books take up an insane amount of space, which is not eco-friendly. The more stuff you have, the more space you need. Books are for sure my main space hog at my house -I’ve got many bookshelves full of books.
- According to Green Press Initiative, the newspaper and book publishing industries together consume 153 billion gallons of water annually – it take seven gallons of water to produce a paper printed book, while digital books can be made with less than two cups of water (not counting the actual reader).
- It’s a pain to move when you have a bunch of books. On an eco-level, you need more truck space and more boxes to move a huge collection.
- Brand new books are expensive – another reason to buy used but not necessarily a reason to buy digitally.
- Only 5%-10% of recycled paper is used by the book publishing industry and the carbon footprint of the typical book is 8.85 lbs, in carbon dioxide terms.
Pros of old school paper books
- Books have history and that lovely book scent. There’s nothing like owning a book that’s been passed down through generations. For example, I have a seriously old copy of Little Women. It’s awesome because there’s a message in the front of the book from 1935 to the young girl who first owned the book from her parents. I always imagine all the people who must have read and enjoyed this particular copy during different time periods – which is fun.
- Books can be shared and have a high reuse rate. You can swap, sell, share or donate your used books. You could theoretically, rip out the pages and recycle them, before tossing a super old book in the trash.
- Paper has a low recycling rate – lower than it should be anyhow, but electronics have a MUCH lower recycling rate.
- While in the past it’s been difficult to recycle an entire book, you can turn a book into something new.
- Books can be very expensive new, but you can almost always find used books for incredible deals.
- Bookstores offer jobs to people.
From an old school point of view, it’s much more fun to browse a bookstore, than a digital store. Plus, for me at least, real books are relaxing. I’m a writer. I spend all flipping day on my computer, I don’t want to spend my free time in digital land too. Relaxation for me is when I can get away from the glare of my computer screen, not stay plugged in.
Additionally, I honestly don’t think it’s smart to allow to kids to spend more time hooked up and plugged in. According to Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, 8-18 year-old kids spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in ONE day. That’s 58 hours a week. Kids spend too much time in front of screens already – do they also need their books to be delivered via a screen?
What do you think the pros and cons of real paper books are? Do you think digital readers and digital books are a more eco-friendly choice?