How Green Are E-Books?

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E-books are a wonderful invention.

They are the ultimate in simplicity. Literally – there is no physical product. No paper. No book cover. No ink.

An e-book is just a digitally formatted version of a print book. Nothing more than some computer code on a hard drive. A thousand or more e-books can be carried around easily on a small laptop computer or a magazine-sized reading device like the Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

So, are e-books green? How green? In two words:  yes, very.

In my opinion, there is no greener way to read.

Here are the facts. Each print book requires resources that include paper, ink, and other materials, plus energy for manufacturing, transportation, and delivery. There are also greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at 3 kilograms (about 6.6 lbs.) for the average traditional print book.

E-books don’t require traditional transportation and delivery – they are downloaded directly onto your computer or e-book reader. E-books require a little energy to download and read, but regardless of how one tries to calculate it, reading on-screen is much greener than reading on paper, since about 70% of the emissions derived from books derive from just the paper they are printed on.

There are a couple versions of e-books. For mass market books, special coding allows these to be displayed on e-book readers as if you are turning pages as you read them. Other e-books, in particular the How-To and Niche Information e-books, are prepared as pdf files with the advantage that active links can be included to take you directly to additional, related information on the internet.

About the only thing comparable in greenness would be buying used books or checking books out at the library, avoiding the expense and materials of producing new copies, but not offering the convenience and portability of e-books.

Living a greener lifestyle includes thinking green even when you want to buy and read a book. Purchasing e-books is a way to shop greener and conserve resources.

Want more ideas for easy ways to live greener and save some green, too? Check out our web site:

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February 2023