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Saving the Environment: Another Reason to Love Ebooks

August 2015

Ebooks are portable, handy, convenient, easy to use, and versatile. Not everyone loves reading them—most estimates say that fewer than 30 percent of Americans read ebooks—but they show promise of gradually catching on, especially as the younger, digitally engaged generation reaches adulthood. Highlighting their environmentally friendly features can make them even more appealing to “green” oriented readers.

Reading Can Ravish Resources

The book-printing industry causes untold damage to the environment, both directly and indirectly. Aside from the 16 million tons of paper it consumes each year, leading to 32 million fallen trees annually, the industry’s carbon footprint is enormous. On average, each printed book releases 8.85 pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment. Together, the newspaper and book-printing industries cut down 125 million trees per year and emit 44 million tons of CO2.

Pollution is another negative offshoot of the publishing industry. Paper mills that create paper for books release carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide into the environment, contributing to smog, acid rain, and global warming. Furthermore, bleaching paper produces dioxin, which is considered carcinogenic.

In comparison, electronic books consume far fewer resources and cause less damage to the surroundings.

Tree-Hugging Books

Although their production requires resources, electronic books are kinder to the environment than print books. Creating an electronic book takes three times fewer raw materials than a print book and uses seven times less water.

Electronic readers, which are cleaner to start with, are also the ultimate in recyclability: consumers can read countless books on the same e-reader. Granted, minerals are used in the production of electronics, but if consumers read at least 23 books per year on their e-readers (an easy feat for most regular readers), they clearly contribute to a greener environment.

Ebooks make up around 30 percent of all book sales. If that means 30 percent fewer print books were produced and sold, ebooks have made a significant impact on the environment. Ebooks save the energy consumed by book production, save trees from destruction, reduce the use of paper, eliminate packing materials and the energy associated with packaging and delivery, and reduce the energy and pollution needed to recycle or dispose of old books.

Good for You and Me

On a personal level, ebooks save the reader from having to drive to the store to purchase a new book. They offer the convenience of shopping from home and a seemingly infinite list of titles to choose from. With ebooks, readers can rest assured that they are helping the environment while boosting their own comfort.

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