What is the most environmentally friendly way to read books?
Having done an English degree, I’ve made it pretty clear to the world that I like to read. My bookshelf is overflowing with books, from texts I’ve read a dozen times to those I just bought because they were classics and have obviously gathered dust ever since.
Now I’m moving, I’m looking to go a bit more minimalist. Having an e-reader is something I’d always dismissed because I love the feeling of a nice, good-smelling, physical book. But if it’s genuinely better for the environment, my bank account, and my bookshelf, I figured I should put my snobbery aside and look into it.
Are e-readers better for the environment?
There are some clear flaws with the publishing industry. On average, 62 books are equal to one tree, which seems like a good deal until you remember that the UK publishes the most books per person per year in the world (around 180,000). In the whole world!!!
Not all these books are sold, and either end up being burnt or pulped (recycled), which is better than the burning but still requires a lot of fossil fuels. So y’know, overall it’s not great.
But e-readers also take a lot of energy and resources to build – resources that are not recyclable like paper is. And then you have to keep charging it so that takes up even more energy! Why is life so hard?
The eco-guide suggests an e-reader’s carbon footprint is around 168kg whereas a book’s is likely 7.5kg, so you have to read about 23 books on a new e-reader to begin reducing your impact, which is definitely do-able.
But the major qualm I have with technology, especially these days, is that it’s often built to break. What if my shiny new e-reader takes a turn for the worse? All my hard work… for nothing… and I’m back to square one all over again. Or, what if an even better e-reader is launched and my capitalist desire for exciting new things means I simply have to buy it and then I have to start all over again?
So, what’s the verdict – am I going to buy an e-reader?
Probably not. I’m a simple woman with limited finances, and I don’t think e-readers are eco-friendly enough to be worth the hassle.
Instead, the best thing I can do is share books around, take them to the charity shop when I’m done with them and pick up second-hand books while I’m at it. Better yet, invest in a library card and share books with the whole town. It’s free!