14

I was in a conversation with a friend trying to convince her to switch to kindle, so she said that the cost and plastic material and eco footprint of kindle is higher then all the EBooks she could possibly read. While others have made the case that eReaders are more ecofriendly.

So, which one is true? What is the ecological cost of the kindle? How green is it? How many Ebooks do I need to read on it to justify the eco cost of buying it?

I just want to know how valid my friend's argument is?

Thanks much for feedback :)

  • Welcome to Skeptics. According to the FAQ, this site is for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. This question doesn't appear to have any doubtful claims to investigate. Please edit it if you feel otherwise. – JoseK Sep 8 '11 at 10:42
  • @Jose: you could always rephrase it to say something about how united airlines switched to paperless navigation charts and ask what the real offset really is, and answers could refer to production-related emissions and energy use... – David Hedlund Sep 8 '11 at 10:57
  • @josek, i made it more skeptical, thanks for guidelines – mireille raad Sep 8 '11 at 11:17
  • 1
    Kindles aren't just for books; they're also good for .pdf files as well. I used my Kindle to avoid having 1000+ pages of printed material for 4 classes each college semester. – Darwy Sep 8 '11 at 15:21
  • Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/5930/… – nico Sep 8 '11 at 20:22
13

I just did an edit to your question, and realized that the link I put in there has the answers you were looking for. They are not definitive, because people use books and ebook readers differently form individual to individual, and the technology is new so we haven't collected all the data yet. However, from a blog entry on The Guardian (so take it for what it's worth)

I've only managed to find one report – on the Kindle (by The Cleantech Group) – but it backs up suggestions that so long as e-readers are used as book replacements rather than supplements, they soon start to pay back in carbon terms. The report states that a book uses up "approximately 7.46 kilograms of CO2 over its lifetime" and that the Kindle produces "roughly 168 kg" during its lifecycle, making it "a clear winner against the potential savings: 1,074 kg of CO2 if replacing three books a month for four years; and up to 26,098 kg of CO2 when used to the fullest capacity of the Kindle."

For a full report from The Cleantech Group, here is a link to a PDF document. The author of the blog goes on to say

Nevertheless, I'm part-way convinced. There are clear advantages to using e-readers in schools and academe. At home, I'm less sure – especially when you factor in side-issues such as the toxicity of the heavy metals used in ebook readers and their batteries. I also hesitate because the devices are so new we still know little about how they're used.

Here, I'm hoping an informal survey here might shed more light. So tell me: if you own an e-reader, how often do you use it? (Have you for instance topped off the 22.5 books The Cleantech Group require to break even with traditional books in carbon terms?)

So basically, if you put 23 books on the Kindle, you are ahead of the game according to this.

There are some other things to consider too. For instance

The current book ordering system encourages bookstores to order more books than they can reasonably sell. That increases the number of published copies and consequently the number of returns (and the amount of shipping costs).

Additionally

A MS candidate named Greg Kozak pitted textbooks against e-book devices [PDF] in 2003. He found that paper production, electricity of printing operations, and personal transportation were the main factors affecting the book footprint, while electricity was the main issue for e-readers; and that books were responsible for four times the greenhouse emissions as e-readers.

Self Publishing Review states

On Salon, there’s a highly technical summary of the amount of energy it takes to read on a computer vs. printing out an article to read it. The verdict: “The contrast is quite convincing, one-tenth of a pound of greenhouse gas emissions from reading the document on the computer, versus almost one-quarter of a pound of greenhouse gas emissions for printing it out!”

Or more specifically to the Kindle

Another article lays out the environmental impact of reading a newspaper on a reader and reading the New York Times on an ebook. Their conclusion: “Reading the physical version of the NY Times for a year uses 7,300 MJ of energy and emits 700 kg of co2. Reading it on a Kindle uses 100 MJ of energy and emits 10 kg of co2.”

Hope that helps.

  • 2
    Here's a full PDF of the Cleantech report publicradio.org/columns/marketplace/sustainability-answers/… – JoseK Sep 8 '11 at 12:59
  • 1
    "paper production, electricity of printing operations, and personal transportation were the main factors affecting the book footprint, while electricity was the main issue for e-readers" This suggests the number of times you read each book (zero incremental cost for paper, as much electricity again for Kindles) is a factor. – Oddthinking Sep 8 '11 at 13:58
  • 2
    @Oddthinking that is true. Although I bet that quantifying that would be neigh impossible... – JasonR Sep 8 '11 at 14:54
  • 3
    This "study" illustrates the main problem with CO2 focus. They behave as if CO2 is the only pollutant produced in either process and ignore all others. CO2 is not the only pollutant dangerous to the environment and low CO2 may not equal eco-friendly. – Russell Steen Sep 8 '11 at 15:34
  • 3
    @Russell the Guardian article mentions especially when you factor in side-issues such as the toxicity of the heavy metals used in ebook readers and their batteries. so that is not an only CO2 measure for what it's worth. – JasonR Sep 8 '11 at 17:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .