e-readers vs paper books

Summer makes beaches get crowded of people… and of books! Summer is everyone’s favourite reading season. On top of that, lately beaches have been full not only of paper books, but also of electronic books. The advantages of these little devices are pretty obvious, but there’s also lots of people against them. What we want to analyse, as always, comes from a different perspective:

From an ecological point of view,

what is cleaner, to use ebooks or paper books?

  • Some have batteries, the others lots of paper.
  • Some use electricity, the others inks and glue.
  • You can read couple of books in one single device, but it’s easier to lend the paper ones.
  • Electronic ones take little space, paper ones are more decorative.

Since we look mostly at the environment, we’ve been making some calcs. The answer is not very obvious, but a general idea would be this one:

Looking at average figures,

ebooks have smaller environmental impact

if you use them to read more than 32 books.

So if you read more than 32 books on a e-reader, you’ll be polluting less than if you do the same on paper books.

For this to be true, some things must happen:

  • Both must be recycled (and therefore, separated) properly… and that’s not very easy. Paper books are easier to recycle, electronic ones mean lots of tiny components that cannot be separated at all (just like in mobile phones).
  • The average life of e-readers is considered to be 5 years. This may vary with the manufacturer.
  • Books use paper coming from sustainable forests. Always look for the FCS logo!
  • If using e-readers, Wi-Fi is assumed not to be on more than 5% of the time. Otherwise, consumption will increase considerably.
  • Paper ones are expected to use clean ink and glue. Other types of gluing options are less common these days, though some gluing substances can be very harmful.

Reading is always a win-win option, but if you do it in a responsible way it is even better. Just don’t stop reading this summer… nor the rest of the year!

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