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The Kindle E-book: how good is it for the environment

31/08/2010

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The publishing industry (including books, newspapers and magazines) is a serious environmental threat with a huge carbon footprint and raw materials that result in the harvesting of some 125 million trees per year.

So we were excited. But as the realities of ebooks set in, and they actually began to explode in popularity (with Amazon.com now selling more Kindle books than hard-covers) we got apprehensive. Would this new trend really be good for the environment? The answer…thankfully, is a resounding “Yes.”

The Kindle device itself, of course, has a carbon footrprint caused by manufacturing and shipping all of its parts around. And it does use electricity (though, really, a very small amount compared with devices like laptops or even some cell phones.)

But while I still love real books for a lot of reasons, I’ve got to give it to the Kindle. Authors are getting paid more, consumers are paying less, and (according to a study from The Cleantech Group) as long as the devices replace the purchase of more than 22.5 NEW (not used) books in the lifetime of the device, it will be a positive force for the environment. This seems to be roughly one year’s use of the Kindle. Of course, if you’re replacing newspapers and magazines with your Kindle chances are you’ll go carbon negative faster than that.

But if you’re thinking about getting a Kindle for green reasons, make sure you know you’ll be replacing more than 20 new books on the thing before you upgrade, otherwise you’re not just wasting your money, you’re hurting the environment.

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