Today the newest Kindle Fire was released. I can't help but wonder if and how this device, and other e-readers, fits into my eco-friendly lifestyle.
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My gut instinct is that the shift to e-books is awesome for the environment. I think of all the paper that will be saved by not printing books for consumers, or even during publishing to preview lay out. I think of all the fuel that won't be used to run warehouses to store books or to ship books from printer to warehouse to bookstore to used bookstore. Maybe libraries can become smaller and save energy on light and air conditioning as they begin to focus on trafficking e-books.
It's not just my gut that says e-readers are green. A 2009 study by CleanTech Group analyzed the carbon footprint of the Kindle DX. It revealed if a person reads 22.5 ebooks instead of printed books, they would offset the carbon emissions associated with creating the device. (I have no idea how the Kindle Fire HDX measured up against this.) You can take your e-reader the green distance by using a solar charger, reselling it when you upgrade, and being sure to recycle your Kindle when it dies.
I imagine a lot of social and cultural awesomeness resulting from the growth of e-books. More previously disempowered people and mainstream literature outsiders are finding voice and community as self publishing becomes easier. It's exciting to know that every entrepreneur can sell and send her self published book to someone across the world for nothing and in just a few minutes.
(I'm actually writing an e-book that will be free to my e-newsletter subscribers by November. Get on my list to get it!)
Then there's the annoyance of the physical presence of books themselves. Anyone who has every moved residence knows that packing books you've never read, or read once in college, and moving them from apartment to apartment is just sad. Also there's dust. Ugh! We have three bookcases in our home and sometimes I just want to turn them over into a dumpster!
Of course, there is something cold and anti-social about e-readers. Book swaps, curbside free book boxes, and leave one-take one cafe libraries warm my soul. Sadly, these acts of charity and community are impossible with e-books.
Real books help us find friends. When I see someone reading a book with a cover that interests me I am able to recognize a kindred spirit and am likely to start a conversation. (My parents actually met at a bus stop because my dad asked my mom about the book she was reading.) When I see someone starting into an electronic device my instinct is to assume they'd rather be left alone.
How will future 20 somethings judge if a person is worth a third date if she can't see what he's read? (Hopefully, Maxim will somehow stay in print if only to be a red flag.)
What do you think? Do you prefer e-readers or real books? Do you think there is room for both in a sustainable future?
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