What’s more sustainable: ebook or book?

For those who love reading and are into zero waste, the big question is: what’s more sustainable? paper books even if we use trees to make them or an ebook that is another electronic device?

In this post we want to clarify the advantages and disadvantages of both systems and our conclusions.

Footprint

The first thing we think when comparing both systems is the impact each of them has. The carbon footprint when producing an ebook is of approximately of 168 kg of CO2, while a traditional books just 7.5 kg average (depends on the size of the book, number of pages…). Therefore, in order to amortize the carbon footprint of the ebook we must read at least 22 or 23 books.

Disadvantages

What do we need to produce a book?

Nonetheless, not everything is based on CO2, there are also other material needed for their production. In case of the book we are referring to paper: 500 sheets need an amount of 130 liters of water to be produced (51 liters if it’s recycled paper). Moreover, we have to add the energy of processing that paper: from collecting wood to bleaching it.

And an ebook?

However, an ebook does not need paper, but, like many electronic devices they are made of plastic, lithium batteries and metals, which are not the most eco-friendly materials we can find. Although Amazon collects old devices for recycling and to reuse their batteries, we do not know very well the efficiency of recycling of these materials. Additionally, we also need energy to produce it.

Advantages

Anyhow, let’s face the advantages of both items.

Advantages book

  • Emotional aspect: a physical book can be given with a dedication, it can belong to a relative, …
  • Once it is produced, it doesn’t need any energy more .
  • Lend or borrow from libraries: The same book can be read by hundreds of people.
  • They are durable: Well cared for, a book can pass from generation to generation.
  • Not all books are digitized
  • They do not generate technological waste
  • If you like to read, you can have a library at home.
  • Easy to recycle

Advantages ebook

  • It occupies less space: in the same device that occupies like a paperback book you can store hundreds or thousands of books.
  • They are more portable: their format is usually small and thin, so it can be carried in a pocket.
  • Lighter in some cases: the thickness of an ebook is usually much smaller than any novel.
  • Allows you to adjust the font size: perfect for when you forget your glasses at home
  • Accessories can be added, such as a light
  • Some devices can store books in the cloud and you can read them from different devices.
  • The digital option of the book is usually cheaper, since physical printing has a cost.
  • They can be used to read other kinds of writings, such as scientific articles, university books …
  • No need to cut trees
  • Help the small publishers and writers.

Then, what’s best?

To sum up, we would like to highlight that the most ecological way is to go to the library, buy second hand or exchanging books. Also, prioritizing for recycled paper when buying new books.

With all this being said, I think the conclusions of this post depend a lot on the habits and situation of each one. In general, if you are a person who usually read little, I would not recommend buying an ebook. However, if you are like us and you read more than 20 books a year and take care of the device to last you for years (ours are already 7 years old), I think it makes up for you to find a good ebook.

References

  • https://www.eldiario.es/consumoclaro/ahorrar_mejor/Libro-papel-ebook-Ventajas_0_871763263.html
  • https://theecoguide.org/books-vs-ebooks-protect-environment-simple-decision
  • http://fomentoterritorial-sostenibilidad.es/impacto-medioambiental-del-papel-consumo-y-problemas-fabricacion/
  • https://www.canaleduca.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Cuestinario-consumo-indirecto-de-Papel.pdf

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