Which is better for the environment, an e-reader or paper books?

Easy Answer: It depends on how much you read and where you get your paper books.

As with a lot of environmental show-downs, clear winners are tough to come by. Borrowing books from the library is probably the most environmentally friendly way to get your reading done--but what if you're a book buyer? Is it better to purchase a Kindle or to keep on buying your Jonathan Franzen or Nicholas Sparks novels?

According to the Cleantech Group, the "carbon emitted in the lifecycle of a Kindle is fully offset after the first year of use." That is assuming you're a big reader. The Cleantech data says the environmental impact of a Kindle is offset at the point that you've bought about 23 e-books (instead of paper books).

The study makes another assumption; that is that publishers will print fewer paper copies of books in response to e-book sales. It's not uncommon for unsold books to be returned to the publisher and destroyed.

You can find the entire Cleantech report here:

The environmental impact of the Amazon Kindle.pdf

Photo credit: Flickr user Paul Watson.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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it is better than spending millions on shooting a movie and having thousands of people watching in a different TV screen and repetitively watching it and wasting energy, hurting the environment and straining your eyes. I am thirteen and I have experienced how much more pleasure books give you then watching movies does. Books also let you imagine more but when you watch a movie you are only seeing the directors imagination that's been put into perspective.

what about the environmental effects of having to drive to the library, the library needing so much space, and using so much energy?

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