Ebooks and The Environment

Kindle, that’s the new trend in books. It is a hand held device created by Amazon where you can receive digital books and read them right off the screen. It’s pretty fascinating to think about where books have come. Thousands of years ago books were only made for religious and governmental purposes. Only the highest ranked people were able to read and only scribes could write. Books were scarce and could not be published in masses as they can be today. Eventually, books became something for just the elite society thanks to the Guttenberg Press (the first press that could copy hand written books and mass produce it), but only the elite were literate. Now, thanks to public education, almost everyone can enjoy books. Paper books have been the way we read, but now digital books, or ebooks, are becoming more appealing. But which is more ecolonomic?

Ebooks are very exciting and intriguing. The digital format of the books allows for the storage of several books on to one small device (smaller than most paper books) which can be toted just about anywhere. Their portability far exceeds that of a conventional book. The digital format also allows for text searches, making research much easier, and for easy duplication. You can easily give a friend an ebook and still have a copy for yourself, something you can’t do with paper books (unless you have more than one copy, which is uncommon). Ebooks can also be read in almost any lighting situation because of backlighting on screens. Even in the dark you can read an ebook. No paper is used when making an ebook, which means thousands of trees are saved. Publication costs are cheaper because everything for an ebook is done over the internet. There is no shipping which means no energy is used to ship the books to a store and no energy from consumers to go to the store and buy the ebook. Digital books will never decay, rip, or fall apart at the binding. I wouldn’t be able to rip the book in two as I have with paper books. Even the devices used to read the digital books are smaller and ship to stores for less.

What are the cons to ebooks than? No matter what you do an ebook is always an ebook, which means you will always be using energy when buying, downloading, or reading it. Paper books certainly ruin trees, exert carbon emissions while manufactured and pollute through shipping methods, but ebooks use quite a bit of energy just from reading the book. Publication of ebooks is cheaper and would make books cheaper as well, but though the consumer gains, authors and publishers lose. Books can be pirated and revenue would be lost to the author. Though ebooks can’t wear and tear, electronics can. I can drop a book and it’s usually fine, but drop an electronic and who knows what will happen? Electronics tend to last for about five years and go out of date in about one or two. Books can last for thousands of years. Ebooks have no resale value if they can just be duplicated, where as paper books can become collectables and rare. Electronics are harder to recycle than paper and you can’t send an ebook to a used bookstore for recycling, or to a library, which allows people access to books for free without any expensive device.

With new sources of energy being developed, who knows what will become of paper or digital books? Ebooks may be the next great ecolonomics thing, what do you think?