Which is Greener: e-Books or Paper Books?
Are e-books greener than printed books?E-books are quickly becoming a popular technology gadget for many of us because they let us cheaply purchase books, save on storage of books and it's easier to carry lots of publications around with us without weighing down our handbags. But for many of us there is still the love for the object of the book itself. So if being green is an important part of life that you want to embrace more how do you find the balance between values and passions?

Let's begin by understanding how these industries are aiming to create a greener source of literacy for the public.

The Printing Industry

Those who are not proponents of e-Books are generally that way because they simply love having a tangible, printed book. Printed books are also objects in their own right that can be shared between friends and family and can be beautiful gifts and keepsakes.

With the world becoming more environmentally conscious there is also a push for the printing industry to change their ways to provide a more sustainable way of printing. Many printers are realising there is a profitable market for publications made from recycled paper and environmentally friendly inks, such as soy and vegetable based inks.

Along with more sustainable printing options, there is also a trend for printers to gain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification to prove their dedication to becoming an environmentally friendly printing source.

So the printing industry is moving with the times as well as feeling the push to progress with their methods from the technology industry.

The Printed Book

While e-books are only set to grow in popularity there will always remain a market for printed books. Avid readers who love books in their own right, as an object in and of itself will create a demand for printed books for generations to come.

Plus the printed book itself will remain in existence for centuries whereas the technology, the software required to read e-books will constantly develop, evolve and earlier versions will become obsolete.

For many readers the experience of reading text off a screen for hours is far more tiring than reading from the printed page as the screen is always constantly moving ever so slightly whereas the printed text is solid and stable, making it easier to read.

Once printed, books themselves are a green option as they can last for years and can be easily shared and subsequently recycled.


If you have an e-reader that does not use an LCD screen, like a Kindle or the Sony Reader, you are using E ink technology.

E ink technology is made out of a thin plastic laminate that contains black and white particles that create the text on the page. When you turn the page on an e-book with E ink technology it sends out an electrical charge that attract the black particles to their specific points and keeps them there through a static charge. This technology ultimately causes the only energy consumption of the e-reader to be when you turn the page. Because the energy consumption of an e-Book is so low, the electrical use when recharging the e-Book is very limited.

For those of you using LCD e-readers like the iPad, it is consuming more energy because it's in essence reading a computer. LCD e-readers, though generally more technologically advanced, also require back lighting and energy to reach their full technological potential.

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So which is greener?

Due to the chemicals, materials, and energy needed to maintain the printing industry, e-books are greener when compared to new books. This is especially true right now because the there is still a large amount of books being printed across the world that new books bought through online sources are saving paper and ink consumption.

There is large energy and monetary costs associated with e-readers in their manufacturing as they are created out of metal, plastics, rubber and glass that all must be man in order to create a single e-Book. The main factor that makes it the greener option is that this process only occurs once and then the e-book is used over and over again by the buyer if the one device is used for many years and then fully recycled.

Done with your e-Books?

For those of us who are getting rid of your e-Books, remember to do your part to recycle as that makes a huge difference.

If you live in Australia, you may use the RecycleNearYou website that allows you to recycle your e-readers and all other old electronics.

If you live in the United States or in Europe, you can recycle your Kindle through Amazon.com

Of course, local e-waste recycling programs develop regularly and a Google search will bring up what's happening around you.

The Greenest Option

Ultimately the greenest option for sustaining your literary needs is to keep your e-book for as long as possible and recycle it once you replace the device. As for those of us who love the printed book the greenest option is to be sure to buy used, trade, swap and share books and become an active member of the local library.



Contributing Writer Sidni Ramos

Contributing Writer Sidni Ramos

Sidni is a graphic communications major with an emphasis in fine arts at Clemson University. Sidni is an international intern with She Inspires, with a love for learning, music and people. Check her out at www.clemson.edu/~sidnir



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