Is it Sustainable: e-readers

I read. A lot. I tend to love the idea of reading non-fiction, but rarely complete reading any non-fiction book. Sorry, Thomas Friedman…i will finish reading your latest, I swear. I typically need a story, emotion, description, and usually a murder of some sort. I have most of the Dick Francis novels that I bought in my 20’s (in paper form), I sped through the alphabet murders by Sue Grafton when they were hot (library borrowed), and I now own every J.D. Robb novel featuring Eve Dallas (on kindle). I also hold onto other great non-murder writers with exceptional storytelling from Louisa May Alcott (mom’s hardcovers and kindle) to Anne McCaffrey (paperbacks) to Debora Geary (kindle). I reread these often.

Brain-candy. Feel good, engaging, often literary along with entertaining brain-candy.

My kindle and self-made cover

I never in a million years thought I would move to e-reading. Not only to some e-reading but almost exclusively reading on my kindle. Not only reading on my kindle, but slowly getting rid of many books on my shelves, because I want them with me all the time, in my compact kindle that can hold 2,000 titles at once. I carry my phone, my i-pad, and my kindle.

But is this greener? Is it sustainable?

This infographic basically says “yes”. Once you have read about 20 books on your kindle you are at equal for embodied carbon in the device compared to embodied carbon in about 20 paper books.  This is if you buy each book new and never share it. People who borrow from libraries, rock on. However, I have read about 30 books since August, so I think I’m on the right side of the equation.

Other plus aspects include that I can devote my shelf space to architecture books with excellent photos (that don’t do well on a kindle) and divest myself of loads of paperbacks and hardcovers that are obtainable on kindle. I can travel and take, oh, about a thousand books with me, so I will never be book-less or stuck with a book I am not in the mood for. I can also buy, with cell connection, any book listed on Amazon. The e-reader world has totally opened up access to new material to me, and avenues for new writers to get out there. It is still a VERY tough world, but in many ways more accessible. I buy samplers of new writers in the genre I enjoy, get sucked in invariably by a first-in-a-series novella, then have a new author to enjoy for a few books. Look for mm smits books on kindle – “Undying”, “Crossing” and “Fading” (he is my husband and an exceptional writer).

Some downsides include not really feeling great about reading in the tub or occasional available Jacuzzi, not being able to show off my books in the same way (also a plus), not enjoying anymore reading in book form (I’m that far gone), and needing to plug-in and recharge. I never go to the library, and seldom go to a bookstore. It is too easy to buy books from anywhere, at anytime. It is also harder to share. I used to feel pretty good about liking a book and then handing it over to a friend. Now I have to buy them a copy or get them the info so they can buy it if they want to. Not the same.

I have worried about the environmental burden of having an e-reader, as books on my shelf always seemed so benign, and electronic anything includes precious metals, toxic plastics and energy need.  But paper books are not free of environmental burdens, including inks, glues, the intensive energy and chemical process that is paper making, and delivery/storage.

Sustainability in its purest, most successful form is about having choices and knowledge as well as the ability to choose.

I choose the e-reader option as the lesser burden for my daily brain-candy reading, and I still invest in paper books when the graphics and photos are important enough to me to do so, or when I want to gift a particular read to someone special, all wrapped up with a bow and with a written inscription in the front. There is place for both, though I am learning that the e-reader approach truly is the better choice environmentally, for those with access to electronics and energy.

Read on, and be greener,



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