Thursday, November 06, 2008

Save Trees or Electricity?

One morning my sister-in-law called me and we talked a bit about her mom's inclination to purchase e-books, usually done in PDF format, and her belief that e-books are more eco-friendly than paper printed books. A few days earlier I'd read a very interesting article in the latest edition of Writer's Digest concerning the trend toward e-books. Can it be that traditionally printed books are on their way out? And can it be that e-books truly are better for the environment than their "wasteful" counterpart?

I've thought about this issue quite a bit this week and I've come to the conclusion that electronic books are not any more ecologically friendly OR economical than traditional printed ones. Mind you, I'm a published writer in both the electronic market and printed one. I've received compensation in both markets for the work I've done, so I'm not basing this upon the thought that "regular" publishers pay better.

As a writer, I LOVE books! From the time I learned to read I've devoured books of all subject matter. I have fond memories of my mom taking me to the public library and showing me all of the wonders my imagination could hold. I checked out and read every Anne of Green Gables book, then went on to the Anne of Avonlea series. Later I read 1984, Animal Farm, and other more complicated works. Once I became a Christian, I fell in love with C. S. Lewis' great works as well as a treasure trove of literary masterpieces.

As a mother, I find no joy in sitting in front of a computer screen trying to read a picture story book to my youngest children. As a homeschool teacher, I find no way a child can learn to read and write well with only a computer.

Staring at a computer monitor is hard on your eyes. I have bifocals and I really have to tell you, after a while of typing on here my eyes ache to the point I have to take aspirin and go to bed. I don't want to destroy my kids' eyes.

Above all else, though, I don't think that e-books are economical or green. The e-books cost almost the same, if not more, than their print counterparts (just to purchase.) If you don't back up your e-books and your computer crashes, you've lost them. If you find that your eyes can't handle reading a novel - who wants to curl up in front of the fireplace reading a great novel on a computer screen anyway - you can print it off, spending money on printer ink and paper. Then you've used electricity for the computer and printer (which isn't exactly green) AND you've used paper anyway.

A better solution for our throwaway society is to recycle their unwanted books. Nearly every town has at least one used bookstore that will take used books for credit toward other books. Paperback Swap is the same idea except you can share through the postal system. Give your used books to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Give them as gifts. Start your own library by sharing with folks in your neighborhood. Donate them to your church library. Just don't throw them away.


FromThe Creek said...

Yeah I don't find them economical or green sure do have a smart sister-in-law LOL!

Joy said...

I agree. Traditionally printed books can be read several hundred times without any additional output of energy while ebooks will always require hours of electricity with each reader. I do love audio books but those are probably the same as the others since they require power to be read. Thanks for joining us this week for Thrifty Green Thursday!

Rebecca said...

I'm glad you wrote this. I don't like thinking of a future without real books--and I'm someone who doesn't spend much money on books at all. Like you, I go to the library a lot. If real books are printed on recycled paper, read and reread many times by many readers, they may very well be "greener" than electronic books.

Another point (that I just now thought up) is that people will probably need to upgrade their Kindle or whatever e-book they are using every couple years. That's a lot of plastic, batteries, etc. being produced and then thrown out.

The cost issue is what really gets me. I can't see paying hundreds of dollars for a Kindle when I can read dozens of library books each year for free.

Great post!

Lara said...

I certainly hope printed books aren't on the way out! I can't imagine not being able to snuggle up with one (although, I'm sure there will always be plenty around).

My mom wondered if I wanted the Kindle for Christmas, and I really don't. It would take away from my reading experience I think.