Sustainable reading: e-readers vs print
Image by Flickr / Myuibe
The siren song of the e-reader puts another print-lover under its spell
I've been lusting after an e-reader. I'm not terribly gadgety, but as a magazine writer who's watching my industry go through the painful throes of a revolution (more optimistic people call it a renaissance), I can't help but hope that long-form literature might just survive if we find the right screen to display it on. If you've ever tried to read a 10,000-word article or a book online, you'll know the computer isn't the answer.
My e-reader lust caught me off guard. We love books and magazines in our family. Evan and I have spent more date nights browsing bookstores than doing just about anything else. And I go to the doctor's office early just to read the magazines.
I especially love used bookstores—there is nothing like making my way through the crowded stacks and discovering a book I've always meant to read, on sale for $2.
But on my last business trip, when I travelled to Northern Quebec on a small plane with severe luggage restrictions, I had to reassess my habit of packing one book for every two to three days of travel and a couple more for "just in case."
The fact that every second person on the plane had some sort of e-reader wasn't lost on me. And, with only one slim magazine to keep me busy for the trip, I spent much of the flight comparing the screen size and features of all those e-readers and visualizing how nice it would be to have access to dozens of books in one palm-sized package.
Googling “eco-effects e-readers vs books”
It wasn't until the middle of my trip, when I found myself trying to curl up with my laptop for bedtime reading that I started Googling “eco-effects e-readers vs books.” The results weren't exactly what I hoped for from an eco-friendly perspective.
According to an excellent charticle in the New York Times, owning one e-reader has the same ecological footprint as buying 40–50 new books. While I probably do buy that many books a year—many of them are bought as gifts—most of my books are acquired used.
So according to strict environmental measures I should be sticking with the library and used bookstores—which is where my confession comes in: I've bought one.
For the price of 10 new books I bought a little flat screen that came loaded with 100 classics. Then I went to the online bookstore and added a few more books I have been longing to read but hadn't yet stumbled across in book exchanges and used bookstores.
I also have to confess I love my little e-reader and that, thanks to its compact size, I'm reading more than ever. So if you come across any stats that say my e-reader is actually helping the planet, send them my way. I could use a break from the guilt while I read.