Credit: Flickr Commons / George Eastman House

Feels like a book, flips like a book, smells like a book. I have yet to cross paths with Davin’s new-fangled toaster, but there are a number of electronic devices that replace the paper book.

The electronic book readers claim to be easy on the eyes, with displays that resemble ink and paper, but I have not tested them out myself. Apparently they also have kick ass battery life—the Sony Reader gets 7,500 page turns to a charge. That is way better then my little clip-on book light.

Would I give up my paper books for a digital reader? I would rather not... but how bad are my books, really?

Paper book reality

Browsing the shelves of MacLeod’s Books or any of Vancouver used bookstores is one of my favourite Sunday afternoon activities; you know the old mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”—the benefits of buying second hand are obvious. Piles of the books on my shelves are printed by New Society Publishers, who specialize in publishing books about social change, and they print on ancient forest-friendly paper. So that’s pretty good—used, and environmentally conscious publishers stock my shelves.

How about a snap shot in time—how do the books I am reading right now measure up? Of the seven books (yes, I know it is ridiculous to read that many books at a time), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows has the highest eco-cred: ancient forest-free paper, 100 percent post-consumer content and chlorine-free processing. Hot, Flat, and Crowded has FSC-certified paper and 30 percent post-consumer content. The other five lack any indication that they’re printed on forest-friendly paper. Looks like I’m not doing so well in upholding my environmental values when it comes to my personal library.


Alteratives to paper books

Borrowing books from the library is an option, right? I’ll admit to you now that I have a bad—well, atrocious—track record of racking up ridiculous late fines. This probably has something to do with my habit of reading a ridiculous number of books at any given time… I just can’t keep up with the due dates!

Even though there are sites, like EcoBrain, dedicated to providing tree-free e-books for the green consumer, I just can’t stand staring at a computer screen more then I already do in one day. I suppose I should give one of these electronic readers a try. Maybe they are as good as the manufacturers make them sound.

I find it kind of funny that I’ve resisted going paperless when it comes to books. The rest of my life is on my computer or accessed through a browser. I get hand cramps from writing a note on a Post-It. What is it about books?! Why are they so much harder to give up?