You may have heard about this rumour. A book could have a circulation of nearly 250,000 copies for the new literary season. In other words, it would be what we call a best-seller. No one knows the identity of the author or publisher. Is that even true? No one knows yet. In any case, this rumour raises a question. Is printing 250,000 copies of a book environmentally friendly? At a time when we are becoming aware of the ecological issue, we may ask ourselves this question. In this case, is the reader a better answer? Let us look at the issue.
What is an ebook’s ecological footprint?
It is a mystery to no one, to print a book you need paper and therefore have cut down a tree. Then you have to use ink to print it and transport it to the bookstore, all of which has an ecological cost. But for the reader, other questions arise. The metals used for the electronic part and their extraction, then their assembly and finally their routing. If trees are not cut here, metals are extracted and in terms of ecological footprint, the impact could be much greater. Some researchers have tried to quantify this, but they do not all agree.
The battle for numbers
In 2009, an institute called Cleantech determined that the carbon footprint of a book was 7.5 kg, compared to 168 kg for a reading light. If we go through with the thinking, it would mean that reading more than 22 books on a reader would make the carbon footprint profitable. Nevertheless, this study was commissioned by… Amazon, the brand that produces the Kindle, the most famous reading light. You will have understood this, not certain that this study is totally impartial. According to studies, the figures vary, but one thing is certain, you must have read several books on a reading light to amortize the carbon footprint of your purchase. Yet conventional books can also reduce their carbon footprint.
In classic publishing, there are solutions
Publishers have also grasped the importance of the issue and solutions are beginning to be found. We can of course think of the use of recycled paper to print books. The question of ink is also crucial. Brands selling printer cartridges no longer hesitate to play the ecological card, as is the case with TonerPartner, which specializes in the sale of recycled cartridges and toners. This is an opportunity for publishers to reduce their ecological footprint. Finally, when we talk about the book market, we also talk about the second hand market. In ecological terms, buying a used book is also a gesture for the planet while being cultivated, we must not forget that.
So is the reading light more ecological? It’s hard to answer. What is certain is that you will need to read about 20 books on your reading light to cushion the ecological footprint, which will not be bad for your culture!