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Old 08-14-2008, 04:07 AM   #46
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A publisher's point of view

Being a publisher at a relatively small academic publishing house, I follow this discussion with great interest. Please let me share my view with you:

One can't stop the future from happening
True. That's why I'm here, reading this thread and reacting on this discussion But to be serious, we acknowledge the importance of electronic reading, hence we set up a online store for ebook hardware. This way we get in touch with tomorrow's readers, which allows us to adapt our strategic focus when it comes down to our core business, publishing.

Loss of income
The real question is, will publishers still be able to add enough value to a publication in the future? Many academic authors are perfectly able to create a book or an article themselves. They can even hire proofreaders or editors through the internet. Except for the recognized name of the publisher, its logo, marketing services and quality control, what reasons would there be for an author to turn to a traditional publisher, even if they offer electronic publishing as well? Publishers will be facing loss of income anyway, even if they do offer electronic publishing facilities.

Loosing ground for competitors
True; if the competitors do offer the publications the customers are looking for; but if the publisher doesn't offer electronic versions of it's books at all, nobody can offer the ebook in the first place, so there still can't be any real competition in that case.

Piracy
True. I think that book scanning will become a nightmare for publishers and book retailers. You can already see the rise of torrents sites offering pdf files of textbooks for example. With a new generation of ebook hardware coming up that offer A4 sized displays, some people might be very tempted to download scanned documents and read them on this kind of ereaders.

Ebooks is cheaper to produce
Not completely true. Even without the costs for printing, you still have costs for editing, proofreading, designing, marketing et cetera. Most of the time, the smaller part of the costs for realizing a new publication are printing costs. An additional problem is that there is not one ebook standard (which leads to costly conversion problems) and that you have to upload one ebook to many channels, conforming to different standards, and keeping track of ebook sales through many channels, not even mentioning the amount of work to calculate the royalty's for the author when serving many different channels.

Ebooks reach a bigger market
Of course ebooks can be very interesting for people with reading disabilities. But, I doubt if this could be a reason to step into the ebook market from a commercial point of view. Of course, it could create a group of very loyal customers and it would be an ethical step to offer ebooks in this regard.

Ebooks are also easier to distribute all over the world
True, especially looking at Amazon's Kindle and the iPhone 3G, with 'always on' internet connections. It's really fantastic. But keep in mind, that the different screen sizes do offer problems (see my pdf 'statement' below).

Decreased production costs can result in cheaper ebooks
Of course ebooks can be cheaper, but please refer to my explanation above why I think that ebooks will not become really cheaper at all. The question is whether the book's selling price really influences buying behaviour. Of course it will, but Dutch research has shown that price differences (within certain margins of course) doesn't really stop or encourage people from buying books. You can read just one book at a time (ok, there are exceptions...), so I wouldn't not be so sure that a lower price makes people buy more (e)books.

Marketing possibilities
Absolutely, it becomes much easier to distribute samples or even free versions of the book. But in the other hand, this argument is also valid for print books, of which online excerpts are available (view inside the book programs).

---

Additionally, please let me underline that most of the time, it's the authors that don't want us to make their book available in electronic form. They fear that it will be illegaly copied or that others can somehow alter their texts. Of course it takes time and we show ebook readers to our authors to convince them, but it's still very difficult.

Besides, some of our publications took many months of writing and designing, you can't just convert those kind of graphic-rich publications into an ebook with the push of a button. It would really help if there would be better conversion utilities (like mobipocket's conversion tools), but then for professional use.

Until then, pdf is in my point of view the only succesful ebook standard; everybody knows and uses it, both readers and designers/publishers, it has become an iso standard lately, and there is a broad range of software for creating and reading pdf documents available.

Last edited by ebookreaders; 08-14-2008 at 04:55 AM. Reason: small improvements
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Old 08-14-2008, 04:45 AM   #47
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I urge people that do not own Kindles to write a friendly email to Amazon. I wrote Amazon a few days ago and asked them to pass the email to the Kindle group. I received a nice but probably canned response but still nice reply. They may never open up the ebook purchasing to other users but if enough people write to them they may start to think about it. Whatever the profits are with a Kindle sale the sale of ebooks may be the better revenue stream. If they are using the old model give away the razor to sell the blades or printer to sell the ink then they should eventually be interested in offering ebooks to other eReaders. The volume alone may eventually justify the change in policy.
That's never going to happen. Amazon has no need to open up eBooks to non-Kindle owners. If you do not own a Kindle, you cannot view AZW eBooks without removing the DRM because there is no desktop viewer. The only viewer is in the Kindle. Now asking Amazon to create a program not tied to the Kindle would be a better idea. But I don't think they'll do that either. If you owned a 505 or an iLiad, you'd be able to remove the DRM and use the eBooks on another device. That's not what Amazon wants. They want to keep their eBooks tied to the Kindle only.
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Old 08-14-2008, 04:53 AM   #48
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Being a publisher at a relatively small academic publishing house, I follow this discussion with great interest. Please let me share my view with you:
Wonderful!

Quote:
> Loss of income
The real question is, will publishers still be able to add enough value to a publication in the future? Many academic authors are perfectly able to create a book or an article themselves. They can even hire proofreaders or editors through the internet. Except for the recognized name of the publisher, its logo, marketing services and quality control, what reasons would there be for an author to turn to a traditional publisher, even if they offer electronic publishing as well? Publishers will be facing loss of income anyway, even if they do offer electronic publishing facilities.
I believe that the academic authors will continue to write their books in LaTeX, and thus hiring someone to do the conversion to other formats in a smooth way. You don't want to sit with and fight with file format convertion problems once your book is done. I am sure that most of us don't regard PDF as a valid eBook format, it's not reflowable.

Quote:
> Loss of income
The real question is, will publishers still be able to add enough value to a publication in the future? Many academic authors are perfectly able to create a book or an article themselves. They can even hire proofreaders or editors through the internet. Except for the recognized name of the publisher, its logo, marketing services and quality control, what reasons would there be for an author to turn to a traditional publisher, even if they offer electronic publishing as well? Publishers will be facing loss of income anyway, even if they do offer electronic publishing facilities.
Yes, the old market will have to adapt or perish. As I said earlier, the publishers could handle the transition to other formats. But I agree, this is a big paradigm shift.
Quote:
> Piracy
True. I think that book scanning will become a nightmare for publishers and book retailers. You can already see the rise of torrents sites offering pdf files of textbooks for example. With a new generation of ebook hardware coming up that offer A4 sized displays, some people might be very tempted to download scanned documents and read them on this kind of ereaders.
Piracy will always be a problem. Really; I don't think it will ever be possible to produce secure material.

Quote:
> Ebooks is cheaper to produce
Not completely true. Even without the costs for printing, you still have costs for editing, proofreading, designing, marketing et cetera. Most of the time, the smaller part of the costs for realizing a new publication are printing costs. An additional problem is that there is not one ebook standard (which leads to costly conversion problems) and that you have to upload one ebook to many channels, conforming to different standards, and keeping track of ebook sales through many channels, not even mentioning the amount of work to calculate the royalties for the author when serving many different channels.
Let me add the other side of the coin, what about environmental costs? In my humble opinion, it's priceless to have a fully functioning environment. The amount of tree mass used to produce all books/papers in the whole world is astounding. One often nails the debate of sustainability onto vehicles (which IS a problem), but fails to forget that all parts of the consumption chain are responsible. Just think of all the millions of books printed, and then just discarded. Given enough time, I think the technology will ease the monetary costs of producing eBooks.
Quote:
> Ebooks are also easier to distribute all over the world.
True, especially looking at Amazon's Kindle and the iPhone 3G, with 'always on' internet connections. It's really fantastic. But keep in mind, that the different screen sizes do offer problems (see my pdf statement below).
Is this not really a format problem? Given a reflowable format, there is no problem.

I really hope that you will try to convince other publishers as well as authors to release more academic titles. By the way; do you happen to have some kind of contact with Springer Link?

Last edited by Gianfranco; 08-14-2008 at 05:00 AM. Reason: An error
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Old 08-14-2008, 05:52 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by ebookreaders View Post
Ebooks is cheaper to produce
Not completely true. Even without the costs for printing, you still have costs for editing, proofreading, designing, marketing et cetera. Most of the time, the smaller part of the costs for realizing a new publication are printing costs. An additional problem is that there is not one ebook standard (which leads to costly conversion problems) and that you have to upload one ebook to many channels, conforming to different standards, and keeping track of ebook sales through many channels, not even mentioning the amount of work to calculate the royalty's for the author when serving many different channels.
Let's take a book that's out in the book shops as a hardcover edition. The eBook edition is priced close to the hardcover edition. And in some cases actually more expensive. Then the hardcover is released in paperback. The eBook price is supposed to drop accordingly, but doesn't always follow. Then when you ask about it, you get told it's the publishers who set the price and you are stuck either overpaying or not buying at all. What sort of price do you see is reasonable for an eBook that doesn't need to have any of the costs associated with being in paper as being reasonable? If an eBook is cheaper to produce, why don't prices reflect this? Why do we get shafted when it comes to price? Do we have to pay as much (if not more) for an eBook? Those of us who do read eBooks are not second class readers and we do not deserve to be treated as such. If publishers really cared about us, they'd sort out a lot of these problems now.
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Old 08-14-2008, 06:47 AM   #50
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Wonderful!
I believe that the academic authors will continue to write their books in LaTeX, and thus hiring someone to do the conversion to other formats in a smooth way. You don't want to sit with and fight with file format convertion problems once your book is done. I am sure that most of us don't regard PDF as a valid eBook format, it's not reflowable.
Most of our authors (in the field of business administration, social studies, et cetera) work in MS Word. And most of them are quite comfortable applying page settings and margins so that the resulting pdf file can be sent to the printer directly. I consider pdf to be a very valid ebook format, especially with devices with larger screens coming up. I spoke to many people (students, business people) who would just love to have an A4-sized reader, for reading company memos, textbooks, notes, et cetera.

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Piracy will always be a problem. Really; I don't think it will ever be possible to produce secure material.
Absolutely right. Just look at what happened to the music industry.

Quote:
Let me add the other side of the coin, what about environmental costs? In my humble opinion, it's priceless to have a fully functioning environment. The amount of tree mass used to produce all books/papers in the whole world is astounding. One often nails the debate of sustainability onto vehicles (which IS a problem), but fails to forget that all parts of the consumption chain are responsible. Just think of all the millions of books printed, and then just discarded. Given enough time, I think the technology will ease the monetary costs of producing eBooks.
I'd like to see a full break-down of the impact of the production of one ebook reader on the environment first. Of course, lots of paper is wasted, but you can still give a paper book to a friend or have it recycled in a proper way.

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Is this not really a format problem? Given a reflowable format, there is no problem.
It is a format problem, even with reflowable books. Have you ever tried to convert a document containing lots of tables, figures and images to a reflowable document? It's a disaster. We have tested several xml-based publishing systems, but even then, formatting a book is more difficult than many people think.

Quote:
I really hope that you will try to convince other publishers as well as authors to release more academic titles. By the way; do you happen to have some kind of contact with Springer Link?
We do our best . Unfortunately, we're not connected to Springer.
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Old 08-14-2008, 06:51 AM   #51
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If an eBook is cheaper to produce, why don't prices reflect this?
Because there is a difference between actual costs for creating a publication (either e or p) and marketing-based decisions that result in a final selling price.

I agree that lower production costs should be reflected in the selling price of an ebook, but unfortunately, many publishers are still convinced that a small market (for ebooks) automatically means that the ebooks should be relatively expensive, in order to get enough revenue to make their business 'sustainable'.
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:12 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by ebookreaders View Post
Most of our authors (in the field of business administration, social studies, et cetera) work in MS Word. And most of them are quite comfortable applying page settings and margins so that the resulting pdf file can be sent to the printer directly. I consider pdf to be a very valid ebook format, especially with devices with larger screens coming up. I spoke to many people (students, business people) who would just love to have an A4-sized reader, for reading company memos, textbooks, notes, et cetera.
Having an A4-sized reader kind of takes the portability away unless it's foldable, but this is just a subjective opinion.

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I'd like to see a full break-down of the impact of the production of one ebook reader on the environment first.
This argument is to Paper Vs EBooks as "I'd like to see a full break-down of the impact of the production of one bicycle on the environment first" is to Cars Vs Bicycles. eBook readers will surely affect the environment, all production does, the important is whether the paper mass industry affects MORE than the production of single eBook readers / softwares for reading eBooks. I am quite confident that ending all the deforestation such that the trees are used for book-papers, and not to mention all the transporting of the books from factory to printing, from printing to seller, etc will remove quite a load from the environmental pressures.

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It is a format problem, even with reflowable books. Have you ever tried to convert a document containing lots of tables, figures and images to a reflowable document? It's a disaster. We have tested several xml-based publishing systems, but even then, formatting a book is more difficult than many people think.
That is a bad software issue, not a format issue in itself. Just like you can't blame the german language for the inadequacy of the translator. Therefore, as I said earlier, it could be left down for the publishers to make sure the format conversion was made properly and let the authors write.

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We do our best . Unfortunately, we're not connected to Springer.
Are you considering contacting them? They have a lot of books which look very interesting.

Last edited by Gianfranco; 08-14-2008 at 07:13 AM. Reason: An error
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:23 AM   #53
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It is a format problem, even with reflowable books. Have you ever tried to convert a document containing lots of tables, figures and images to a reflowable document? It's a disaster. We have tested several xml-based publishing systems, but even then, formatting a book is more difficult than many people think.
On a side note, it's quite hard to print books, who has an adequate book-printing machine at home? Someone has to do it.Obviously paper-back publishers do it.
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:42 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by Gianfranco View Post
I am quite confident that ending all the deforestation such that the trees are used for book-papers, and not to mention all the transporting of the books from factory to printing, from printing to seller, etc will remove quite a load from the environmental pressures.
I think the main reason for deforestation is not "book production", that seems a little unlikely. While not motivated enough to go look for some actual sources, I would wager that increasing "productive" area for agriculture and living space for humans and cattle would have more to do with it. I have no idea if book paper is recycled - nor what the recycling process would cost in both monetary and environmental terms.

And to produce and read ebooks you need computers. Besides the resources you have to pour into manufacturing them, computers need power. Electric power and lots of it, which comes from a number of sources, but burning fossil fuels is still very popular. Ebook readers themselves need (far less) power, but if they become extremely popular...

It is an interesting discussion topic, but I do not think it is as one-dimensional as you propose.
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:51 AM   #55
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I think the main reason for deforestation is not "book production", that seems a little unlikely. While not motivated enough to go look for some actual sources, I would wager that increasing "productive" area for agriculture and living space for humans and cattle would have more to do with it. I have no idea if book paper is recycled - nor what the recycling process would cost in both monetary and environmental terms.
...
It is an interesting discussion topic, but I do not think it is as one-dimensional as you propose.
I have not said this is a one dimensional problem in any way, neither have I said that a major part of deforestation is due to paper production. Just as you claim, at least from what I have learned, a major part of the rain forest deforestation is due just to land clearing for agriculture. I do however argue that a lot of unnecessary transportation, and energy is wasted on material which is only used once.

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Old 08-14-2008, 07:56 AM   #56
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I have not said this is a one dimensional problem in any way, neither have I said that a major part of deforestation is due to paper production. I do however argue that a lot of unnecessary transporting, and energy is wasted on material which is only used once.
I'm sorry, I might have misread that first part - you said "I am quite confident that ending all the deforestation such that the trees are used for book-papers [...] will remove quite a load from the environmental pressures." (I removed the transport bit for the quote)

I'm also not sure what you mean by "material which is only used once" - are you referring to the books themselves?

But do you know the costs of keeping the underlying infrastructure of the internet going? All those routers, servers, and so on? There has been some research into it (PDF link):

The total power demand in 2005 (including associated infrastructure) is equivalent (in capacity terms) to about five 1000 MW power plants for the U.S. and 14 such plants for the world. The total electricity bill for operating those servers and associated infrastructure in 2005 was about $2.7 B and $7.2 B for the U.S. and the world, respectively.

Another article: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070215-8854.html

With all this I'm just trying to say that electronic distribution ALSO comes with a price tag.
It would be interesting to compare the two.

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Old 08-14-2008, 08:05 AM   #57
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Of course, the whole issue of energy usage is quite interesting in itself. And there is lots of room for discussion.
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Old 08-14-2008, 10:05 AM   #58
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hello ebookreaders and welcome. it's great to see a publisher taking an interest in ebooks and participating in the discussion.

you raise some interesting points and i imagine that similar concerns are probably held by many publishers. i hope you'll take the time to look around this site and read some of the different threads ; many of these topics have been discussed here and you might find some interesting perspectives or new technical information.

i really applaud your openness to ereading. i'm sure that it will help you to gain a loyal customer base.

i would definitely encourage you to take a closer look at the EPUB format which is the emerging standard for ebooks. it is much more powerful than any current format and will resolve many of the layout problems publishers currently face. pdf is not a format adapted to ebooks because it is fundamentally print-oriented ; it is very difficult to use pdf on small portable reading devices and while there may be a market for A4 format readers i think many people prefer a smaller device which can easily be carried in a purse or pocket.

some of the advantages of EPUB have been discussed earlier in this thread and you can easily find more. but i would like to specifically address some of the points you raise in relation to epub.

you mentioned the problem of no standard format, which makes producing ebooks very complicated for publishers. you are absolutely right and this "e-babel" of incompatible, competing formats is perhaps the biggest challenge facing ebooks currently. epub will help to put an end to this, since not only is it designed to be an industry standard, but it can also be easily converted to other formats if there is a need.

of course publishers will need to put the tools for production into place, which will take some time, effort, and financial investment on their part. however once they are in place, they can become an almost invisible part of the workflow, requiring no significant increase in production cost, effort or time.

epub can already be generated using many tools and more will come. if you use InDesign, it can be exported directly as part of the book layout workflow. it will allow much greater control over the appearance of the book than any existing format, including true footnotes, true table of contents, proper pagination, and of course all text formatting, which addresses another of your concerns. the support for SVG (vector) image format will also simplify convertion of graphic-rich books. the main drawback encountered in this area is the smaller size of many reading devices, which can make it difficult to present complex graphs or charts.

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Piracy
True. I think that book scanning will become a nightmare for publishers and book retailers. You can already see the rise of torrents sites offering pdf files of textbooks for example. With a new generation of ebook hardware coming up that offer A4 sized displays, some people might be very tempted to download scanned documents and read them on this kind of ereaders.
i think this is probably one of the biggest fears of most publishers. i would like to respectfully point out that (as other posters have mentioned) there is no way to *completely* eradicate piracy, however the BEST way (perhaps the only way) to effectively limit it is to make legal ebooks easily available for purchase at a reasonable price, with no drm, in a format that is useful (epub...). according to people who have taken the time to look around, the majority of the illegal ebooks are not available legally (because the publiser or author will not release them, because they are out of print and demand is percieved to be low...).

in addition, authors who have addressed the topic have found that illegal ebooks have a trivial impact (if any) on their sales of legitimate copies, and can in fact be an advantage since they allow new readers to discover their work ; new readers who quite likely will purchase more books, if they like what they read.
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Loss of income
The real question is, will publishers still be able to add enough value to a publication in the future? Many academic authors are perfectly able to create a book or an article themselves. They can even hire proofreaders or editors through the internet. Except for the recognized name of the publisher, its logo, marketing services and quality control, what reasons would there be for an author to turn to a traditional publisher, even if they offer electronic publishing as well? Publishers will be facing loss of income anyway, even if they do offer electronic publishing facilities.
i think publishers *can* still provide added value and retain a place for themselves through precisely the services you've named. but admittedly the structure of the industry is changing and they will need to revise their view of it as well and adapt to new demands and new possibilities. these can be seen as dangerous or advantageous ; i believe the only difference is one of perspective.

Quote:
Loosing ground for competitors
True; if the competitors do offer the publications the customers are looking for; but if the publisher doesn't offer electronic versions of it's books at all, nobody can offer the ebook in the first place, so there still can't be any real competition in that case.
Quote:
Additionally, please let me underline that most of the time, it's the authors that don't want us to make their book available in electronic form. They fear that it will be illegaly copied or that others can somehow alter their texts. Of course it takes time and we show ebook readers to our authors to convince them, but it's still very difficult.
this is what the publishers of the Harry Potter series and JK Rowling probably thought. however those books were available as illegal ebooks even before the paper editions in some cases. refusing to sell ebooks will have almost certainly the effect of encouraging illegal copies.

all of your points are interesting and worth discussing and i would certainly like to respond to each of them but i think i have written a long enough saga for one post !!!

i do hope you'll stay to continue the discussion, and take a look in some of the other threads which address your concerns.
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Old 08-14-2008, 04:11 PM   #59
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I have now added a norwegian version of the letter as an attachment.

If you have a translation of the letter in another language, give me the link or a text file and I will add it :-)

And btw, pheeeww.. I'm happy I've finished this off now. I've spent some hours on this letter.

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Old 08-14-2008, 04:17 PM   #60
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Regarding the resources used in paper production, it should not be overlooked that not only are large quantities of electricity required in running a paper production plant, but that there are enormous quantities of water-based chemicals used in the processing of most paper products. Most of these chemicals are toxic, many of them are non-bio-degradable, and most of them are just dumped back into the local water sources after use, making them a significant source of water pollution.

When you combine all of that with the production of one e-book reader, which is capable of replacing potentially hundreds to even thousands of books, the economy of scale and conservation of resources tips very strongly in favor of e-books.
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