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Old 08-20-2008, 11:45 AM   #31
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Yes, I agree. But that merely brings me back to what I was wondering all along - whether producing, distributing, and then recycling/disposing a hundred pbooks would weigh heavier on the environment than producing, distributing, and then recycling/disposing one reader device. There is a tipping point, I just don't know where it is.
To help you realize that the tipping point is trivially in favour of ebooks, consider the following points:

1) The actual number will be significantly higher than a 100. If you used it so little that it was <= 100 you wouldn't be buying a new one every couple of years.
2) The devices are not likely to remain single function

And just to take a step back, is anyone really claiming that an economy in which information is distributed electronically is less energy efficient than an economy in which information is physical printed and distributed by trucks?
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:06 PM   #32
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Many of you are assuming that an e-book reader past its prime must be landfilled, making it a total loss and a 100% drain on the environment. This is not necessarily the case. E-book readers can also be recycled, and their raw materials re-used to make other devices. (True, by and large it is not happening yet, but the situation is improving day by day in most regions.)

And here's another important point to consider: You don't need a dedicated device to read e-books. An e-book can be read on your PC, your PDA, your cellphone... essentially, on a device that you already have and use. So the cost of a dedicated device does not have to be factored into the cost of e-books at all, any more than you'd assume every person who must go from point A to point B must use their own car (as opposed to public transportation).

At the user end, only the cost of energy expended specifically for e-book reading must be considered... and even then, if it is energy that is already being expended (such as on a PC already running and performing background tasks), there is essentially no extra cost. (And of course, that small energy expenditure can be supplied by solar cells, human power, etc.)

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Old 08-20-2008, 01:03 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
To help you realize that the tipping point is trivially in favour of ebooks, consider the following points:

1) The actual number will be significantly higher than a 100. If you used it so little that it was <= 100 you wouldn't be buying a new one every couple of years.
2) The devices are not likely to remain single function
1) Well first the number is actually less. Look at me, I'm the worst case, I bought an eInk device, and still buy paper Books. Since I actually find the paper still far more comfortable to read (having light reflection issues) and to annotate (annotation is terrible on the iLiad, altough the only device were remotely possible with any sense at all). I use it with function 2) however as note taking device.

100 is far too much, while there are some individuals like you or quite a couple on mobileread, its sure not the "average". This is IMHO the "overestimation effect". Any indivual overestimates the population sharing the same or similar trait than he has on about anything.

Note exactly out of that reason, paper won't go away any time soon. Some people read say 2 books a year. What would you advice them to buy? The 2 paper books or one eReader?

Really there are many factors going in, and yes I can imagine review studies that both speak for or against the environmental issues of eInk devices. Depends who pays the reviewer. I could think of how to approach both ways to the subject, getting likely different endresults. And I can fully understand why the eInk manufactures don't write in big letters "the ultimate safer on the environment" on their device, since exactly in its production its not quite environment friendly, nor are there any recylcing plans done or even feasible... i personally sure won't buy a device for 500€ which has an already used display!

Also how much paper is produced each year for books in comparison for toiletpaper? I don't see the eInk devices remove the need of toiletpaper...

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Old 08-20-2008, 01:06 PM   #34
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And here's another important point to consider: You don't need a dedicated device to read e-books. An e-book can be read on your PC
The PC aprox. uses 60 Watts of power while you are reading the book. which would likely be turned off if you read paper. Throw that into that calculation please.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:18 PM   #35
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The PC aprox. uses 60 Watts of power while you are reading the book. which would likely be turned off if you read paper. Throw that into that calculation please.
As I said: If the PC is already running a task, and therefore has a reason to be on, you can read an e-book on it with no (or insignificantly little) increase in energy used.

At any rate, yes, you'd be better off reading on a less power-hungry device, such as a PDA.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:21 PM   #36
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Also how much paper is produced each year for books in comparison for toiletpaper? I don't see the eInk devices remove the need of toiletpaper...
Toilet paper is another subject entirely. Do some research, though, and you'll discover companies researching alternatives to TP (such as bidets, and--yes--recycled paper products.)
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:32 PM   #37
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Wood, from which paper is made, is a sustainable resource. It's very difficult to argue that any type of eBook reader is.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:40 PM   #38
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Metals and plastics, from which e-book readers are made, can be melted down and recycled, often with no loss of material.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:45 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by axel77 View Post
1) Well first the number is actually less. Look at me, I'm the worst case, I bought an eInk device, and still buy paper Books. Since I actually find the paper still far more comfortable to read (having light reflection issues) and to annotate (annotation is terrible on the iLiad, altough the only device were remotely possible with any sense at all). I use it with function 2) however as note taking device.

100 is far too much, while there are some individuals like you or quite a couple on mobileread, its sure not the "average". This is IMHO the "overestimation effect". Any indivual overestimates the population sharing the same or similar trait than he has on about anything.

Note exactly out of that reason, paper won't go away any time soon. Some people read say 2 books a year. What would you advice them to buy? The 2 paper books or one eReader?

Really there are many factors going in, and yes I can imagine review studies that both speak for or against the environmental issues of eInk devices. Depends who pays the reviewer. I could think of how to approach both ways to the subject, getting likely different endresults. And I can fully understand why the eInk manufactures don't write in big letters "the ultimate safer on the environment" on their device, since exactly in its production its not quite environment friendly, nor are there any recylcing plans done or even feasible... i personally sure won't buy a device for 500€ which has an already used display!

Also how much paper is produced each year for books in comparison for toiletpaper? I don't see the eInk devices remove the need of toiletpaper...
Umm if you use your reader to read 2 books a year or 10 books a year, are you really going to buy a new reader every two years? And remember that we are talking environmental (i.e. long term ) effects so consider a time when ebook reader technology has matured and new devices on the market dont have significant new features.

If you really are going to buy a new reader every 2 years to read 4 books on, then the negative environmental impact is being caused by you, not the technology. Its like saying you're buying a hundred copies of a pbok and burning 99 of them.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:47 PM   #40
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Wood, from which paper is made, is a sustainable resource. It's very difficult to argue that any type of eBook reader is.
It's equally difficult to argue that modern society can be maintained on sustainable resources. If youre suggesting that going back to the stone age (with the consequent reduction in population) is more environmentally friendly, sure it is. So what.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:54 PM   #41
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Wood, from which paper is made, is a sustainable resource. It's very difficult to argue that any type of eBook reader is.
Oh and I should add that wood, when consumed in the quantities needed to sustain a paper based information economy with a population of 7 billion, is not a sustainable resource.
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:38 PM   #42
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Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. Many of you raised points I never thought of, like recycling the ebook readers themselves.
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:48 PM   #43
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Clearly, after reading this discussion, I feel obligated to contact the department of Physical Resource Theory on Chalmers and ask them about these issues. Maybe someone has already a pretty good estimate on the energy and environmental costs of books and ebooks?

You are also welcome to mail them
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:59 PM   #44
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It's equally difficult to argue that modern society can be maintained on sustainable resources. If youre suggesting that going back to the stone age (with the consequent reduction in population) is more environmentally friendly, sure it is. So what.
Sorry, but this is boiling down to the "thats modern and cool, and thats uncool" trait. Who knows when we are actually going forward or backward? What is forward? The argument "If you don't support this new technology, we could as well be in stone age", is a hyperbole, without any real contribution on the current matters of a tech.

eBooks are a a cool thing. But paper is also a great technology. Paper is made out of 100% renewable materials. Paper is more sustainable to aging than any electonic data material. Paper is cheap in production. Paper can be recycled to 100% with zero waste.. Paper does not require the user to have additional infrastructure to read it. I wouldn't carry paper to the grave all too fast. And to say just because something is *newer* than paper does not make it "better" by default. Like any possible would just take us futher away from stone age and thus more advanced ..

Society WILL have to change to sustainable ressources at some point. And no this does NOT take us back to stoneage, if we manage to make the right decissions at the right time. Currently it just doesn't look like it, humanity as whole has enough foresight...
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:06 PM   #45
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Sorry, but this is boiling down to the "thats modern and cool, and thats uncool" trait. Who knows when we are actually going forward or backward? What is forward? The argument "If you don't support this new technology, we could as well be in stone age", is a hyperbole, without any real contribution on the current matters of a tech.

eBooks are a a cool thing. But paper is also a great technology. Paper is made out of 100% renewable materials. Paper is more sustainable to aging than any electonic data material. Paper is cheap in production. Paper can be recycled to 100% with zero waste.. Paper does not require the user to have additional infrastructure to read it. I wouldn't carry paper to the grave all too fast. And to say just because something is *newer* than paper does not make it "better" by default. Like any possible would just take us futher away from stone age and thus more advanced ..

Society WILL have to change to sustainable ressources at some point. And no this does NOT take us back to stoneage, if we manage to make the right decissions at the right time. Currently it just doesn't look like it, humanity as whole has enough foresight...
No that's a response to the argument that ebooks are not environmentally friendly because they are not sustainanble. Re-phrased the argument reads as "Yes ebooks are not sustainanble, but neither is any technology that strives to maintain the level of information accessibility that ebooks allow. In particular, that includes pbooks."
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