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Old 08-19-2008, 09:24 PM   #1
Falbe Publishing
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Is an ebook "green" reading, as in environmentally friendly?

I have run across the concept of promoting ebooks as a green alternative to paper books. This makes sense because:

1. No paper is used to produce the copies, which includes the massive water and power usage needed for paper production and then for the printing.
2. No physical shipping is necessary, which means no gas/diesel use.

However, ebooks and their readers do all need a computer (mostly) and a reading device. Also the ebook distribution takes place on the internet (mostly) and the infrastructure of the internet uses vast amounts of power, which for the most part comes from fossil fuels.

I think that ebooks use less resources and cause less pollution than paper books. At the very least trees are not being cut down and pulped into celebrity memoirs (a great affront to Mother Nature).

I was wondering what other people thought on this subject.

Thanks.
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Old 08-19-2008, 10:01 PM   #2
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One would have to weigh in so much, that I'm pretty sure it's not doable in one rather lousy afternoon. To be really sure of this you would need to hire a trustworthy (and, mostly, costly) number cruncher company.
The iLiad from iRex actually uses "easy on the environment" in their overview. But, of course, there is no source included.

You would have to go with your guess.

I would, however, not be surprised if an agency already calculated this. There is always the chance that companies very much like iRex, Cybook, Sony would want this worked out.
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Old 08-19-2008, 11:28 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Falbe Publishing View Post

However, ebooks and their readers do all need a computer (mostly) and a reading device. Also the ebook distribution takes place on the internet (mostly) and the infrastructure of the internet uses vast amounts of power, which for the most part comes from fossil fuels.
However, the internet exists and is always on. The router are always powered. Most people that buy paper books to read probably have a PC and internet access. While all those things aren't teribly green downloading an eBook doesn't add anything to all that... but it does remove the need for one paper book which may save a tree or some water.

Also, as times move forward the internet and such will be powered more and more by renewable resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, water power etc. But, it will always take trees and water to make a book. (I guess trees could be considered renewable.)

BOb
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Old 08-19-2008, 11:31 PM   #4
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I have seen e-books described as green and questioned this from just the end product view. Paper books are at least bio degradable. If people throw away their electronic reader every three years I don't think they're as environmentally friendly to dispose of. I'm not an expert though.

I give kudos to Sony who have announced a program in Canada where you can return any of their products for them to be recycled. I'm not sure if this is a worldwide program.
http://www.sonystyle.ca/html/eco_min...b_recycle.html

Like most things you can play with the numbers to get the answer you want and big businesses like the paper industry will sponsor studies to show that e-books aren't environmentally friendly. If I look from a high level though I don't see how you can say it's not green. There are staggering power costs for producing and shipping paper products. Even ignoring the production costs just consider the costs to heat, cool and power all the book store and distribution centers used for paper books not to mention the fuel costs for people to get to and from the stores.

The internet costs are one area where you can really play with the numbers. If you add up all the costs of the servers and infrastructure to service the internet and say that e-books use 0.01% of this the numbers would look very bad. The internet costs aren't going away if you get rid of e-books though and if you consider the bandwidth size of them compared to what a single teenage boy downloads in a month... well it's a rounding error.

What would you like the answer to be? Pay me the right $ and I'll create the cost case for you.

E-books are green!
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:11 AM   #5
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A way to get a rigorous answer to this question is to consider the marginal cost of delivering one extra (e)book assuming all the infrastructure for delivery is allready present. In the case of ebooks this means the internet and ebook servers. In the case of pbooks this means the internet and printing presses and road networks and trucks and fuel.

Now the marginal cost for delivering an extra pbook is the few extra miles some truck hast to drive + an extra copy at the printing press. Assume the extra work at the printing press has a marginal cost of 0. So the cost is simply the fuel cost say about $5.

The marginal cost for an extra delivery of an ebook is approximately zero.

So the remaining costs are the cost of maintenance of the infrastructure. Since the infrastructure needed to distribute ebooks is a subset of the infrastructure needed to distribute pbooks, ebooks are the clear winners.
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:22 AM   #6
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Well assuming I would be sponsered to favor pBooks I could draw upon how much energy costs / environment damage an eInk device does on production and as waste after its life, assuming a 4 year lifetime (and yes sorry since the batteries for e.g. the iLiad are not exchangeable, you need a new device after 500-1000 recharges...) and explain how this devices will make more environment damage than all the p-books, if all people would switch to eBooks.. So this is not only a marginal question what one additional book would cost, but a question if no eInk device would be produced at all. Look you got the screen, you got the CPU, you got the battery... at least 3 things that are not very environment friendly to produce..

eBooks have far more advantages that just possibility of environement safes and I can understand very well that the big producers dance around to market eInk devices / eBooks as environment safers...
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:58 AM   #7
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This is also discussed from page 4 and onward

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...t=27454&page=4
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:00 AM   #8
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Overall, the amount of paper used within the modern society has to be drastically decreased.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/att...2&d=1218751705
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:32 AM   #9
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Once you have an ereader and leaving aside the internet, ebook transport and production environmental costs drop to near-zero. There ebooks are the clear winner.

However, that leaves the environmental cost of researching (next year's model), producing, delivering, and disposing/recycling ebook readers (with a limited life span, I think for most consumers 4 years is optimistic - something between 2 and 4 years maybe?) versus the environmental cost of producing/transporting paper and books.

I don't know.

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Overall, the amount of paper used within the modern society has to be drastically decreased.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/att...2&d=1218751705
Gianfranco, thanks for that pdf link. Am I crazy or does page 6 appear to show a net gain of forest on a global level?
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Old 08-20-2008, 05:18 AM   #10
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I am no expert on the world forst/wood economy. But at least in my country the net gain on secondary forest is increasing. I think the worlds primary concern is the demise of primary (rain) forest, and the almost unkown effects of our economy to oceanlife, where the ocean plantons is in reality our primary source of oxygen (I think over 60% or so).

One can throw in the calculation the oil costs of shipping p-books, however in many industrialized countries (I'm speaking of europe), the wood production is circled already. At least currently in austria we grow already each year more wood than we use...

The production of silicon wavers on the hand is pretty costly, and espcially I don't want to know what the lithiom-ion batteries to in net-result on the environment. Also what do you do with you eInk display once its over? SImply throw it into the wastebasket?
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Old 08-20-2008, 05:34 AM   #11
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acidzebra, that looks like a gain.

However, as pointed out in the other thread, the use of water is enormous and other chemicals for the whole paper mass industry.
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Old 08-20-2008, 06:06 AM   #12
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acidzebra, that looks like a gain.

However, as pointed out in the other thread, the use of water is enormous and other chemicals for the whole paper mass industry.
Silicion and Ionic Batteries sure have also quite large water equivalents...

Really, one would have to break it down to actually compare, and as there are so many things you had to make educated guesses one could make such a report to look the way you want...
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:20 AM   #13
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Really, one would have to break it down to actually compare, and as there are so many things you had to make educated guesses one could make such a report to look the way you want...
How? If you dig up all the information and leave out the subjective opinions, I don't see how you can make a report "look the way you want". Articles which don't abide by scientific standards are not long lived within the serious fields of research.
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:54 AM   #14
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How? If you dig up all the information and leave out the subjective opinions, I don't see how you can make a report "look the way you want". Articles which don't abide by scientific standards are not long lived within the serious fields of research.
Sorry, but science still has many open ports for subjective opinions, which are in "good science" just very well hidden. You actually are unable to make any scientific research that is 100% unbiased (this is also what spending a lot of time into philosophy of science yielded to me, starting with question what is a "scientific standard", and what makes one research "standard-conform" and the other not).

First of course you never know what "all" information is. At some point you just have to stop, like the device itself, as has been pointed out you'd need to include the research also. Do you have to include the car the researcher uses to get into work? Or would he require a car also if he would work somewhere else if no eInk devices would be researched/produced.

Or a more mudane example. How long do you calculate an eInk device to last? You just cannot "collect" this data, as the devices are much to new, and you would need several years of asking a big number of people to tell you when they throw their device away. Of course you get different data if you say, well most people will buy a device every 2 or for 4 years (or I picked a sample on a mobileread.com poll, which is biased, because there are the more dedicated pepole than the average guy of just buying this device). Its impossible to get a 100% "unbiased" sample.

What about the people that just buy an eInk device and actually hardly use it, because it didn't fit their needs? Can you get them into your sample?

How do you calculate the production costs of the silicium? what do you include what do you exclude. How do you weight the different impacts on the environment this technologies differ. And don't think no wood would be cutted if we removed all pBooks and pNewspapers... Wouldn't you need to replace toilet paper which now can be recycled pPaper to use 100% original wood? I mean the average person is likely to use more toiletpaper a day than he uses pBooks....

The circles of influence grew bigger and bigger, and its impossible to include *all* data. One can pick some, and try to convince the scientific community, its the "relevant" data he picked ... maybe they buy it maybe they don't. I'd say the question like "If everybody used eBooks the environment would be better", is a very difficult question which is unlikely to be answered by any certainity. Beginning with the simple question what "better" actually means.

Don't get me wrong, I'm enthusiastic for eReader devices. But I see very well why the manufactures did chose to not use the environment ettiquete as a big sign to put upon, since this one can easily backfire. There are many more things speaking for eReader devices than environment.
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:09 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by axel77 View Post
Well assuming I would be sponsered to favor pBooks I could draw upon how much energy costs / environment damage an eInk device does on production and as waste after its life, assuming a 4 year lifetime (and yes sorry since the batteries for e.g. the iLiad are not exchangeable, you need a new device after 500-1000 recharges...) and explain how this devices will make more environment damage than all the p-books, if all people would switch to eBooks.. So this is not only a marginal question what one additional book would cost, but a question if no eInk device would be produced at all. Look you got the screen, you got the CPU, you got the battery... at least 3 things that are not very environment friendly to produce..

eBooks have far more advantages that just possibility of environement safes and I can understand very well that the big producers dance around to market eInk devices / eBooks as environment safers...
Umm no. At best you can include the cost of eink devices in the cost of ebook infrastructure, which is a fixed cost (independent of the number of ebooks produced). And the infrastructure costs for pbooks are way higher.

Also in a few years dedicated ebook readers will be replaced by multifunction devices with reflective screens.
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