The environmental impact of e-publishing

The jury’s still out on the environmental impact of e-books according to Raz Godelnik, co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris. In the article “Is E-Reading Really Greener?” published in the Independent Book Publishers Association’s (IBPA)  monthly journal, the Independent, Godelnik reviews  the environmental issues surrounding e-publishing.

“Turning conventional wisdom on its ear is one of the independent publishing community’s greatest strengths, and Mr. Godelnik’s article does just that,” comments IBPA president Florrie Binford Kichler. “In keeping with IBPA’s educational mission, the association is proud to introduce a new perspective on the sustainability of book industry practices.”

According to Godelnik, “Consumer electronics are notorious for containing a variety of toxic materials. Some companies are more transparent than others and make it relatively clear that their e-reader devices are free of toxic materials. But e-readers are something of an unknown variable.” In fact, he notes, “except for Apple, none of the companies that sell e-readers makes environmental data available.”

In addition, the environmental impact of electronic waste is growing. Although many companies such as Apple and Amazon have recycling programs, as Godelnik points out in his article, “according to the EPA, Americans generated about 3 million tons of electronic waste in 2007. Out of all that waste, only 13.6 percent was recycled. The rest ended up in landfills or incinerators, even though, as the Electronic TakeBack Coalition explains, the hazardous chemicals in them can leach out of landfills into groundwater and streams.”

In comparing the Apple iPad (used just as an e-reader) to paper-between-covers, Godelnik says that in terms of carbon footprint alone, “the iPad becomes a more environmental friendly alternative option for book reading once its user reads the eighteenth book on it.”

Physical books also are becoming more eco-friendly as publishers learn that greener practices benefit the environment and business and Godelnik believes that “the future of the book industry will probably include greener versions of both physical and electronic books. And, with more pressure from consumers, companies may not only start revealing all the information about their e-readers, but actually compete on which one has the greenest e-reader to offer.”

Founded in 1983, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) is the largest not-for-profit trade organization for publishers in the United States, serving more than 3000 book publishers of all sizes. IBPA’s mission is to help independent publishers market their titles, to provide education on all aspects of publishing, and to act as an advocate for publishers’ rights.

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris. Founded in 2007, Eco-Libris is a green company working with publishers, authors, bookstores, and book lovers worldwide to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. For more information, go to www.ecolibris.net.

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