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Carbon Footprint of E-Readers Higher Than Print

Digital delivery of content for e-readers is a rapidly expanding market. Many assume that, because trees aren't being cut down and best prices on brand levitra used to maufacture paper for books, e-readers (including the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and the like) are a greener way to read books and magazines. But a broader look at the use of these devices that includes the life-cycle of the e-readers themselves paints a much bleaker picture about how green they really are.

The article first looks at the carbon emissions for an average adult reader who reads 6.5 books per year. Paperback books have a footprint of 26 kilograms (over 57 pounds) of CO2, as compared to just under 70 grams (about 0.15 pounds) for the e-reader. But the tables are turned drastically when the carbon footprint of the reader is added in. The carbon footprint for this average reader is almost identical (130 kilograms or 285 pounds) when expanded over 5 years.

But how many people still use 5-year old electronic devices? Assuming a 2-year replacement cycle, the chart shows that the iPad carbon footprint outstrips that for the print reader, and even the more efficient iPad2 has more than double the emissions over a 5 year period. High-volume readers and those who hold on viagra canada to their electronic devices for longer periods may make the e-reader a more suitable choice, but technological alternatives aren't always all their proponents would like consumers to cheapest cialis prices believe.

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Comments (22)Add Comment
This seems like nonsense
written by lh, June 04, 2012
The analysis makes a bunch of assumptions, the worst and most ridiculous of which is that anyone would purchase an iPad primarily to read eBooks. This article should also really be titled: "Carbon Footprint of iPads Higher Than Printed Books", because that's all the author can really say on the subject.

The eInk Kindle and similar products (things actually called eReaders, unlike the just try! discount online cialis iPad) can really only be used to consume books and other written content that has historically been distributed in print. But although the iPad makes an OK device for reading books, that's not its primary purpose. To fairly assess an iPad's carbon footprint, it't have to be compared against the cialis visa other things it replaces as well, not just books: things like laptop computers, portable DVD players (and perhaps even DVDs), portable gaming consoles, universal remote controls, etc.

If you just want to read eBooks, you're probably going to buy Kindle. I don't actually know whether Kindle beats print in carbon emissions, but it would have been nice if the author had done that analysis instead of just going for link-bait.
iPads aren't the only e-reader's out there
written by Nico, June 04, 2012
Is there any information about Amazon's kindle products? Although the iPad can be an e-reader, this is far from it's only use, as opposed to the kindle, which is almost entirely based upon reading books.

Also, are there any studies that show any kind of levitra legal increase in reading with e-readers? Because the e-book market is so much more accessible than driving to viagra now online the store, we could be seeing higher books sales as well, which could override the 6.5 books per year statistic you brought up.

There are some real statistics that I would like to see researched, but I don't think that much of the population is wow look it order levitra from canada interested in how much more people read once they switch to the e-book market.
iPads are not e-readers
written by Albert, June 04, 2012
They are tablet computers which actively use power for their displays. Black and white electronic ink e-readers use power mainly when turning pages, way less than tablets.
written by Ronald Brak, June 05, 2012
A few points, a reader uses very little power compared to an iPad.

Heavy readers are more likely to own them than light readers.

There is no need to replace a reader every two years. While modern ones are much better in quality than early models, there probably won't be any huge jump in reader quality over the next two years, so people will hang onto the how much is viagra ones they have in much the same way that people are no longer in a big rush to replace their computers.

Even if readers are replaced after two years, they don't just disapear. They get given to kids, grandmothers, friends, and charity. Sure some doofuses might just throw them out or let them rot in a drawer, but I presume they are a minority.
Sunk Costs
written by Matthew Price, June 05, 2012
The author rightly pointed out that few people use their devices for 5 years straight, but rather will upgrade every 1-2 years. This is not, however, in order to only now levitra brand name have the newest e-reader technology. It's because people upgrade their devices every year or two. So instead of adding to the footprint in this analysis, it really ought to remove the footprint of making the device from the picture, as this is a cost the consumer has already taken on.
In short, you will already have the ipad, whether or not you decide to purchase books in print. Is there ecological benefit to using your iPad to read instead of owning the buy generic cialis online iPad and purchasing print anyway? It seems the answer is yes.
Reused iPads factored in?
written by Robert, June 05, 2012
Is one of the assumptions made in this study that iPads are thrown out after use? Because that's definitely not the case, I'd say most users re-sell their iPads and cheapest propecia sale uk many iPad owners purchased their iPads used. This should definitely be factored in, however I could understand why books wouldn't leave such a large carbon print as other mediums since it has been around for centuries and methods of distribution and manufacture have been optimized.
I guess I'm smarter than the average adult
written by Chris Brown, June 05, 2012
6.5 books per year?

No wonder we're in the state we're in...
You can read newspapers too
written by Nicola Terry, June 06, 2012
I totally agree with the other posters that eReaders such as the Kindle probably have a much lower carbon footprint. However, even with the iPad you still save carbon emissions if you use it to read a newspaper. If you read a quality rag like the Guardian every day and at weekends you can pay back the carbon emissions in about 13 weeks according to cialis samples my calculations in my blog at (look for newspaper)
written by Zedicus, June 06, 2012
Lumping the Kindle and Nook e-ink based e-readers in with tablet computers is not honest reporting. First, tablets are not e-readers; they are computers. Their primary function is not for reading books. You can read books on them, but much more time is used playing games and surfing the internet. They're not even optimal for reading books, as their screen is buying viagra in the us abrasive to the eye to look at for long periods of time.

Further, they use way more electricity generally, and have a much larger carbon footprint to make than e-readers do.

Last, the constant replacement cycle for tablet computers is much faster than e-readers. This is because the tablets are improving much quicker. Sure, current e-readers are better than my two year old one (faster, better screen contrast), but the improvements have not been significant enough to require, much less encourage me to upgrade.
Graph is sensationalized
written by Luise, June 07, 2012
The graph has no info for the x-axis. This graph is pure sensationalization!
Equating ebooks to paper
written by Tommy Lee, June 14, 2012
I am a treehugger myself, but I am also an engineer. So my morals come with a bias to balance what is good for the environment, and what is practical.
I am an avid reader, and I buy used books OFTEN, either from local used books store or online. Recently I picked up for myself an used Kindle. It made me think about the plastic that it took to make the device, and the plastic that it took to make all those printers that printed those books. Given that more kindles would be produced than printers, the amount of books I can store in 2 gig memory ~roughly 1000 estimate, which I can get online. I wonder how that would equate to me buying 1000 physical paper books.
Still, one must factor in the fuel consumption of transporting the books, people going to stores to buy the books. Or even if you buy used/new books online, air travel, truck travelling. It's a lot of buy ultram online canada variables to consider, not impossible but I would like to look into it more.
Most importantly, like many have pointed out, I-Pad is furthest thing you can get from an e-reader.
thanks for reading.
written by Krystal, June 14, 2012
It's funny because nothing you said about the "average" reader applies to me. Or any of the people that commented.
Used Books even more superior
written by J prymak, June 14, 2012
Of course the real winner of Green and recycled is a used book.
A shared library of books over decades or more than a hundred years.
Used and recycled old gadgets of plastic crap are impossible.
Toxic compounds pollute our world for every plastic and cialis best buy metal decaying junk part.
I can recycle a good book for generations.
Computer crap is a bunch of toxic waste stuff in a few years.
Obviously paper products used over decades are superior.
Imagine the poor working cconditions for those trying to recycle all the toxic bits of electronic junk.
Fox News?
written by GNiessen, June 15, 2012
Yup this is the kind of thing I would expect to buy tramadol generic ultram see on Fox news. Not on EcoGeek. How disappointing.
written by Andrew Simpson, June 19, 2012
I think another major problem of this is the average amount of books read. Yes, that may be the average for an adult, but typically people who read more than average are going to be buying an ereader/iPad anyway. If you just assume that they read 20 books a year, your numbers are looking like a lot faster return.
I'm an amateur author
written by James Hutchings, June 20, 2012
and I submit to electronic markets only. My reasoning is levitra 3mg that most of levitra superactive the environmental costs of ebook readers are caused by their manufacture, and that someone buying my story as an ebook is likely to be less environmentally damaging than them buying a magazine.

I'm no expert though, so if there's a flaw in my thinking please post.
written by Lnr, June 25, 2012
It's something to think about, certainly. The science is sadly lacking. More geek, please.
Same question, similar answer, different method
written by Alan, March 27, 2013
I wrote this up for Quora, and thought I'd recycle it here. I used the Ecological Footprint rather than Carbon Footprint, but came to similar conclusions. Due to the same lack of data I've assumed the generic cialis mexico impact of a Book Reader is similar to a Mobile Phone rather than an ipad:

Lets take some quick and dirty calcs starting with fibre requirements for the paper from from Rees and Wakernagel 1996 -

One tonne of paper has a fibre footprint of 0.078 ha, plus process energy of say 20 Gj/Tonne (1) . Manufacture, printing, transport and retail is going to be far less than process energy (or is it ?) and we'll ignore that for the kindle too. For 20 Gigajoules some 0.25 ha Energy land will be needed, making a total of 0.328 gha per tonne ignoring - or 1.09 gm2 for a book weighing 333 grams.

The Book Reader is not something that is so easily calculated because the process energy and so on are not published and it relies on an electronic network to download from. A Kindle weighs about 290 grams. One study (2) showed that the ecological footprint of a mobile phone is 72-82 gm2 for the first year, and 17 gm2, in subsequent years. I am really unsure if a Kindle would be of the same order of magnitude, but lets assume it is.

So to make the same impact as owning and using 150 gm2 Kindle for 5 years, you'd you'd have to read 135 copies of a 333 gram paperback books, or roughly two Brand New whole paperback books per month to buy tramadol online no medical records justify the Book Reader's increased Ecological Footprint. This conclusion is very broadly similar to the one I uncovered comparing i-pads with paper while writing this up (3) (Tbhat account is based on online pharmacy pharmacy viagra the Carbon Footprint not the Ecological Footprint, which disadvantages Paper) . They conclude - and I agree - that

" High-volume readers and those who hold on to their electronic devices for longer periods may make the e-reader a more suitable choice, but technological alternatives aren't always all their proponents would like consumers to believe."

Obviously if you borrow the occasional book in the first place and levitra pill read it in daylight - well, that would be much preferable from an environmental point of view, and knock the electronic version pretty well into touch.


(2) How long should you reuse something before recycling it?

(3 Carbon Footprint of E-Readers Higher Than Print
written by mike, April 04, 2013
just saying I find that chart supremely unhelpful because ipads don't even count as e readers also, id like exact numbers and i'm gonna say the book is better because it's more easily recycleablesmilies/sad.gif[removed]void(0);
written by Jesse Klapholz, July 31, 2013
What about lighting energy? Lighting for paper reading requires more energy than sitting in a dark room reading an ipad. Illuminate us
written by Kasun, November 07, 2013
Lots of you guys seems to be missing the thing that production of electricity unearth and release lot of carbon which are otherwise deposited.But trees sits in the middle of the carbon cycle.
Ugh: misinformation.
written by Luc Reid, February 27, 2014
A couple of important points here:

1. You're suggesting that people are buying tablets only to read on, that they wouldn't buy them if they weren't reading books? If they'd be buying them anyway, then essentially none of the tablet's carbon footprint can reasonably be ascribed to the books.

2. According the Pew research center, the average American reads 17 books a year, not 6.5, which if plugged into your graph would land both the cheapest prices on cialis iPad lines below the paper books one.

Those aren't the only considerations, either. Consider the transporatation from store to home of paper books, etc. More discussion of the climate impact of eReaders for those who may be interested on

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