Paper Books Vs E-readers: Which is best for the environment?

Paper Books Vs E-readers: Which is best for the environment?

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Choosing between having a bookshelf filled with weighty tones of paper books from floor to ceiling or possessing a one book-sized device containing hundreds of books in electronic form might be a little difficult for many. But for some, this should be an easy choice since it involves saving the environment.

The constant debate between paper books and e-readers has dragged on for a long time now. Some people share the school of thought that going paperless is essential to save the environment. While others believe printed books are better off as they give the feel of reading and help you focus.

Both groups make a strong argument, but truth is, while this may affect your personal reading habit, printed books causes worse trouble for the planet and its inhabitant. That’s something you should think about.

In this digital age, we use technology for basically everything. Would it be really bad to include reading to the list?!

Should You Stick To Paper Books Or Switch To E-Readers?

At Eco Bravo, we say make the switch! Why?

If you are concerned with saving the environment, then you will jump at the idea of choosing an e-reader over printed books.

Papers are often found in every nook and cranny of the home, office, market, everywhere. And it is not easy to forget the negative impact production of paper has on trees not to mention the environment.

As well as the negative impact it has on trees, paper also contributes about 26% of waste on the landfills, and its production consumes about 10-25 kg of freshwater per paper.

These negative effects including pollution, would make us agree it is important to reduce our dependence on paper to ensure the environment is safe.

While it may be difficult to get rid of paper books instantly, making conscious efforts to reduce the use of paper books will be of great help to the environment.

Let’s settle the scores once and for all. Take a look at our detailed analysis of this face off: Printed books vs E-reader.

May the environmentally friendly option win!

Production Process

    While printed books may have been around for centuries, the effect it has on the environment cannot be overemphasized. Paper books have caused more harm than good to the environment from their production process to disposal. This makes it an extremely harmful practice that should be checked immediately.

    Apart from deforestation as a result of producing printed books, manufacturing these books also involve lots of water.

    It may appear odd to think that e-readers have less negative impacts on the environment than traditional printed books, the truth is e-readers take very little resources for production compared to traditional books. This makes them very helpful when it involves saving the environment.

    Storage space

      A large collection of paper books could make your home or office look disorganized since they take lots of space. On the other hand, no matter how large your e-book collection is, it doesn’t take as much space as printed books occupy.

      You don’t need to store your e-book in a room or box, ebooks only require a digital device or e-reader to function properly. Keep your home or office tidy and neat with e-books!

      paper books

      E-books reduce air pollution

        Air pollution is a serious problem, and publishing industries are one of the leading contributors to this increasing global crisis.

        During the production of paper books, paper mills release carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides into the environment which cause quite the damage.

        Furthermore, when papers are bleached during production, a carcinogenic toxin called dioxin is produced. Apart from the gas released during the production process, greenhouse gases are released when these printed books are dumped on landfills and they begin to decompose.

        Even more, during the production of paper books, gases are released into the environment which could result in smog and acid rain.

        When it comes to Ebooks, they do not cause as much pollution as traditional print books. This is another major reason to switch from traditional paper books to e-books.

        E-books are more portable compared to printed books

          This is yet another good reason to love e-books. Printed books are often heavy, especially those with hardbacks. This makes it daunting to carry printed books around as they take up space.

          E-books, on the other hand, are lightweight which makes it easier to carry about compared to paper books. E-books could contain an entire library of different books, yet they are easier to carry around.

          Most people enjoy reading books while travelling, if you do, carrying an e-reader, is a lot better than traveling with a thousand printed books.


            Another reason to switch to e-books is that you don’t have to leave your house to get new e-books from the local bookstore. With e-books, you can get books directly from digital bookstores and download them immediately from the comfort of your home.

            This means you don’t have to use vehicles or any other form of transportation to get them. Getting an e-reader, in fact, reduces the amount of fossil fuel burnt and the gases released into the environment, which ultimately affects air pollution.

            Unlike purchasing e-books, those interested in getting paper books are required to visit local bookstores or libraries to get any traditionally printed book you need. This may require time, burning of fossil fuel, and may not be convenient.

            As if that is not enough, transporting printed books from the publisher to different sellers also adds to the increasing global carbon footprint. Adding to that, about 25 to 36% of books bought at bookstores are often returned to publishers. This means consuming extra energy for transportation and disposal especially when these books are bad.

            In terms of transportation, it is obvious that e-books win yet again.

            Consumption of Natural Resources

              Natural resources consumed during the production process of printed books is way higher and detrimental to the planet. It requires lots of paper, water, and other minerals for manufacturing which eventually generates a huge amount of carbon footprint. Producing one book consumes about 2 kilowatts per hour of fossil fuel and around 7.5kg of CO2.

              Another consideration is the light required to read printed books. Oftentimes, people don’t get the opportunity to read printed books during the day, and they opt for reading at night. With the help of light bulbs reading at night may be enjoyable and often great. Though light bulbs are great for reading at night, it often involves consumption of energy. 

              As a bulb emits light, more energy is released which means more resources are consumed to produce enough energy. For those who love reading at night, you end up consuming more energy and your energy bill increases. However,  if you decide to reduce your energy consumption, you are restricted to reading only during the day which may not be convenient.

              natural resources - Bill Gates

              Unlike traditional prints, e-readers come with their own backlight, with this you can easily read e-books at night or in dark places without turning on any external light. With the help of this backlight from e-readers, you are not restricted to reading books only during the day. So, if you want to reduce the energy usage in your home, switch from paper books to e-books.

              Less waste

              Recent studies have shown that printed books are often returned after being purchased, which often means extra fossil fuel is burnt to get these books returned to the book store where they are often exchanged. Most of these returned books are either recycled or dumped on landfills if they can’t be sold anymore. This creates a lot of waste in landfills.

              On the other hand, e-books are bought directly from digital bookstores meaning you don’t have to return e-books to bookstores. Therefore, e-books reduce the amount of waste in landfills.

              Further, when e-books get to their lifespan, they can be easily recycled. Cool right?

              Although paper books are old-fashioned and they leave enough room for readers to improve their imagination, these benefits do not outweigh the negative effect it has on the environment. While paper books have been in existence for decades, e-books can make a great difference in making the environment better.

              • E-books are portable
              • They help in preventing deforestation
              • Prevent air pollution
              • Help in reducing energy consumption, etc.

              To summarise, clearly, e-books are the best option for anyone who loves to protect the planet. Which is our only home at the moment. When it comes to saving the planet, we do not need superman for the job. It is up to you and me to save the world. Make the switch today!

               © Eco Bravo

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