It cannot be denied that printing costs have seen a major reduction in publishing houses (including Gobar Times!) since the rise of digital documentationand editing softwares. Who needs a bunch of drafts stacked on one’s desk in disarray, when folders can be navigated on a shared drive in a clutter-free workstation? So digitisation is making it easier than ever to publish books. But then, will this lead to books, at least printed editions, not being published at all? Will they be replaced by their digital counterparts?
A Book Industry Study Group survey showed that nearly half of print book buyers who also acquired digital works said they would skip getting an ink-andpaper release by a favorite author if an electronic version could be had within three months. Little wonder then that digital books earned almost US $3.2 billion in revenue in 2011.
At the same time, US-based author and graphic designer, Chip Kidd, noted in a popular talk for Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED): “Much is to be gained by eBooks: ease, convenience, portability. But something is definitely lost: tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness — a little bit of humanity.” But is there more at stake?
While the US, Australia, India and UK have seen the most rapid adoption of digital reading devices, eBooks presently make up only a fraction of the world book market. The availability of technology is secondary to factors like disposable income. Yet, vast amounts of material are being pumped into the manufacture, transportation and storage of eReaders.
E not for Eco-friendly
While they may seem like a handy alternative to a bookshelf, eReaders might actually be costing the planet more than we think.
Ted Genoways, in the Virginia Quarterly Review, writes that “at present, the average eReader is used less than two years before it is replaced. That means that the nearly ten million eReaders expected to be in circulation by next year would have to supplant the sales of 250 million new books – not used or rare editions, 250 million new books – each year just to come out footprint neutral.”
Genoways goes on to reveal that the environmental impact of reading has increased tenfold, in terms of fossil fuel production, to power an eReader. This is 50 times what one would normally be required to read that book on paper by electric light.
Apple acknowledges that the iPad is responsible for 2.5 grams of carbon emission per hour of use, approximately 130,000 grams of emission in its lifetime. Print books, on the other hand, come with the option of free use, if picked up in a library, and passing through several hands, without the worry of recharging or replacing batteries!
It is estimated that 80 per cent of a paperback’s carbon footprint occurs in the earliest stages of production – clearing of forests to harvest paper and shipping of material. As consumers, can we make the big publishing giants sit up and work out a greener way to produce printed books? And if you have already bought that eReader, you might want to hold on to it till it stops working, before you decide to go for the next cool model. Or sell it like an old-edition bookshelf.