Earth Day: Read an eBook, Save the Planet?

Today is Earth Day. This got me thinking: “with the emergence in the popularity of eBooks in recent years, has publishing become greener?”

In the mid 1990s, print-on-demand changed publishing forever by leveling the playing field for new authors. Early supported self-publishers, the predecessors of Archway Publishing, began to emerge with the advent of this new technology. By 2001, some were making the argument that POD had the potential to limit environmental impact of book publishing. Publishing was now a little greener.

Then eBooks emerged. Surely eBooks were the game changer. eBooks would make publishing a much greener industry, right?Earth Day 2015

At first blush, the answer would appear to be a resounding, YES! Fewer trees are cut down – great! Printers are shrinking carbon footprints with less output – outstanding! Fewer trucks are belching out emissions delivering books to stores – fantastic! Fewer people are getting into their cars to drive to bookstores – wonderful! Publishers are disposing of fewer unwanted print books – brilliant! The answer is clear…or is it?

Early on in the eBook revolution, organizations began studying this question. A 2009 study by CleanTech determined

“The roughly 168 kg of CO2 produced throughout the Kindle’s lifecycle is a clear winner against the potential savings: 1,074 kg of CO2 if replacing three books a month for four years; and up to 26,098 kg of CO2 when used to the fullest capacity of the Kindle DX. Less-frequent readers attracted by decreasing prices still can break even at 22.5 books over the life of the device.”

A 2014 Huffington Post article took another look at the question of the greenness of  Books v. eReaders.  The findings cited were surprising. Quoting from the piece:

Upgrade your eReader often? The old ones end up in a place like this.

Upgrade your eReader often? The old ones end up in a place like this.

“According to one lifecycle analysis of printed books versus e-readers, the energy, water, and raw materials needed to make a single e-reader is equal to that of 40 to 50 books. In terms of the effect on the climate, the emissions created by a single e-reader are equal to roughly 100 books.
“If you read 100 books on your e-reader before upgrading it, the effect on the climate is no different than reading those books in print. If you upgrade before that time, your carbon footprint actually increases compared to reading printed books. If you read 200 books on the device, the climate impact is halved. The result is the same for resource and energy usage, though the threshold to break-even is lower. Let’s assume you upgrade your e-reader every three years. That means you need to read roughly 30 books every year before you’ve reduced your climate impact, and 15 books a year before your resource usage is lower. If you upgrade more frequently, you need to be an even more avid reader to lower your environmental impact by switching to digital.”

It appears the answer to the question of whether eBooks are greener is: sometimes.
Have you increased your use of eReaders to positively impact the environment?

Based on your reading habits, do you think your choice of digital over print is making a difference?

We’d love your input. Comment below, tweet us @ArchwayPub or leave a comment on our Facebook page.



Interview: An Author’s Quest to Open a Bookstore

Carol Hoenig is working on opening a Long Island indie bookstore.

Carol Hoenig is working on opening a Long Island indie bookstore.

Carol Hoenig is an accomplished author, university instructor, ghostwriter, editor, literary publicist, publishing consultant and formerly served as National Events Coordinator for Borders; so it’s not much of leap that she, along with a business partner, decided to open their own bookstore. But why now?

Bookstores have been undergoing a transition in recent years from pure retailers to community gathering places. Since peaking at more than $17 billion in 2007, bookstore sales have dropped by more than a quarter. Increased pressure from web-based competitors like Amazon, and the popularity of eReaders led to the September 2011 shuttering of Borders and significant downsizing and restructuring for the only remaining national brick and mortar outlet, Barnes & Noble..

A side effect of this disruption has been a reinvigoration in the indie retail ranks. The American Booksellers Association announced in February that it welcomed 59 new indie bookstore members to its ranks in 2014. Further, the ABA reports 20 percent growth in the sector, with the number of member indie retailers swelling from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014.

Hoenig hopes her Long Island-based store Turn of the Corkscrew, which will offer beer and wine, will soon join this trend. She generously answered a few questions for us recently about her journey to open a bookstore.

What prompted you and your business partner(s) to undertake the opening of an independent bookstore?

My business partner, Peggy, and I both worked for Borders Books for years. Peggy went up through the ranks to become a General Manager in a Long Island store while I moved up the ranks to be a National Events Coordinator based out of the Park Ave. location in Manhattan. Once Borders folded, Peggy went on to manage a very well-known coffee shop and I started my own business as a publishing consultant, which included writing for myself and others, editing and publicity. Still, we both yearned to get back into the business of introducing people to books and host workshops and events. When we began to read how independent bookstores were making a comeback, we did lots of research and started searching possible locations where we could make having a bookstore a success and we realized Rockville Centre, Long Island was ideal, and were soon validated by an article in the New York Times titled, “Rockville Centre, L.I., an Urbanized Suburb.” It’s been about a year since we seriously began the process. We don’t have a definitive location just yet, but are working on it.

How many other bookstores, chains and indie, are there in the area near your store?

The closest chain bookstore to us is several towns away and we would be the only indie bookstore on the South Shore of Long Island within a proximate twenty-mile radius. In addition, which is making us more distinguishable from most bookstores is that we’ll have a tavern license, meaning we can offer wine and beer, in addition to coffee, other beverages and light snacks to our patrons. How lovely will it be to be able to sip on a glass of wine while listening to an author read from their latest publication?

How do you believe dissolution of Borders and the downsizing of Barnes & Noble helped the prospects of indie bookstores?

Indies have found a way to be community stores. They get to know their patrons and what they are looking for. Indies offer a cozier feel and has a staff that is passionate about the titles they are selling. People are missing the fact that there isn’t a local store that they can go to in order to buy the latest book from their favorite author. Yes, they can order it from the Internet, but the experience is not the same.

Will you stock self-published titles and if so, how will you decide which titles to carry?

Peggy and I have discussed this and we know of some local self-published authors whose books we enjoy and plan on carrying. We require that the books be professionally edited and, most often, from a local author. There may be some books from authors around the country that would be of interest to our patrons, but the local author will be the one who will have friends and family come in to purchase the book. Also, the book must be returnable.

About Carol:

Carol Hoenig is the author of “Without Grace,” “The Authors Guide to Planning Book Events,” and “Of Little Faith.” She also ghostwrites, edits, does publicity for other authors and teaches writing courses at Hofstra University. Like Turn of the Corkscrew, Books & Wine on Facebook.