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Kindle vs Printed Books

Canon S95 Photo of my 3rd Gen 6in Kindle :) 
Many pundits have claimed there is a dark-side to the e-readers, like the Amazon Kindle. They use absurd assumptions in their "footprint" calculations. Lets examine the facts and you decide whether or not printed books are better or worse for the world than digital books and e-readers..... click "read more" to continue exploring this topic....


E-Book (reference 3rd gen. Amazon Kindle)

~ Can hold thousands of digital books
~ Surf Internet via Wifi
~ Download New Content
~ Sync across all digital devices with apps
~ $140 new
~ Mostly Synthetic (from Oil - plastic/ chemicals)
~ Small/ Light
~ Sunlight Readable
~ 3 week or more battery life
~ 10 year Estimated Functional Lifespan
~ Mostly Recyclable at end of Life

Carbon Footprint Per Book Decrease As the E-book is used....
Manufacture, Distribution, Packaging, Energy Use, Server Side Energy

Printed Book

~ Made of Paper (from Trees)
~ Only one story content
~ Heavy
~ Inexpensive (depends)
~ Large
~ 30 year practical use life/
~ 1000+ year lifespan in special storage
~ Mostly Recyclable at end of Life

Fixed Carbon Footprint Per Book
Manufacture, Distribution, Packaging, Consumer Retrieval (driving/ transport), Storage Space (building energy footprint/ Logistics), Resale Transportation Footprint


So Which One is Better ?
That depends on what you mean by better.

The eco-footprint of printed book vs electronic books is going to depend on the individual reader, how many books they read, the kind of books they read, where the books were published, ect. With electronic books, the dark side has mostly to do with manufacturing and ethical recovery of the device for recycle at the end of its functional life. Let us remember that the e-book is not a book, it is a device that allows people to read digital content, or content they might have otherwise read in printed books.

I live with a paper book eater : she peels through a 400 page novel in 1, 2 or 3 days. Over the years I have shuffled through thousands of books ~ moving them to and from this place to that place, giving them to friends, selling them back to book stores, ect. ect.

I am personally about to get rid of some printed books. They are massive, and extremely heavy. I look at this pile of 24 books, that weights more than 30lbs: and I know that it cost more than my kindle; it weighs a lot more than my kindle; it is a lot harder to store/ move than my kindle.

If I put my macbook, kindle, ipad and ipod touch in a pile: that pile would still weigh less than 10lbs, so much easier to move and store than a big pile of printed books. Those digital devices are also re-configurable in the sense that they can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

That said, I cant share my kindle books the way I can easily share a printed book. Both the e-book and printed book are sensitive to water : but the e-book is easier to waterproof. The e-book is fragile, compared to a printed book: although the kindle seems relatively tough, having survived some serious finger fumble events....

I like my kindle and my printed books, but I really like the kindle more ~ In essence the kindle is a screen reading alternative to the eye-tiring LCD displays in my other digital content devices. I have never read a full novel on an LCD as reading hundreds of pages at a time on an LCD sounds like a nightmare.

The Kindle was the first device I have ever owned that gave me the pleasure of reading the way I read a printed book, without all of the heft and wasted space and headache associated with printed books: I am now reminded of carrying big heavy text books in my bags while I was in school; what a royal pain in the spine.... Long lost are the days of printed magazines in my life : my popular science subscription comes digital now via an app on the iPad...

The first person I ever observed reading on a kindle was this really nerdy physics tutor at the University of Washington. She had a first generation kindle, and it was her favorite object. A book eater, she too appreciated the clutter liberating, heft reducing effect of the e-reader. I thought they were over-priced at almost $400.

Do you use a phone, laptop or computer as an internet cookbook? I know I certainly do.

I consider all computers "rapidly re-configurable screens" : when you compare a printed book to an iPad: the printed book seems absolutely archaic ~ and the truth is, people have been making black marks on paper-like materials to convey information for thousands of years... the printed book has a long history, just like beer and wine making....

I love to pick up printed books too; the feel of the paper and the smell; the cover art and color of the cover: I get this nostalgic sense of a connection to the past when I pick up a printed book. That said, I also get this deeply rooted sense that printed books do not make sense in a world with billions of consumers.... it does not make sense to murder millions of trees to produce redundant printed copies of content thousands of times over.... especially not mass market novels that are meant to be consumed like food.....

The Kindle's fantastic battery life, due largely to the e-ink display: was the real compelling feature for me. Every other rapidly re-configurable screen device I have ever owned is an absolute battery hog compared to the 3rd gen -e-ink kindle. LCD's are also terrible in sunlight. Even diffused overcast sunlight drowns out the wimpy battery hogging backlighting of the LCDs: the E-Ink reads just like paper under bright light... amazing~

If you read a lot of books, the Kindle is clearly superior in terms of simplifying your life. E-readers and computers and the internet and free information spell the beginning of the slow end of brick and mortar libraries. That might sound off balance to suggest that brick and mortar libraries are going away on account of future iterations of the Kindle or iPad's, but I assure you that within the next several hundred years, printed books will become a very expensive and increasingly rare luxury item.

E-readers will become lighter, more powerful, less expensive, and more similar to printed materials for reading. The carbon footprint of future e-readers will be lower then that of the e-ink Kindles of today. LCD alternatives:  digital reading surfaces and screens are under development right now.... like mirasol and color-e-ink for example. An LCD free future lies ahead :)

Onward with technological progress and innovation : e-readers are here to stay :)

I also look forward to LCD alternative screens on desktops, laptops, phones, tablets, ect. The power hogging backlight makes perfect sense at night time, but many people use screens during the day, and we are really missing the boat in this area.... a hybrid screen sounds better ........

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