For people who love their Kindles, there's no other choice when it comes to reading books. But for the rest of us, is it time to make the switch to e-reading, or do paper books still hold the green advantage?
The answer depends a lot on your habits. If you read a lot -- as in, a *lot* -- then a Kindle or other e-reader is definitely the greener option. According to a recent study by TerraPass
, this means reading about 20 to 40 books a year on your e-reader, or around a book every week or two.
A few factors impact this decision beyond the quantity of books you read. If you re-read books a lot, then paper might be the greener choice. If you don't have a bookstore near you, and need to either drive a long distance or mail-order your books, then an e-reader might be greener. If you're likely to replace your electronics every time a newer version of the device comes out, then you're not using them long enough and paper might be greener. If you live in a damp climate and your books are susceptible to mold, then e-books are the way to go. If you borrow a lot of books from the library, then paper is still (mostly) the easiest and best way to go. If you borrow or lend your books to your friends and family a lot, then physical books are the way to go (despite Amazon's new Kindle-lending program).
There's also the question of how you use a book. If you read a lot of non-fiction and textbooks and need to search and annotate your texts, then e-books could save you a lot of time, and that's green in a whole different manner.
The other thing to consider is the lifespan of a book after you read it. Many out-of-print books can be worth quite a bit on the secondary market. You can make money selling old books, as can your descendants if you pass the books on in your will. You can't re-sell an e-book. A used e-book has no value, making it absolutely un-green.
There's also the fact that books look good in your home, but they also cost a lot to move if you ever buy a new home. (Trust me, I've been there.)
So is there an easy answer to this question? Heck no. But you can boil it down to a few factors: if you read irregularly, want to buy local, and like having physical objects you can revisit, then stick with paper. If you read a lot and don't value keeping a book after you've read it, then go electronic. No matter what, go ahead and read. The authors of the world will thank you.