Let’s make one thing clear straight away. I love reading, big time. There is very little literature out there that I actively dislike, (George Elliot’s Middlemarch being the number one (and two if I’m honest) on my hate list,) I love classics, historical fiction, (although as a history student I am prone to spend 95% of my reading time arguing with the book) Sci fi, fantasy, murder mysteries, thrillers, romance (don’t judge, who doesn’t love a good romance?!) you name it, I’ll have read at least one book of that particular genre, I may not have loved it, but I have read it. And that is one of the main reasons I’m writing this particular post.
As an obsessive reader, (there really is no better word for my reading habits) I own a variety of methods through which I can indulge in my addiction, which is a fancy word for saying I have a Kindle, and a tablet with my kindle on, and the app on my phone, so even if I don’t have a book on me or in my bag, I have reading material with me in one form or another, at all times.
When I got my kindle on my 18th birthday, many years ago, I thought that would put a stop to my book buying addiction, a very expensive side effect of my need to read constantly, and from then on I’d buy all my books as E-copies, much cheaper, and much more sustainable way of reading and owning every book ever published (A feat which is at the top of my bucket list) after all, physical books take up A LOT of space. Don’t believe me? Let me present Exhibit A:
This would be my bedroom book collection, I specify it as ‘bedroom books’ as I also have 3 boxes under my bed, a third book case containing Uni books, a variety of books stashed in various corners of the house, and a whole bunch of book boxes sorted in the loft. That a whole load of space being taken up by books. My Kindle currently contains 245 books, and do you want to know how much space it’s taking up?
That much. Well kind of, that’s a piece of paper wrapped around my kindle to make it easier to see in the picture. But the point is, in comparison to the sheer volume of books, the amount of space, and storage required by a kindle is tiny.
Now translate that into the amount of paper required to make all the books on the bookcase, and the amount of time and resources it took to create each of those books. That’s a whole lot of tree and time and energy, just to make a single book. In the grand scheme of things it’s not just a single book though. I’m a Harry Potter fan (Just in case the Diagon Ally sign hadn’t given that away already) The Harry potter series is the most published book in the world at the moment. 450 million copies of Harry Potter are currently in circulation. 450 million!!!! But to make those 450 million (!) books it took approximately 10 million tree’s. I have not calculated this number in an entirely scientific manner so I may be out a bit, but I’m not far off. 10 million trees. For one book series. Ouch. Each year 4 billion trees are cut down just to satisfy the world paper needs. 4,000,000,000 trees. For paper.
Now I don’t know what you think, but to me that’s not a very sustainable way to read, especially when you consider that figure is recent, meaning despite all the recycling we do, we still need 4 billion trees to produce all the paper required. Sad times to be a tree my friends, sad times.
Especially when you factor in the life expectancy of a paper book, exhibit B:
My much loved and over read copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire. (I will change book examples next time I promise.) Now before you all get out the pitchforks and torches and chase after me through the village for torturing a book. I did not do this intentionally. I was given this book not long after it was published, way back in 2000, and I’ve read it over, and over, and over, and over again. To be honest I could probably read it to you with my eyes closed, but as a consequence it’s a little bit dead, and has a page missing (but don’t worry, I know it virtually word for word so can recite that bit when you reach it!) therefore it never comes off the shelf. Bit pointless for a book really, books are made to be read, not to be dust collectors, so I’m going to have to buy a new copy to replace it, when I can finally work up the courage to take that step and dispose of it (responsibly. Always recycle kids.)
But wait, I hear you yell, that’s not very sustainable, by replacing that book I’m only encouraging publishers to publish more copies. More trees, I’m a bad, tree hating person, I know, I know. But a book cannot be read if it’s broken. Meet my second favourite series of books:
David Eddings, world’s best fantasy writer, if you haven’t read anything by him, do it! You’re missing out. Any way back to the point, as you can see this book is much loved also, not to the extent of Harry Potter, but still a bit battered, so no doubt in 5, maybe 6 years I’m going to have to buy another copy to replace this one when it’s pages start going AWOL. Not very sustainable.
The problem with books is they’re not built to last, they’re made out of paper, not the sturdiest of materials. It bends, it rips, it tears, and it absorbs spilt drinks then sticks all the pages together or all the ink runs making it impossible to read. Also they’re not massively child/dog friendly. My puppy, the really cute coffee addict over there
LOVES to eat my books, a habit I don’t find at all cute
Or adorable, in fact it’s irritating, upsetting, expensive and most importantly, not at all sustainable.
Kindles on the other hand are made of much sterner stuff. So far mines been thrown across a room (accidentally) sat on (accidentally) slept on
Had a box dropped on, been dunked in a coffee and temporarily stored in a fridge, (don’t ask, that’s a whole new story) and there’s not a single scratch on it. Well, there’s a teeny tiny one but it’s barely noticeable. I’ve had my kindle for three whole years and not had to replace it once, I’ve just bought book, after book, and it’s showing no sign of wear as of yet.
Much more sustainable, and tree friendly. But. What about the other sustainable issues with kindles?
Such as charging. Kindles, being electronic obviously require charging at some point. Obviously. Now I only charge mine about every other week, (when I remember to turn the wi-fi off otherwise its weekly) sounds pretty good right?
Because, like millions of others I don’t unplug the charger once my kindle’s charged, nor do I turn the plug off, the same goes for my tablet, my phone and my laptop, all of which I use to read books on. So that’s 4 chargers plugged in and turned on 24/7 for the last three years.
Oops. Not very sustainable. Well actually it’s nowhere near as bad as you may think. Plug sockets use energy, but not as much as you may think. In one year having all those chargers plugged in and on, you’re only going to be paying about £10 in energy. (Actually I think it’s a bit less, I got the figure off a US site so I had to convert energy and currency and all sorts of mathematical wizardry.) For a poor student like myself, £10 is a lot of money, that is 5 pints of beer a year down the SU that I’m missing out on! Sad times. But my eco-sustainable credibility isn’t going to be flushed down the toilet because of questionable charger usage.
Moving away from saving trees and energy for a moment, I want to talk about money and tax. (don’t stop reading, I promise this isn’t going to be depressing, well maybe a little but not much I promise!) When I buy a book, which by the state of my bookcase you can see I do frequently. (Here’s another picture for you to admire)
Now when I buy these books, I typically go to a book shop, sounds like an odd fact to state, but stick with me. I go to the book shop, I browse, I find the book I was looking for, and normally 3 or 4 or 10 others that I wasn’t planning on buying, I take them to the till and I buy them. By doing this I’m helping sustain local business and putting money back into my community, helping create a sustainable economy.
But when I buy an e-book, I shop on Amazon. Amazon don’t pay their taxes, (naughty naughty amazon) Amazon are not helping create a sustainable economy, they’re just taking all my money. No one else benefits from my money. This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop using amazon, I’m not that morally righteous, nor am I willing to sacrifice my Amazon prime. (Free one day delivery for the win!)
But when comparing physical books to downloading e-books, economically physical books are a more sustainable method of reading. Which is good news for people like me who do things like this
The two on the left were presents, but didn’t match books 3, 4,9,10 and 12. So for no good reason other than I wanted the bookshelf to look prettier, I re-bought books 1 and 2.
So to conclude my rather long (sorry about that) post on the Books v. Kindles, I feel that both Books and kindles have pro’s and con’s when it comes to sustainability, but at the end of the day it’s down to you to choose a method which works best for you, and just make sure you do so responsibly!
Personally, I’m going to carry on buying books, but am going to make an effort to read more on my kindle in order to preserve the books I have, so that way I won’t have to buy replacements every couple of years. Oh, and I’m also going to try to remember to unplug my chargers, as I could definitely do with that extra ten quid!
Charlie & The SGO