I've been thinking about buying a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad for a while, but I've wondered if this cool new technology is really as green as it appears to be.
I did some research and unfortunately there don't seem to be any concrete answers. From what I've read, purchasing an e-reader could leave an equivalent carbon footprint to anywhere from 15 to 100 real books. That's kind of a big discrepancy.
The best break down I read was in a NY times article entitled How Green is My iPad? The authors describe e-reader and paper book footprints in 5 steps: materials, manufacture, transportation, reading, and disposal. It was fascinating. You need to read it.
My other concern is that I might buy more books than I do now if I had an e-reader, just because it's so easy to click a button and download. I usually buy one or two books a month. I try to limit my book consumption to new releases that I HAVE to read ASAP and books that I already love and want in my home library, so my family can enjoy them too. Most other books I try to get from the library. I wonder if an e-reader would make it so easy to get a book that I'd end up buying things I would never read again.
Also, if I stay on my current book buying schedule it would take me 5 or 6 years to purchase 100 books. It's likely that the technology will be so old by then that it will be time to upgrade to a new e-reader anyway.
So, I think I'm still a real book girl for the time being. I feel pretty good about real books and I think it's awesome that more and more books are being printed on recycled paper, using soy based inks (these are very landfill friendly, though I always wonder, who throws their books away?). Plus, I love the feel of a real book in my hands. I'll probably cave in and buy an e-reader someday, but not yet.
For those of you with Kindles, iPads, Nooks, etc., was environmental impact something you thought about when you purchased your e-reader? Has your e-book consumption been enough to offset the opportunity cost of buying real books? For the rest of you, is e-reader greenness a factor in whether or not you will buy one in the future?