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Dec 14, 2021

Ebook vs Paperback: A guide to environmentally friendly reading

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Ebook vs Paperback is a controversial topic amongst book lovers, with many having strong opinions. But if, like us, you struggle to choose between the two everytime it comes to picking up a new read, you’ve come to the right place.

A question we often get asked is ‘are books bad for the environment?’ Well this is a complex question with lots of things to consider. The book industry as a whole has a pretty large carbon footprint, with both paper books and their ebook equivalents having an environmental impact. While large-scale changes could still be made to make the book industry greener, for folks like you and me, it’s out of our hands. It's not like we’ll be giving up reading books any time soon - life would hardly be worth living!

But something we can control is our consumption, which brings us to the big ebook vs paper book debate. How can we keep reading books by the dozen AND do our bit for the planet?

Environmental impact of ebooks vs paper books

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Paper books contribute to deforestation which plays a huge part in global warming, plus there's the process of turning wood into paper, chemical treatment, printing words and images and then the distribution of the finished books to its readers, all of which affects climate change in a big way.

Ebooks on the other hand don’t require any paper, but they’re often read on an e-reader. The manufacturing of the e-reader, distribution to its owner, the electricity needed to charge it up and the disposal of it at the end of its life are all factors which increase an ebook’s carbon footprint.

With all this considered, an ebook is the most eco-friendly option if you tend to read a lot of books. But environmental factors aren’t the only thing to be considered when choosing which format to read in. Here’s a handy list of all the pros and cons of an ebook vs paperback book to help…

Pros & cons of an ebook

Pros

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  • An e-reader makes it possible to access hundreds of books at the touch of a button! You can transport worlds of adventure with you everywhere you go, with no limitations. This makes them great for traveling.
  • They’re light and easy to hold with one hand, making it much easier to read them in bed.
  • Many e-readers light up or come with a built-in reading light meaning you can carry on reading your book at night without having the big light on.
  • If you’re a frequent reader, ebooks are better for the environment than paper books.
  • The most popular e-reader is the Amazon Kindle, where ebooks are much cheaper to buy than a physical copy.
  • Your page is automatically saved for the next time you pick up your book.

Cons

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  • Some ebooks can cause eye strain.
  • The e-reader itself is expensive to buy.
  • The e-reader needs charging to be used.
  • You can’t acquire a physical book collection that looks pretty on your shelves.
  • It’s tricky to book share - you’re unlikely to lend someone your e-reader so they can experience a book you’ve just finished and loved.

Pros & cons of paperback

Pros

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If it were a popularity contest, we’re sure that physical paper books would win hands down! Most book lovers will agree that you just can’t beat a proper book, for the following reasons…

  • The fresh book smell.
  • The satisfaction of flipping pages and seeing how much you have left to read.
  • A physical collection for your shelves - many people spend a lifetime creating a collection of books.
  • There’s something romantic about a physical book isn’t there? It’s something of an aesthetic.
  • You can share your books with friends and family.

Cons

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  • Less eco-friendly than ebooks.
  • Often heavy and bulky which makes them a pain to carry around with you.
  • When traveling you’re limited to taking one or two books.
  • They can be difficult to read when led down.
  • You need a light source to read them.
  • It’s easy to lose your page.
  • Paper books are more expensive to buy than ebooks.

What is the most eco-friendly option for reading a book?

The most eco-friendly option for reading a book depends what kind of reader you are. If you’re an occasional reader (reading less than 5 books a year) then picking up second hand books or visiting your local library is a good option for you. If you’re more of a regular reader (reading more than 5 books a year) and you like to buy new, then an e-reader is the best option.

However, if you’re a regular reader that loves paper and hardback books, you can still make eco-friendly choices when it comes to the books you buy. The more we use an object, the more we minimize its carbon footprint, so picking up second hand books and recycling the books you have is a great way to read paperback books and still be doing your bit for the environment.

How to recycle books

It’s clear that print is here to stay, with paper books still out selling ebooks 4-1. So if you’re team paperback all the way, how can you recycle your books to minimize your carbon footprint? Here at Webuybooks, we’ll take your old books in exchange for cash! We’ll then find them a new home, or recycle them for you - meaning no book will go to waste.

Find out more on our book buying process here.

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