Are eBooks Better for the Environment?

In January of 2011, Microcosm Publishing offered a service where customers could exchange the Kindle that they had received for the holidays for an equitable value of our books. The campaign was a huge success and we receive calls six years later asking if we are still offering the exchange. But the most confusing aspect of the news cycle that followed was the “investigating journalism” that tracked “the real impact of e-readers vs paperbacks.” I devoured dozens of articles on this subject and each one looked solely at the carbon impact of each format, the expected life cycle of a book versus an e-reader, and a handful even examined the long-term eye damage and quality of experience while using e-readers. Mother Jones concluded that the comparison was close but that the most ethical choice was to check physical books out of the library. I would second their endorsement of the library; in every case I found myself frustrated and tossing incredulous glances at the screen. Why were these articles focusing solely on carbon? The issues that seemed the biggest to me, like conflict minerals and clean drinking water, were not even mentioned.

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self-made autistic publisher and filmmaker formed by punk rock,

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