image “Each year, approximately 30 million trees are used to make books sold in the United States—1,153 times the number of trees in New York City’s Central Park. Many of these trees are sourced from endangered forests with devastating impacts on the people and wildlife that rely on them.” – Susan Kiser at Abbey House Press, a religious-book publisher, as quoted in Books on Board press release offering free Abbey books.

The TeleRead take: True? Even if so, that’s just a fraction of total paper consumption. But everything intertwines. Get people reading e-books and they’re more likely to use E for other purposes such as read newspapers, a far, far greater contributor to pollution problems. It’s all worthy of consideration with Earth Day coming up Tuesday in the U.S. and many other countries.

Related: How Amazon’s eBabel pollutes the earth, not just the e-book market, in today’s TeleBlog.

Technorati Tags:


, , ,, , ,, , ,


  1. Hi David,
    You raise a good point–the paper used in books is a fraction of total paper used (although with much printing moved to Asia, the ecological damages from books may be disproportionately high).

    I’ve seen evidence lately, though, that the rise in paper is finally over and we’ve begun moving toward the paperless future. I’m sure I’m not the only person who remembers when executives would have their admins print out their e-mails. There may be a few luddites who do that, but I sure don’t see it.

    In terms of ecology, it’s not just the loss of trees that causes problems, papermaking uses chemicals and has certainly contributed its share of ecological disasters. And who knows how many gallons the UPS trucks use delivering all those Amazon books I order.

    Happy Earth Day. I’m proud to be involved in an environmentally positive way of spreading the joys of reading.

    Rob Preece

  2. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but my understanding is that the trees used to make paper in the US are “farmed” and do not contribute to deforestation.

    I don’t doubt that paper manufacturing has an impact on deforestation (especially in some other countries). However, the biggest danger to the worlds forests is slash and burn agriculture and the major deforestation done to introduce cattle ranches and other economic ventures.

  3. The trend toward reading electronic text is already changing the paper industry. The New York Times notes that “some major papers have several times as many readers online as in print.” Fewer trees are being harvested for newsprint because of the upheaval in the newspaper industry. “The industry consumes about three-quarters as much newsprint as it did four years ago, a result of lower circulation and fewer ads, but also of fewer articles.” These quotes are from the article An Industry Imperiled by Falling Profits and Shrinking Ads from February 7, 2008.

    What is the number one material in the solid waste stream? Before you say plastics, look around your school classroom. What do you see? Posters? Notebooks? Cardboard boxes? Textbooks? Bulletin boards decorated with construction paper? You get the picture. Paper is everywhere!

    Paper is the number one material that we throw away. For every 100 pounds of trash we throw away, 35 pounds is paper. Newspapers take up about 14 percent of landfill space, and paper in packaging accounts for another 15 to 20 percent.

    The above quote comes from the Energy Kids Page created by the U.S. Department of Energy.

    How much time do people spend reading online newspapers, blogs, reviews, niche news, gossip, and miscellaneous electronic verbiage? A narrow focus on e-books and the size of the e-book market might cause an observer to miss the wider electronic text disruption currently underway. It would be fascinating to compare the amount of text being read online to the amount being read on paper today.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail