Paper books vs E-books


How the digital revolution has influenced literature and therefore the literary market, the ebook (or electronic book) is, by definition, the digital and/or electronic evolution of a book. There are many advantages that they provide the reader over paper books in terms of mobility, convenience, accessibility, autonomy, and, of course, storage. But which of the 2 is healthier in terms of sustainability?


While many people are still attached to the paper book, there have been also many that applauded the entry of electronic books. And, is that despite the very fact that digital information is that the order of the day, in 2016 the quantity of paper consumed worldwide reached over 410 million metric tons and also the volume of paper and cardboard astrology zodiac sign production in Spain was in 2017 it stood at 6.2 million tons ( Statista, 2019 ). But to assess which of the 2 formats is more sustainable, one must take a look at their life cycles (the set of stages a product goes through from its introduction on the market to its withdrawal) and, above all, compare the assembly figures, demand, and recycling of every one of the products. In short, its impact and its environmental footprint.


The paper book


As long because it is employed efficiently, the paper has an appropriate life cycle. The paper industry uses a natural and natural resource as its raw material: wood. That said, the role has in its favor that the forests and plantations from which the wood is extracted are usually well managed, as is that the case in Spain, where they add local plantations that are continually replanting and regenerating.


As for its production, it also has an industrial component and a corresponding energy expenditure whose environmental impact could seem excessive, however, around 1/2 of the energy consumption of European paper mills comes from renewable energy sources.


On the opposite hand, per Forbes, paper recycling reaches very high rates in countries like Germany, Spain, or France, where approximately 70% of the paper consumed is recycled. In fact, in keeping with the ECU Paper Recycling Council (EPRC), the ECU paper recycling rate stands at 71.5%. And while approximately 19% of paper can not be recycled, the EU paper industry aims to stay this recycling rate above 70%, which it’s delivering.


The electronic book


Regarding electronic books, although their products can help reduce the demand for paper, it also creates a controversy: the raw materials used for his or her manufacture don’t seem to be recycled so easily and it increases (even more) the degree of waste electronic.


Every year, scores of plenty of electronic devices like televisions, computers, printers, mobile phones, etc., are thrown into landfills or are incinerated, with the corresponding emission into the atmosphere of gear that is very harmful to the environment and health. The determination or programming of the tip of the useful lifetime of a product, that’s to mention, that after a period of your time calculated earlier by the manufacturer or by the corporate during the look phase of the identical, it becomes obsolete or non-functional, makes that you just need to buy a brand new one to switch it. This fact, called ” programmed obsolescence ” occurs, especially in electronic devices.


According to a recent joint report by various UN agencies, the planet generated quite 50 million loads of electronic waste in 2018; the equivalent of the abandonment of 125,000 jumbo jets or 4,500 Eiffel towers and enough to hide the complete island of Manhattan in waste. Of these, only 20% are recycled correctly. While electronic waste only represents 2% of the world’s solid waste, it can even mean up to 70% of hazardous waste that finishes up in landfills. In keeping with figures from the worldwide E-waste Monitor 2017 report meted out by the world organization University (UNU), the International Telecommunications Union (IUT) and therefore the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), 930,000 plenty of electronic waste are produced each year, being the fifth country within the world organization that produces more waste electrical and equipment (WEEE).


Paper book or e-book: who wins the battle for sustainability?


As I discussed before, if we take into consideration the environmental footprint of the whole life cycle of the paper book and also the electronic book, these are the conclusions we will draw:


While the most staple of paper books is renewable and produced in sustainable forests and plantations, the raw materials and minerals to provide an ebook generate toxic components like zinc or arsenic and their extraction implies the destruction of forests or, which is that the same, deforestation.


  • The carbon footprint generated due to the printing of a 300-page hardcover book during its entire life cycle (from the tree to the reader) is 1.2 kilograms of CO 2, which might appreciate 115 quick searches on the net but one minute on the average, or two hours in total of digital consultation ( APPEL ).
  • Regarding distribution, electronic books not only save space compared to paper books but also result in lower emission of kg of CO 2 ( ACCIONA ).
  • In use, paper books don’t need the energy to function. The e-books expend energy for charging and/or battery replacement ( ACCIONA ).
  • The recycling rate for the paper (approx. 70%) is far more than the recycling rate for electronic waste (approx. 20%). ( UN ).


Finally, in step with a study by the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden, an electronic book begins to compensate for a standard book when a minimum of 33 digital works of about 360 pages are read.