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It’s greenest at the library

April 5, 2010

Jan 27th by underthesun / CC BY-NC 2.0

On Sunday the New York Times took a scientific look at the relative greenness of buying paper books versus ebooks [How Green Is My iPad?, by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris]. After considering resource consumption, greenhouse gases and health concerns the authors came up with a vague range of 20-100 books as the minimum threshold for ebook green status. With tongue in cheek, the article ended by quipping that borrowing paper books from a library was best.

This comparison doesn’t consider many of the practical issues. For example, ebooks let you carry hundreds of books anywhere you want without risk of back injury, but only one person can read an ebook device at a time. Five people can share five paper books or sections of a newspaper. It will be fascinating to see how ebooks fit into our culture. They will fit in, but it’s a safe bet that there will be surprising twists in the “how” department.

Further reading:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2010 10:15 am


    Thank you for the interesting post. I totally agree with your bottom line about the “how” factor. I guess only time will tell 🙂

    The comparison Goleman and Norris did is far from being perfect (especially given the fact that a lot of data about e-book readers is still not available), but it’s still an important attempt to provide us with a reliable assessment tool.

    You’re welcome to read five comments I wrote on their work at You can find more resources on the e-Books vs. physical books environmental debate on our website at

    Raz Godelnik

  2. April 6, 2010 10:36 pm

    I believe that the ipad will without a doubt save a lot of trees.
    The fact that only one individual can use an ebook is a good point, which brings us back to the marketing strategy of corporations and how they target selling more products through the “Green initiative”.
    Good post.

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