A study was released this week proclaiming that ebooks were the magic bullet solution to greener reading. The Cleantech Group (who commissioned the study) claimed that the carbon emitted in the life cycle of the ereader was fully offset after a year of use, or 22.5 books.
The report, authored by Emma Ritch, states: "Any additional years of use result in net carbon savings, equivalent to an average of 168 kg of CO2 per year (the emissions produced in the manufacture and distribution of 22.5 books)."
In the United States, Amazon currently holds a 45 percent market share of e-reader devices, with one main competitor Sony trailing at 30 percent.
The Cleantech Group forecasts that e-readers purchased from 2009 to 2012 could prevent 5.3 billion kg of carbon dioxide in 2012, or 9.9 billion kg during the four-year time period.
The Daily Finance, however, published a rebuttle yesterday suggesting that these figures may be a bit of an exageration. They suggested that many "average" readers would read less than the suggested 22-23 books a year, and that if you compare ereaders to digital music players most consumers upgrade or replace their device well before the four year lifecycle that the study suggests.
I think the takeaway is that of course an ebook is going to reduce the amount of paper waste, but you also have to take the impact of whatever electronics you use to read it into account as well. And if ebooks are not for you then there are always used books!