I’ve never been a fan of the Kindle. I like real books. I like the smell of old pages, of new pages, I like to write in the margins, fold my corners and go back and read those excerpts again. I like giving away books and take pride in the weight of books I have to transport whenever I move, as if carrying around a heavy trophy of knowledge. Basically, I’m a nerd. So when contemplating my reading options when I go to Kazakhstan, I came to the conclusion that when I’m only limited to transporting 100 lbs, books aren’t the best investment .

I decided that the Kindle was a smart choice because it’s lightweight, I could preload books before I move and the environmental footprint that I was concerned about before would be offset since I wouldn’t have books shipped all the way to Kazakhstan.

While doing research for my job, I found that universities are testing pilots that distribute textbooks through the Kindle.

This makes a lot of sense considering:

– this would take out the printing costs, which means lower costs for students – it would save paper and unneeded weight in your backpack

– updates in textbooks wouldn’t mean thousands of books being disposed of or recycled

– no worries about being able to sell back your books for the fraction that you bought them for…or being stuck with a book you can’t sell back but don’t have the heart to dispose of (recycle)

While digging deeper, I found that the carbon emitted over the life of the device is offset after the first year of use. According to an article from the New York Times, “in 2008, the U.S. book and newspaper industries combined resulted in the harvesting of 125 million trees, not to mention wastewater that was produced or its massive carbon footprint.”

“The report asserts that printed books have the highest per-unit carbon footprint — which includes its raw materials, paper production, printing, shipping, and disposal — in the publishing sector. “In the case of a book bought at a bookstore,” Ms. Ritch said, Cleantech’s measurement “takes into account the fossil fuels necessary to deliver to the bookstore and the fact that 25-36 percent of those books are then returned to the publisher, burning more fossil fuels.”

After that, Ms. Ritch said, there are three common next steps: “The publisher then incinerates, throws away or recycles them,” she said.

When the Kindle came out, I was sad that books probably had the same fate as albums and cd’s when mp3s came out. Goodbye. But after reading about the footprint of the publishing industry, I have less sorrow. I also considered how authors would profit from e-books but if you’re taking out printing costs, that could mean more money for the actual creator. As far as bootlegging goes, I don’t see it any different than a public library. I would have to say I haven’t purchased the majority of the books I’ve read in my lifetime.

If anything, having books electronically provides greater exposure for authors. Instead of reading a review and putting it on your “to-read” or “to buy/check out” list, you can download it immediately and get started! Also, who needs a publisher with e-books and why should we let publishers decide what we would want to read?

It’s a new age and I surprised myself at how little consideration I gave the Kindle before. I completely ignored its environmental benefits because of my attachment to books and justifying it by using mostly used textbooks. It makes me understand other people that I sometimes judge because they refuse to change old habits that are terrible for the environment. Changing values is hard.

I will always enjoy the feel of an actual book but I don’t think the Kindle is going to take that away from me just yet. Besides, all of the good books have already been printed!