Recently, I posted a message in my community Facebook group that I have a little free library. I invited everyone to stop by and check it out. I thought it was a fairly innocuous post. Silly me. It seems that trolls abound.
A lady actually responded, “That’s not good for the environment. Get a kindle. We got one and we love it.”
It took everything in me not to fire back, “Okay, Karen. Not everyone can afford a kindle.”
But I was relatively good. I did politely point out that recirculating locally sourced used books is the ultimate form of recycling. It reduces the number of new books purchased, which hopefully causes publishers to reduce the number of hard copies they print. It also reduces the number of books heading for the landfill, as most books never get properly recycled, and if they’re printed on glossy paper, they can’t be.
I also mentioned that there are multiple studies indicating that reading a physical book helps you retain the information much better. And let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like cuddling up with a physical book. In particular, I think children get a lot of benefit from touching and feeling and gazing at the artwork on the page.
And it really is true that not everyone can afford electronics. Many people don’t have reliable access to the internet to download books even if they do have a kindle. These libraries get books into the hands of people who can’t afford them or otherwise don’t have access to them. They encourage people to read who may not have even considered it before. I am proud of the service my little free library provides to the community.
I’m not Kindle bashing, here. Every debate has its pros and cons. I know someone who has severe arthritis, and she finds the reduced weight of a kindle to be much less painful. Plus, you can increase the font size. And you can read a Kindle in the dark without needing a flashlight. And they certainly take up much less space. So there’s that.
But then, not all books are available on Kindle. And sometimes they mysteriously disappear. Or you run out of power while enjoying your eBook on the beach. And staring a screen for long periods has been found to disrupt your sleep cycle and cause depression and cognitive issues in children.
The environmental impacts of both formats is debatable, and comes with a lot of ifs. Lithium mining for batteries oftentimes employs slave labor, and it’s an environmental nightmare. And destroying Kindles causes toxins to enter the atmosphere and the ground water.
As far as carbon emissions, according to this article, it really depends on the number of books you actually read electronically as opposed to buying brand new hard copies. Books have a carbon footprint, too. They’re made from trees, and the production process for paper and the gas used in delivery and the number of books that get burned before ever being read… all that takes its toll.
But if, like me, you’re more inclined to borrow books from the library, whether it be public or little and free, that reduces a book’s impact exponentially. And if you don’t replace your Kindle every time a new version comes out, that helps, too. It’s all very complicated.
I guess for me, the bottom line is that everyone should read, as much as possible, in whatever format feels best. Just read. A literate and educated population is much more apt to save this planet, don’t you think?