Will Ebooks Jeopardize the Carbon Reduction Goals of the Book Industry?
The shift towards ebooks is having a significant influence on every part of the book industry, from publishers working to reinvent their value proposition to brick and mortar bookstores fighting for their future.
But what about the carbon footprint of the book industry?Does this shift represent an opportunity for the industry given the growing number of books sold without even one tree falling down? Or, maybe it is also a potential risk as ebooks can actually hurt the efforts of the industry to reduce its footprint? Well, apparently it can be both.
In April 2009 the Book Industry Environmental Council (disclosure: Eco-Libris is a member of BIEC) announced a goal of reducing the U.S. book industry's greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 (from a 2006 baseline), with the intent of achieving an 80% reduction by 2050. When the announcement was made, ebooks had less than 5% market share and weren't considered to have a significant impact on the industry's carbon footprint. In 2020 the picture will loom very different — some predict that ebooks will represent then as much as 50% of the market (some estimates go even higher), which means that every second book sold in 2020 will be an electronic one.
This forecast represents not just a dramatic change in the book industry, but also in its carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of the industry that BIEC's announcement referred to was 12.4 million metric tons (carbon equivalent), or 4.01 kg CO2 per book (source: Book Industry Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts Report). The largest contributor to this footprint, according to this report, is the logging and manufacturing of paper, which constitute 87.3% of total carbon emissions.