It has become commonplace to refer to printing out large work presentations as killing trees because of the paper being used up. A bookstore, by extension, is like a monument to an entire forest of dead trees. With all the other ways to consume information these days, is it still necessary to use up the energy and harvest the trees required to print paper books?
Kindle and Other E-readers
Fancy e-readers like the Kindle still cost in excess of $250, and then you still have to buy the electronic books to read. It’s true that there are some free books available, but most of what avid readers want will cost them. For some people, $250 for an e-reader like the Kindle is affordable and they like the convenience of being able to bring several books with them in compact form. For others, though, it still represents a barrier that keeps them buying paper books.
There are other options. Personally, I use a relatively inexpensive MP3 player and download audio books. Many different MP3 players of sufficient memory capacity and suitable user interface design for audiobooks can be purchased for less than $50. They are much more compact than any e-reader, and can even be used while engaged in physical activity like jogging, hiking, bicycling or working out at the gym. I use the Sansa Clip MP3 player which is little bigger than a silver dollar.
Free Audiobook Downloads
As for purchasing audiobooks, they are available for direct download from a variety of sources at a variety of prices. Most audiobooks will be a couple dollars more than paper books. I have to believe that is largely a function of their lack of mass market acceptance at this point. While they do have the additional costs of the audio production and hiring voice actors or readers to record them, once finished there are no manufacturing costs unlike a paper book. The cost should be lower than a paper book, but it isn’t there yet. They are close though. Free downloads are available from Project Gutenberg for classic audio books that have reached public domain status, by authors such as Jules Verne, Jane Austen, Frank L. Baum, Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain. For those who still prefer to read with their eyes instead of their ears, text downloads are also available and can be read on any computer.
Break your Paper Habit
While I have always enjoyed the tactile feel and experience of reading a paper book, it has become a selfish indulgence when so many alternatives that are much more environmentally friendly are available. Meanwhile, if you simply must have a paper book in hand, try your local library. If they don’t have the book you want on the shelf, ask the librarian if it can be ordered from another library. Don’t even get me started on the ecological value of reading online news versus collecting stacks of newspapers.