By Myint Mo Maung Maung

As technology continues to advance in today’s world, it is, without a doubt, bringing change to our daily lives. From smart homes to smartphones, technology is responsible for the betterment of human lifestyles and significant reduction of environmental impact. An example is when the year 1998 brought us the invention of eReaders where eBooks (electronic books) can be read as alternatives to hard copies and their benefits are proven to be many. However, when delving deeper and taking into consideration the materials required to create an eReader as well as other factors such as carbon footprint, the question remains: are they truly environmentally friendly?

An eReader like Amazon’s well-known Kindle is crafted from raw materials which include metals such as cobalt, copper, and lithium as well as polymers like plastics. The metal components are extracted from deep underground, implying the need for machinery and mining. Along with this process, may bring air and water pollution which aren’t exactly sought to be desirable. Once the eReader is created and bought by consumers worldwide, the batteries on which they run on still require to be charged. In addition to the non-renewable raw materials acting as a downside, eReaders take up energy. Moreover, an eReader isn’t entirely useful without eBooks: downloading them and eventually storing them returns the literary carbon footprint. When compared to printed paperbacks, many have debated that the making of eReaders possesses a higher environmental cost.

But that isn’t to say that eReaders are toxic to the environment and should not be consumed.

Unlike printed books, eReaders do not need trees chopped down, do not generate much waste, and most importantly, do not cause deforestation. As a result, carbon footprint is lessened and emission rates are lower due to trees being able to carry on their roles as part of the carbon cycle. Furthermore, the manufacturing of eReaders is not water-intensive like in paper making and this allows for the conservation of water and energy. One last important fact is that eReaders do not end up discarded in landfills in the same way that paperbacks do ( paper makes up 26% of landfill). This significantly minimizes waste disposal.

Pros and cons are weighted yet, the question still presents itself.

The answer is dependent upon each person’s frequency of reading and their literary habits. In simple terms, the more books you read on your eReader, the lesser the environmental impact. If you are one to buy over 22 books a year, the eReader will surely lower the environmental repercussions. However, if you read less, paperbacks are the way to go!

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