Counting the the carbon cost of books

According to, the creation, production and disposal (or recycling) of a paper book creates 7.5KG of CO2 emissions. In contrast an iPad creates CO2 emissions of 130 Kg while a Kindle creates 168KG. So, after reading about 17 books on an iPad or around 22 Kindle books, digital devices start to make carbon savings. If only things were that simple.

What we need to know here, of course, is what the carbon costs of operating these devices is (not included in these figures). One of these days I’ll try to figure this out.

What we do know is that a one-off (single) Google search taking about a second creates about 0.2KG of CO2. Multiple searches that last a few minutes are likely to generate something in the region of 7KG of CO2. This is according to Alex Wissner-Gross, a physicist from Harvard who has studied the environmental impact of computing.

Obviously reading an e-book will not create CO2 emissions anything like this, but I suspect that emissions will still be substantial. Bottom line is that if you borrow paper books from your local library (walking or cycling to get there if possible) you are likely to be saving both the paper book industry as well as the planet.

BTW, for my older post about carbon emissions associated with email click here.

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