Starting today, The Sons of Thor is now free on Kindle through Monday. Don’t forget on Tuesday, there is a meet and greet with me at the Ihop in Bixby, located at 8222 103rd St. where the two meet at S. Memorial Drive. If you’re in Tulsa and would like to meet up, I’ll be there from 10 am to 2 pm. Sigyn’s Flowers will be released on June 28th as well in ebook and paperback formats. Mark your calendars!
You can get your copy https://www.amazon.com/Sons-Thor-Fantasy-Turning-Reality-ebook/dp/B012XDRNQA
Speaking of ebooks and paperbacks, earlier in my facebook feed, a friend wrote about the ecological impacts of ebooks and ereaders over traditionally published books. It was an interesting read, though she didn’t cite where she found some of her statistics, like which sites said how many books a single tree can produce. She noted that the statistics vary, almost wildly so, but no actual sources were cited. It’s certainly an argument in favor of purchasing an e-reader of some kind and going more for ebooks than traditional books.
I have a problem with this particular blogger’s argument because, as someone presenting an idea over an environmental impact, she failed to note a few key things.
And to note here, I am not anti-technology. I do embrace technology. I love my laptop and my cell phone. My laptop has not failed me as of yet, hasn’t taken a nosedive over anything, and my cell phone has outlived things that should have killed it. I’ve had my cell phone since July 2013, and it’s taken quite the licking on occasion. Seriously. Several months ago, when I was trying to go down the basement stairs (proverbial geek, living in mom’s basement), I had way too much stuff to carry, and I’m not one who likes to make many trips. The less I have to run up and down the stairs with my stuff, the better. I’d just gotten back from work, and my server’s apron hit the floor at the top of the stairs. I forgot that my phone was in one of the pockets.
I kicked it down the stairs. A few things went flying, including my cell phone. It landed in three pieces – batter, back cover to hold the battery in place, and the phone itself. I put it back together and just carried on. And, yes, it still works. The only reason why I’m even contemplating a replacement is for business purposes. A somewhat larger phone will help me to display the cover art for my books better than my little rinky dink phone.
In terms of technology, the only things I am anti on are the constant need to replace something. I don’t believe in rushing out to buy the latest cell phones that have more application options to them than the ones released six months prior. I don’t believe in buying a new computer simply because it’s outdated when a new operating system is released.
I’m also going to make this note. It’s an argument I’ve heard before from my best friend, but she also went into greater detail on the environmental impact. It isn’t just the harvesting of the trees. It’s the process of making paper, of making the dyes for the inks used to print the words and create the covers. All of this includes a very toxic process thanks to the chemicals used to make the products. It’s the pollutants going into the air and into the water.
And that brings me to some of the key things the author of the blog failed to note. The argument is that, over time, the negative impact of purchasing an ereader (like Kindle or NOOK) will become a positive by the reduction of the number of trees used to print books.
1 – Printed books are not on unlimited runs. There are very few exceptions to this rule. The classics, like The Three Musketeers and The Lord of the Rings, are some noted exceptions. I’m certain that, if I wanted to, I could find a way to order brand new copies of titles by Stephen King, like Carrie or Christine (these two in particular due to their 1970s publication dates). Popularity is key here. The more popular a title or an author is, the more likely one is going to find newer, mass printed copies of their books. Otherwise, all books published under a traditional contract are on a limited run. In an economic sense, it just does not pay to constantly print books no one is buying. While it’s true the same book could be on an unlimited run as an ebook, unlimited printings of every book by every author ever published just doesn’t happen.
2 – The harvesting of trees.
I grew up in an area that had (and has) no less than sixteen different tree farms. I knew of at least two before leaving the Cadillac, Michigan, area. Upon asking, my stepdad there were sixteen tree farm companies. And that’s just to sell Christmas trees. So these are trees that, upon reaching a certain age, are being harvested once a year to sit in people’s homes for however long a person has a Christmas tree up before being discarded to either rot or be used in some other product. These are companies that plant trees almost as often as they harvest them. Yes, it’s a time-consuming process, but it does happen.
In following this particular line of logic, a publishing company, in my opinion, is likely to have a contract with a tree farm or at least have permission from a state park to harvest trees that are sick/dying/decaying.
3 – Trees are not the only products used to make paper.
I did real quick google search for types of plants used to make trees. According to the one site I clicked on (called gardenguides.com), not only trees are used for making paper (trees like birch, various elm, and willow) but certain plants can be used as well, like tobacco, milkweed, thistles, and stinging nettle. Banana leaves can be used, too, and even bamboo.
As for what publishing companies use to make paper, I don’t know. That would be something we, as readers and those concerned about environmental impacts, would have to ask the publishers about. Some publishers may not even know, but at least we can make the effort to find out.
4 – Paper can be recycled.
When I was in sixth grade and when my school district had the sixth grade as part of the elementary schools, I attended what was called Sixth Grade Camp. We were three different elementary schools coming together in the winter and the spring in order to acclimate to one another. At the winter camp, we were shown how to recycle paper.
Not all printed books are done on freshly minted paper. Some books are on recycled paper. Some books come printed on pages recycled from other materials, like denim. Anything that is printed on recycled materials says so on the back of the book or card or whatever it is you’re purchasing.
5 – Trees are harvested for more than books.
The harvesting of trees, the clearing of trees is not going to end because you’ve purchased an ereader. Sad but true. There are thousands of acres of rainforest land cleared away for nothing more than to be used as space for people to live. Buying an ereader is not going to stop the deforestation of land. If anything, it’s going to actually increase it, and the reasons why will be noted in the next aspect the blogger failed to note.
6 – Ereaders are in constant mass production.
Books, for the most part, receive a limited run. Ereaders are not on limited runs. In fact, ereaders require a lot of resources to make. I would love to tear apart an ereader to see what’s inside of it. I’m certain there is metal in an ereader. Land will be cleared to for the construction of factories or for the mining of metals. The metals are mined in toxic conditions that could rival the dye and paper-making processes. There’s the manufacturing of the plastic, the refining of the metals to make the wires or whatever is used to conduct the electricity that powers the ereader, and let’s not forget the type of working conditions people face in the manufacturing process of the Kindle or the NOOK, conditions that, if they were in the U.S. or Europe, would have the company shut down for OSHA and labor safety violations. (This is true for pretty much any electronic device these days.)
If we are going to be real about the environmental impact of books over ebooks, we cannot look at the ebook itself as a means of a saving grace. The ebook needs something in order to be read. So let’s get real here. Very, very real.
And there isn’t just ONE type of ereader. A quick search on Amazon has yielded me Kindle Paper, Kindle Fire, Kindle Oasis, Kindle Voyager, and even they’re varied. Six inch, seven inch, WiFi capable, HD versions, and so on. The same goes for NOOK. Four different variations for varied reading experiences, from simple black and white text to high definition and digital. Yeah, there are benefits to ebooks. You can shut your device down and never lose your place. You can change the font. You can change the color of the font. You can get an ebook that plays out like a video game, if you want.
These ereadrs are in CONSTANT production. You might only need one for the rest of your life, but it does not change the fact they are in constant production. They are in constant refining and upgrading. They are no different than your everyday computer and cell phone. Companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble want you to be buying new every so often. They will make it so you eventually cannot download ebooks to your old ereader. No company is in the business of you hanging on to your old Commodore 64 for the rest of your life or your cell phone from 2001. It’s just not how they work, and, let’s face it. Electronics can be easy to break.
So how can we reduce our environmental impact? In truth, I don’t know that we can. We can do our best to stick with one cell phone, one computer, one ereader for as long as we can. It won’t stop the mass production, but we’re not constantly throwing out devices that still work, that can still get the job done. I don’t have a Kindle or a NOOK, but I don’t need one, either. I have my laptop. That works for me. I presume it works for others like me, too, people who are unable to afford ereaders and constantly buying new phones, new computers, and the like.
As far as what to choose for reading goes, the choice ultimately is not up to me as to what other people choose. I’m not even going to go as far as to say what the blogger did and tell people to stick to the library for printed books. That’s not my decision to make for anyone else. Ultimately, as an author, what matters to me is that people read. You want a printed book? Go where you can get a printed book, be it the library, bookstore, or through a print-on-demand option. Want an ebook? Get an ebook. You don’t need an ereader for those. Your laptop, tablet, or phone will do the job.
Are ereaders here to stay? Barring a severe apocalypse in which it will take mankind generations to rebuild everything, yes. Ereaders are here to stay.
And so are printed books.
I know this doesn’t help for people who want to reduce their environmental impact on our planet. It really doesn’t because some of what I present seems to favor environmental damage by the harvesting of trees. However, I wanted to present more facts and a different perspective than what the blogger I’d read did. Knowing the number of trees used to print books alone is not enough to make an informed decision. Knowing there’s a chemical process for manufacturing paper and inks and that it pollutes the air is only half the conversation. It isn’t the only process involved. I feel it’s foolish to presume that ereaders (not ebooks) don’t have an impact on our environment, even more foolish to presume that ereaders use less resources to make than printed books. Like I said, if we’re going to be real about this book business, then let’s be real.
If you want to learn more, I recommend reading this article published in January 2015. Use it to make your decision.