Are iPads and Kindles better for the environment than books?

Illuminating answers to environmental questions.
Aug. 24 2010 10:00 AM

Should You Ditch Your Books for an E-Reader?

The environmental credentials of the iPad and Kindle.

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An even better option is to walk to your local library, which can spread the environmental impact of a single book over an entire community. Unfortunately, libraries are underutilized. Studies suggest that fewer than one-third of Americans visit their local library at least once a month, and fewer than one-half went in the last year. Libraries report that the average community member checks out 7.4 books per year—far less than the three per month consumed on e-readers—and more than one-third of those items were children's books.

Of course, you could also stop reading altogether. But then how would you know how much carbon you saved?

Is there an environmental quandary that's been keeping you up at night? Send it to ask.the.lantern@gmail.com, and check this space every Tuesday.

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Brian Palmer is Slate's chief explainer. He also writes How and Why and Ecologic for the Washington Post. Email him at explainerbrian@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter.