Why ebooks & why green e-publishing?

The publishing industry is like a doctor who ignores their own advice

Perhaps you’ve also wondered why the publishing industry produces and distributes all the major climate science information available but doesn’t read it. If it did, publishing could become the standard bearer for global reduction of carbon footprints. This business challenge and its opportunities for growth would benefit everyone.

Publishing, even in its unique position of having catalogues of books and journals detailing the dangers as well as the solutions of climate change, seems impervious to what it produces. As to why, we can ignore that question for now. The world can’t wait for our soul searching. But simply stated, how we produce all books has been separated from what we produce. Therefore we’re not prepared to take our own advice.

Now we are in a situation that must be addressed if we as an industry and a planet will survive. In order to reduce our carbon footprint, part of the solution to this global crisis, we are in a most enviable position to do that and not next year but now.

Ebook production on a much larger scale as well as a massive cutback in the production of bound books will make a huge difference in our collective carbon footprint. The production and distribution of ebooks has so many positive benefits for the planet while also greatly reducing costs. Just a cursory listing of these benefits: decrease in removal of old forest growth, decrease in fuel consumption for transport, and decrease in land and water used in the storage and creation of physical books. Start there and begin to look at this picture in terms of dollars as well as taking that leap into the new technologies we now possess and/or are creating for ebooks and this challenge proves most exciting.

As we all know, ebooks are allowing for faster, cheaper production but also a cheaper way to reprint, update, and correct all material published. It allows for cheaper storage and sharing and is being improved upon daily. Yes, as with all change there is resistance and new problems that need our attention.

But we must turn our attention instead to investing in alternative sources of energy. Websites can be run off servers that are solar- and wind-powered. There’s no wait time needed for this transfer from fossil fuel-produced electricity to wind and solar power. Large wind farms and solar plants already exist. While these changes in energy consumption may seem trivial in terms of finances, they are stupendous in terms of our need to drastically reduce our carbon footprints.

I don’t know why the publishing industry resembles a doctor who won’t take her own advice. It seems like such a foolish waste of our human capital, along with the planet’s. Hanging onto the past by denying the present is a terrible business model. We have all the means necessary to correct this if we plan on remaining in a sustainable future.

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