Is e-reading environmentally more sustainable than conventional reading?
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- Jeswani, H.K. & Azapagic, A. Clean Techn Environ Policy (2015) 17: 803. doi:10.1007/s10098-014-0851-3
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Technology is changing the way we read, with printed material being replaced by electronically published text such as e-books and e-newspapers. Although digitally published texts offer some advantages over printed material in terms of cost and ease of access, it is not immediately clear whether e-reading is environmentally a more sustainable alternative to conventional reading. Therefore, this paper reviews the literature and compares the environmental impacts of the two reading alternatives, taking a life cycle approach. The review of various studies indicates that there are large variations in the impacts for e-readers as well as the printed material, mainly owing to different assumptions. Nevertheless, the results of this work indicate clearly that e-reading can only be environmentally sustainable at very high usage rates, as manufacturing of e-readers has relatively high environmental impacts.