Kindle math

By Murray Bourne, 15 Mar 2009

The Kindle is a “wireless reading device” from Amazon.com. As their blurb says:

Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper.
Buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute.
More than 245,000 books available
Top U.S. newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post
Top international newspapers from France, Germany, and Ireland

Kindle
I’m no fan of reading books on a computer screen, but the Kindle’s “e-ink” is much more eye-friendly and is very easy to read, even in bright sunlight.

The big plus for me is that the Kindle promises to save on paper use. Newspapers are huge paper guzzlers and face it – how much of each newspaper do you actually read? What percent of each edition ends up on landfill, or worse, burnt?

According to GreenLiving in Are e-books an environmental choice?, reading on a computer is not so green:

If you’re reading on a computer and your power comes from the fossil fuel sources that we rely on in North America, you might just be better off reading that paper in print. One study estimated that after just 10 minutes of online reading, you’re using more carbon to keep your computer on than is embodied in a print newspaper.

But devices like the Kindle use much less power than a computer, so have a smaller carbon footprint.

Electronic ink requires no back-lighting (which is the major drain on energy in most computer displays) and no electricity to display text—the display only draws power when you’re turning pages.

Kindle
That article raises some other interesting points. The green credentials of e-books are only positive when you compare new books. The greenest way to read is through second-hand books.

As newspapers lose market share (and especially advertising revenue) to online companies, here’s an idea for reducing paper use. An article in the Business Insider, Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle,

It costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.

The article gives the assumptions and math used to arrive at this result. Their conclusion?

What we’re trying to say is that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn’t just expensive and inefficient; it’s laughably so.

There will be interesting times are ahead, as the global financial crisis means many newspapers have already folded, and more to go.

What will the news industry look like in 10 years from now? I can’t see paper-based news disappearing in 10 years (not everyone can afford a US$300+ reading device, and not everyone has wireless access), but certainly we are in the midst of a dramatic shift in the way we consume news.

See the 1 Comment below.

Share this page

One Comment on “Kindle math”

  1. Li-sa says:

    Yes, I indeed doubt that reading materials online is greener than reading things in print, although in school we are often told that e-mail and doing tasks with the computer is more environmentally-friendly. ;) Now here’s quite some evidence.

Leave a comment