More than 40% of all books ordered by book stores, big and small, are returned if they are not sold within weeks or a few months – an anachronistic, outdated sales model. These books go either to rummage tables at book sales and might find a buyer or they go directly to landfills. Same with magazines. Not environmental-friendly? Read on:
“One eReader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals. That includes trace amounts of exotic metals like columbite-tantalite, often mined in war-torn regions of Africa. But it’s mostly sand and gravel to build landfills; they hold all the waste from manufacturing wafer boards for the integrated circuits. An eReader also requires 79 gallons of water to produce its batteries and printed wiring boards, and in refining metals like the gold used in trace quantities in the circuits. A book made with recycled paper consumes about two-thirds of a pound of minerals. And it requires just 2 gallons of water to make the pulp slurry that is then pressed and heat-dried (lots of electricity) to make paper.”
Then there are other issues to compare: fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, health concerns, toxic impacts, reading costs, disposal etc. See an article by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris, http://danielgoleman.info/2010/04/04/e-reader-versus-book-the-eco-math/
After reading 40 to 50 books on your eReader, e-book reading is starting to become more environmental-friendly than book reading. But the most ecological way to read a book starts by WALKING to your local library.