Design for the Environment/Alternatives To Traditional Book Publishing

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Today, books are an essential and crucial part of everyday life. The book is a symbol of knowledge and as an artifact represents investments – in the form of the author’s time, the publisher's capital and nature's trees used in paper and pulp mills. They provide us with a means of storing information that would otherwise be forgotten. For centuries, conventional books have been printed on paper derived from virgin materials. With the millions of books printed and in circulation today (3.10 billion unit sales in 2007 alone [1], ), the major concern that comes to mind is the impact of paper which is used for creating these books. About 17% of total world's wood consumption is caused due to paper production [2]. This is a major environmental concern as trees are the major sources of CO2 sinks in the world. With the increasing awareness on global warming, newer cleaner alternatives to the traditional methods of publishing books are being considered.

The first alternative considers replacing printed books with e-Books in the effort to reduce the dependence on paper. The development of e-Books and e-Book Readers is still in its infancy. This is a niche product only accounting for 3% of the market share [3]. These e-Book Readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader allow users to download and read books on a sharp resolution screen which closely resembles paper [4].

Fig.2: Certification from the USDA present on all books printed using Soy-based Inks

The second alternative considers publishing books using recycled paper and bio-degradable ink as opposed to using all virgin materials. Due to initiatives such as the Book Industry Treaties on Responsible Paper (Appendix 5) [5] the number of books printed on recycled paper has increased to 6 million in 2000. Compared with producing a ton of paper from virgin wood pulp, the production of one ton of paper from discarded waste paper used half as the energy and half the water required for convention paper production. It results in 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution, saves 17 pulp trees, reduces solid waste going to landfills and creates 5 times the number of jobs. (Source: Earth Care, 1988) [6].

All the analyses performed in this report are targeted towards a proposed client, who in this case is a typical university student in Canada. It is assumed that the student is enrolled in a 4 year engineering program (BASc) and is taking 5 courses per semester. It is also assumed that each course requires one course-related book and the student purchases all the books required for the duration of 4 years.

Project Information[edit | edit source]

Section 01, Group A15:

Jaiganesh Rajasekharan (DFE_Group_A15)

Pradyumna Challa (Praschalla)

Anand Krishnan (Anandk)

Kabeer Girme (Kabeer.Girme)

Highlights and Recommendations[edit | edit source]

EIOLCA[edit | edit source]

The EIO-LCA was performed on each of the three alternatives to analyse their individual environmental impacts. The environmental impact of the product was broken down into four categories: Air pollutants, Green House Gases, Energy Usage and Toxic releases. Each alternative is ranked from the best (3 points) to the worst (1 point) based on their environmental impacts in each of the aforementioned categories. The alternative with the highest points is the most environmentally friendly option based on EIOLCA. Fig. 3 shows the overall EIOLCA rankings of the three alternatives based on their environmental impact in each category. According to EIOLCA, Traditional Books are the most environmental friendly option as they are scored the highest, followed by e-Books and then finally Eco-Friendly Books.

Fig.3: Alternatives rankings based on EIOLCA

SLCA[edit | edit source]

According to the SLCA ratings in Table 1, Eco-Friendly Books are the most environmentally friendly alternative while e-Books are the least environmentally friendly. Traditional books are ranked second, doing considerably better than e-Book Reader. Eco-Friendly Books are ranked the highest primarily because they printed on recycled paper using bio-degradable soy-based ink. On the other hand, traditional printed books have received a lower score because they use virgin materials and are printed using petroleum based ink instead. Books are ranked the lowest mainly due to the processes that take place during pre-manufacturing and manufacturing and lack of methods to dispose/recycle the product safely.

Table 1: Summary of SLCA Ratings for the 3 Alternatives

Alternative Ranking
Traditional Books 58
Eco-Friendly Books 47
e-Books 83

Cost Analysis[edit | edit source]

The life cycle costs are calculated for the purpose of weighing the potential environmental benefits associated with an alternative to its costs. Fig. 4 presents the total life cycle costs of the three alternatives being considered over the assumed lifespan of 4 years. According to the Fig. 4 in the long run, it is cheaper to buy and e-Reader than to buy printed books. Over the lifespan of 4 years, the e-Reader + e-Books end up cost only $1,108 whereas a student choosing Eco-Friendly Books options pays almost double the price ($2,135). Therefore based on a purely economic stand point, e-Book Readers are clearly the preferable choice, followed by traditional Books and finally Eco-Friendly Books.

Fig.4: Life cycle costs of the three alternatives.

Recommendation[edit | edit source]

We recommend using the traditional book publishing as the method of publishing books for the following reasons. Traditional books scored the best in EIOLCA, indicating that it is currently the most environmentally friendly option. Although Eco-friendly books are made from recycled paper and bio-degradable ink, the process used the make the recycled paper – pulp mills is a very polluting and energy intensive process – and therefore pollutes more than traditional books. In terms of life cycle costs, traditional books are a lot cheaper than Eco-Friendly Books but are still more expensive than e-Books. However, from the societal analysis, it was seen that most people would consider buying an e-Books only if they were 40+% cheaper than books. Given that the average cost of the traditional books are $1,712, e-Books would have to be priced at US $900 and lower for majority of the population to consider buying it. However, e-Books + e-Readers are currently priced at $1,108 thus making traditional books the preferable choice again.

Functional Analysis[edit | edit source]

Functional Unit[edit | edit source]

It has been assumed that the function of 40 books is fulfilled by 1 e-Book Reader. Therefore all the analyses in the article pertaining to the baseline and the first alternative is done for a 1,000,000 books and all the analyses for the second alternative for 25,000 e-book readers.

Traditional Books[edit | edit source]

Fig.5. Life Cycle of a Book

The flow chart (Fig.5.) shows the life cycle of a book. These different processes are classified into five stages, namely Pre-production, Production, Delivery, Use and Disposal in the table below.

Table 2: Classification of all the processes involved in the life cycle of the book into five stages

Five Stages Processes Invovled
Pre-Manufacturing Timber Harvesting, Pulping, Paper Manufacturing, Ink Manufacturing
Manufacturing Book Publishing
Distribution Transportation
Use Book Maintenance
Disposal Recycling

To further define the scope we have considered the following:

  • Average cost of a new text book in the United States college book store is US$ 53 [7] for the year 2006-2007.
  • Therefore the average cost of a book in 2008 dollars is US$ 56.60 [8].
  • The publisher of these textbooks on an average incurs a cost that is 57.6% of the average price [9].
  • It has been assumed that 100% of the books produced from virgin materials are recycled.
  • It has also been assumed that the reader reads the book during the day and thereby utilizes sunlight as the only source of energy to read the book.

e-Book Reader[edit | edit source]

Fig.6. Life Cycle of an e-Book Reader

The flow chart (Fig.6.) shows the life cycle of an e-Book Reader.

E-Book Readers are being considered a viable alternative to paper. The main advantages of e-Book readers are their portability and the convenience of having multiple books on a single device. Furthermore, the user can instantly download e-books [10] highlight paragraphs, cross check material from other books and read in the dark. The primary disadvantage of the e-Book Readers is the potential environmental costs in the production and disposal stage along with the high initial cost ($300) [11].

Eco-Friendly Books[edit | edit source]

In the case of Eco-Friendly books, they are assumed to be made from 100% recycled paper. As opposed to the traditional system, the ink used is soy-based and is bio-degradable. Also, it is assumed that the paper used can only be recycled once and therefore 100% of books produced using this method end up in land fills at the end of their life. It has also been assumed that the reader reads the book in natural sunlight and thereby is not using significant electrical energy during its use stage.

Fig 6.1. Life Cycle of an Eco-Friendly Book

Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Analysis[edit | edit source]

Conventional Air Pollutants[edit | edit source]

Traditional Books

Power Generation and Truck Transportation sectors in that order contributes the most of the total NOx emissions released during the life cycle of a traditional book in addition to Power Generation topping and Truck Transportation sectors topping the SO2 and CO emissions categories respectively.

e-Book Reader

The major air pollutants are SO2, CO and NOx. Of these, the maximum SO2 was produced by the power generation and supply sector while the maximum CO and NOx were produced by the e-Book Reader manufacturing sector.

Eco-Friendly Books

The major air pollutant released by the industry is Carbon Monoxide and the largest contributor is Pulp Mills.

Fig.7: Comparison of the amount of conventional air pollutants produced by the three alternatives.

Greenhouse Gases[edit | edit source]

Traditional Books

Power Generation, Paper Mill and Truck Transportation sectors in that order contribute the most to the CO2 emissions during the life cycle of a traditional book. The release of other gases such as CH4, N20 and CFC are not significant enough when compared to the total CO2 emissions as observed in Fig.8.

e-Book Reader

CO2 is the most dominant green house gas. Power generation and supply leads to the largest release of CO2. The e-Book Reader manufacturing and battery manufacturing sectors contribute a small amount to the total impact, while the effect of the data processing and packaging sectors is almost negligible.

Eco-Friendly Books

It was found that all the sectors (especially Synthetic Dye and Pigment) have significant contributions to the GWP and CO2 emissions. This is because of the Petroleum based pigments that are used in this industry.

Fig.8: Comparison of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the three alternatives.

Energy Usage[edit | edit source]

Traditional Books

Power Generation and Paper Mill sectors in that order use most the energy consumed to publish the traditional books.

e-Book Reader

The power generation and supply needed for the use phase as well as the manufacturing phase in the life cycle of the e-book reader has the greatest energy consumption. The manufacturing stages themselves are also seen to contribute to the energy consumption while the data processing and packaging sectors are negligible.

Eco-Friendly Books

Natural Gas is used as an energy source to run the grinding, bleaching and de-inking machines in Pulp Mills and therefore count for the largest consumers of energy in the manufacture of recycled books.

Fig.9: Comparison of the energy consumed by the three alternatives.

Toxic Releases[edit | edit source]

Traditional Books

Heavy metals such as copper, zinc and nickel mining; paper mill and pulp mill sectors in that order contribute the most to the total air, land, air and underground releases during the life cycle of a traditional book. This demonstrates the disastrous effect the mining of heavy metals can have on the environment.

e-Book Reader

The toxic releases from the manufacturing and use stages are significantly higher than the rest. Battery manufacturing in particular has the greatest impact, while data processing has relatively almost no impact.

Eco-Friendly Books

Pulp Mills by far release the largest amount of toxic releases. This is expected, as this industry releases a lot of waste in the form of ink and other contaminants removed from paper, waste and unusable paper etc. The other major source of toxic releases is the similar Pulp and Paperboard Mills industry.

Fig.10: Comparison Comparison of the amount of toxic releases produced by the three alternatives.

Streamlined Life Cycle Analysis[edit | edit source]

Fig.11: Comparison SLCA ratings for Traditional printed Books.

Traditional Books[edit | edit source]

Pre-Manufacturing and Manufacturing

Traditional books get a low score in the pre-manufacturing stage because they use paper produced from the virgin material wood, in addition to using petroleum based solvents, heavy metals and synthetic dyes in the printing ink manufacturing process[12]. The processes by which ink and paper are made are also energy intensive and that is another reason for the low score in the pre-manufacturing stage. In the manufacturing stage, the traditional books get a medium range score. The main damper being that paper produced from virgin resources is being used as a raw material in the book publishing industry.

Distribution and Use

Published books need to be transported in trucks which release large amounts of gaseous residues, giving them a low score in the distribution stage. Use stage gets a 100% score given the assumption that the user reads the books in natural sunlight and does not consume any commercially produced energy.


The disposal stage of the traditional books, as assumed is recycling. As recycling is an energy intensive process and releases a lot of liquid and gaseous residues, it gets a medium range score.

Fig.12: SLCA ratings for e-Books

e-Book Reader[edit | edit source]

Pre-Manufacturing and Manufacturing

The materials which pose the greatest potential threat to the environment are the LCD screens and the circuit boards which contain minute amounts of virgin resources [13]. Other components contain virgin metals such as steel, copper (mining), lithium (electrolysis) [14], ABS (emulsion polymerization) [15]. In the production stage, lead, which is considered to be a poisonous material is used for the manufacturing of solder along with tin which is needed for the circuits. Glass along with silicon dioxide is used for the manufacturing of LCD screens [16]. The production of all these materials along with the manufacturing of the e-Book Reader which is multi-stage complex process involving e-Reader assembly, printing of the circuit board is energy intensive and leads to significant solid, liquid and gaseous residues. Due to this e-Book Readers receive a low score in the Pre-production and Production stages.

Delivery and Use

Shipping of the e-book reader is a one-time cost. Considering the long life span of the e-Book Reader, this is not the major cost of distribution. Use of the e-Book Reader focuses on charging the battery. The e-Book Reader has a charging time of 2 hours and has a life of approximately 15 hours, similar to a PDA. When compared with traditional paper, 11 hours of e-reader use along with server use and network use, equals the amount energy needed to print single paper copy [17]. Due to the relatively low cost of delivery and use, the e-Book Reader gets high overall score in this category.


The recycling of an e-Book Reader has been compared to that of a computer due to the similarity of components and the unavailability of data for the recycling for e-Book Readers in particular. The e-Book Reader contains PCBs, PCTs and other semiconductor related devices. Due to its complexity, the e-Book Reader has been given a low score in this category.

Fig.13: SLCA ratings for Eco-Friendly Books.

Eco-Friendly Books[edit | edit source]

Pre-Manufacturing and Manufacturing

No virgin materials are used in the manufacture of Eco-Friendly books. The paper is manufactured from used paper and the ink is vegetable based. The only energy used is in the transportation of paper to recycling centres and in Paper Mills to carry out the recycling process. Pulp and Paper Mills do not have any solid residues as its components are in a completely closed loop and all the inputs are re-used. However, they do have liquid residues (Manufacture of pigments and dyes) and gaseous residues (VOCs released during production)[18]. Overall, Eco-Friendly books receive a high score in the Pre-production and Production stages.

Delivery and Use

All packaging materials are made of recycled cardboard which is completely recyclable. Transportation using trucks is an energy intensive and also leads to liquid and gaseous residues. During its use, there is almost no usage of resources because, as stated earlier, the reader is assumed to be reading in broad daylight, thus ensuring that this sector is not energy or resource intensive.


It is assumed that most of these books are recycled, however a good portion of them also end up in landfills. The other sectors (Energy Use, Solid, Liquid and Gaseous Residues) depend on the lifespan of a book which is typically very long and thus result in a score of four.

Cost Analysis[edit | edit source]

The direct costs for each of the three alternatives include the capital, operating and disposal costs.

Traditional Books[edit | edit source]

Fig.14. illustrates that a publisher spends about 32.2 cents per dollar per book for printing and editing. These costs also include other costs such as warehousing, storage, salaries etc [Refer:$.pdf]. Therefore an engineering guess of the actual cost of ink and paper that is used in the book is about 8 cents per dollar per book. Fig.15. shows that the publishing cost of a book is about 57.6 cents per dollar per book. Cost of transportation is pegged at 1 cent per dollar per book. As recycling is quite similar to the pulping and paper manufacturing process[9] and as the cost of recycling also involves the cost of transportation from the consumer’s household to a recycling plant, the cost of recycling can be assumed as 9 cents per dollar per book. Therefore the total direct cost of the book is 75.6 cents per dollar per book, which equals to US$ 42.8.

Fig.15. A Pie chart that shows a summarized version of how much of a dollar’s worth of a new text book is spent on various activities. Source[3]: National Association of College Stores 2008 publication.
Fig.14. A Pie chart that shows how much of a dollar’s worth of a new text book is spent on various activities. Source[3]: National Association of College Stores 2008 publication.

Fig.16. below summarizes the direct costs involved in publishing of a traditional book. It also shows us what percent of direct costs are capital, operating and disposal costs.

Fig.16. Cost breakdown of the traditional book alternative

e-Book Reader[edit | edit source]

As mentioned before, the e-Book Reader is a niche market and data about the capital costs is not available. For the purpose of this study, the capital costs of an e-Book Reader were compared with those of an “i-phone” in order to get meaningful estimates. The cost of production of one i-phone is US $265.3 [19]. The Sony Reader takes 2 hours to charge using an AC adapter of approximately 100 watts [20]. The average cost for electricity in USA is 11c/kWh [21]. Assuming 1 charge per day for a period of 4 years, the total number of hours of charging would be 2920. The energy consumed would be 292 kWh. Hence the total operating cost of an e-Book Reader would be US $32.12 for a period of 4 years. Servers needed for the storage of e-books consume 300W of power [22]. Each server has a huge storage space [23] (in terabytes) and contains a very large number of e-books, much greater than the 40 books required by the student. By performing same calculations as before, the total operating cost of one server is US $1156.32. This cost cannot be attributed to one e-Book Reader due to the capacity of a single server. It costs an average US $110 to recycle an old PC [24]. Based on the size of the e-Book Reader, it is assumed that it takes 1 / 10 this cost which is US $11.

Eco-Friendly Books[edit | edit source]

Even though recycled books have the potential to cost more due to the production of vegetable and soy based inks, eco-friendly books have strived to stay in the same price range as traditional books by sticking to paperback editions where hardback editions could have been published. Since we assume that these books are made up of mostly recycled paper (more than 60%) which results in 100% of these books being disposed through landfills[25]. The total disposal cost of one book is considered to be $0.039 (by considering a cost of $25.80 per Cubic yard * 0.0015 cubic yards)[26]

Calculation of Capital Cost of an Eco-Friendly Book[edit | edit source]

Average Consumer Cost of a textbook: USD 120.00 (Total Direct Cost)[27]

Net Unit sales of University Publishers in 2006: 31.4 million

Total Capital Costs = USD 6.630 Billion

Total Sales over time span of 4 years = 125.6 (31.4 million books/year * 4 years)[28]

Capital Cost per Eco-Friendly book= USD 52.78[29]

Societal Analysis[edit | edit source]

Fig.17: Percent price of printed book at which people would consider spending on an e-reader

One of the major issues encountered in the debate of e-Books vs. printed books is the people preferences to reading text over a screen. The purpose of this analysis is to compare people's preferences of reading from a physical book to that of an e-book. A survey was conducted consisting of 17 engineering students at the University of Toronto. In general, majority of the people prefer reading from printed books over e-books. The results of the survey show that 29.4 % of the people would always buy books regardless of the cost of the e-Reader while only 11.8% of the people would always buy e-Reader regardless of its cost. The results also indicate that most people would consider buying the e-Reader only if it is priced at 41-60% the price of the printed book.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Annex 42, “Residential Cogeneration Systems: A review of Current Technologies” [Online Document], June 2005, [cited 2008 Mar 24], Available HTTP: Residential _Cogen_Technologies.pdf
  2. General Mill Supply Co., “Recycling Paper”, [Online Document], 2007, Available HTTP:
  3. Christopher Mims, “Are e-books an environmental choice?” [Online Document], 2009, Green Living Enterprises, Available at HTTP:
  4. Mark Lennihan, “It's Easy Being Green: How to Be a Greener Reader” [Online Document], February 25, 2009, Available at HTTP:
  5. Book Industry Treatise on Paper, available at HTTP:
  6. The Greenpeace Guide to paper by Renate Krosea
  7. Source: National Association of College Stores. This Number has been obtained from –
  8. “$24304285.71 in the year 1997 has the same ‘purchase power’ as $30528000 in the year 2006”. – Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, "Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2008," MeasuringWorth, 2009. URL:
  9. Source: National Association of College Stores. This number has been obtained from –$.pdf
  10. For information about the Amazon Kindle, please visit:
  11. For information about the Sony Reader, please visit:
  12. To see what materials are used in ink manufacturing please visit Table.7 on page 17/38 of the printing ink manufacturing report published by U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU. It can be obtained at
  13. For information on recycling of electronic waste:
  14. [30]
  15. <For information on Lithium, please visit:
  16. Christopher Mims, “Are e-books an environmental choice?” [Online Document], 2009, Green Living Enterprises, Available at HTTP:
  17. Mark Lennihan, “It's Easy Being Green: How to Be a Greener Reader” [Online Document], February 25, 2009, Available at HTTP:
  18. Source: Printing Inks - Recent Developments by Andrew M. Wells
  19. US Census Bureau – Available at HTTP:
  20. “$24304285.71 in the year 1997 has the same „purchase power‟ as $30528000 in the year 2006”. – Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, "Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2008," MeasuringWorth, 2009. URL:
  21. Kenneth Brill, “Understanding the True Cost of Operating a Server”, [Online Document], November 2008, Available at HTTP:
  22. Drew Robb, “Storage Capacity Planning: What's Enough and What's Too Much?”, [Online Document], May 8, 2007, Available at HTTP:
  23. Estimated costs of electricity has been obtained from:
  24. Stephen Leahy, “ENVIRONMENT: Where That ”Recycled” E-Waste Really Goes”, [Online Document], November 14, 2008, Available at HTTP: %E2%80%9Drecycled%E2%80%9D-e-waste-really-goes/
  25. Green Living – Available at HTTP :
  26. US Census Bureau – Available at HTTP:
  27. Source: The Greenpeace Guide to paper by Renate Krosea
  28. Source: Book Industry Trends 2007
  29. Source: Book Industry Treatise on Paper, available at HTTP: