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Why a Kindle Is the Greener (and More Community-Minded) Choice

When I gave my TEDx talk on the benefits of minimalism the audience totally resonated with the overarching theme of my message. But to a person, they all had one driving concern.

?What about books?? they wanted to know, with a poorly masked look of terror on their face.

Letting go of their books was an unfathomable concept to them. Apparently holding an actual book lends a whole different experience to reading. I don?t get it, but given my ?less is more? lifestyle I guess I?m not really in a position to comment.

Still, I don?t believe it’s a good enough reason to hold onto?books. There are exceptions, of course, such as beautifully photographed coffee table books or?dog-eared recipe books covered in flour and tomato sauce (or, is that just me?).

But when it comes to paperbacks, I?m less inclined to empathize. Let me explain.

Books and the Environment

If you?re on the fence about whether to stop buying paper books and use an e-reader instead, then perhaps this will sway you.

A 2006 study found that the US book industry consumed approximately 30m trees in a single year. Of course, producing a Kindle also takes a toll on the environment, but the more books you read on it the more you offset those emissions.

More and more publishers are moving towards sustainably sourced paper though, so if you are planning to buy a book be sure get one that carries the FSC logo. That said, given the rate that we?re losing forests due to urban creep,?perhaps?we shouldn’t be so quick to cut them down.

Okay, so how do you save the trees and still keep reading real books??There are two routes you could go here.

Join a Library

The first is to go old school and join a library. (I know, how very eighties of me.) Regardless of how state-of-the-art it is, you?re bound to find something on the shelves to appeal to your reading tastes. Plus, because you?re not actually paying for the books, you can be a little more risky in your choices. If you don?t like a book, just return it and take out something else.

Spread the Love

The second option is to buy the books you want and then, once you?ve read them you can donate them to your library, a school or an old age home, for example. Most libraries have a wishlist of books they?d like to see on their shelves, so you could check in with them first.

A lot of people struggle with the challenge of letting go of books. In my experience it?s usually for one of two reasons. They either think it?s a waste because they spent their hard earned cash on the book or the story really resonated and they somehow feel that by holding onto the book, they?ll hold onto the story as well.

If you fall into the first group, then donating the book when you?re finished reading it is a win/win. Ultimately, your money will have a far greater impact than it would have if the book remained on your shelf at home.

However, if you?re inclined to keep the book because you loved the story then I?d urge you to donate it to a library close to you. That way you can borrow it back and reread it whenever the mood takes you.

Books and Clutter

It might be difficult?at first, but if you take it slow and remember the good you?re doing by donating them, it will get easier. One approach is to start by identifying the books that spark joy and set those to one side. Knowing that you?re keeping at least some will make you feel more at ease about the task.

Remember, books take up space and they?re heavy. If you?ve ever moved with boxes of books, you?ll know what I?m talking about. Do yourself a favor and unclutter your bookshelf now, your back will thank you.

7?Awesome Things About a Kindle

1. You can read in the dark

If you buy a Kindle with a backlight you can read in bed without disturbing your partner. This feature also comes in handy if?the electricity goes out or when?you?re camping.

2. You can take as many books as you want on vacation

Picking just a couple of books to take with you on holiday is tough. What if you?re not in the mood for the ones you chose or worse, you made a bad choice and the story isn?t nearly as thrilling as the book jacket led you to believe?

3. You have access to a world of books

If you want a new book, the only thing you need is wifi and you can connect to Amazon?s storefront and browse to your heart?s content. As an added bonus, you can download a sample first to see if you like the book.

4. Giving Indie authors a leg up

Nowadays, a lot of emerging writers only publish their work on Kindle. This means?there are countless gems that you?d never have known about if you didn?t have a Kindle. Plus, you?re helping these guys get their work out into the world.

5. Moving house is a breeze

You may well own hundreds of books, but all you have to do is slip your Kindle into your laptop bag and you?re done moving them. How easy is that?

6. Look Ma, no hands!

You can balance you Kindle on your lap, leaving your hands free for important stuff like drinking hot chocolate and munching?on Oreos.?(I’m not the only one who snacks and reads, am I?)

7. They’re easier to clean

Okay, obviously if you spill the entire contents of your coffee cup directly onto your Kindle things aren’t going to look too good. However, cleaning greasy fingermarks and cookie crumbs is a breeze.

What Does Watching TV vs. Reading a Book Do to Your Brain?
7?Books to Read For Spiritual Growth
20 Ways to Reuse Old Books

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Why a Kindle Is the Greener (and More Community-Minded) Choice

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Why You Should Read More Paper Books This Year

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Why You Should Read More Paper Books This Year

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Amazon Must Be Stopped – Sort Of

Mother Jones

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Enough of this cancer nonsense. Let’s agree and disagree with Matt Yglesias today (not that I’m comparing him with cancer, mind you).

First off, the disagreement. In the current issue of the New Republic, Franklin Foer pens a righteous rant against Amazon as an evil, marauding monopoly that needs to be crushed. It warmed the cockles of my heart, since Amazon’s almost Luthor-like predatory strategies against startup competitors leave me cold. That’s one reason I choose not to do much business with them. But legally? I may not like the way Amazon went after Diapers.com, but let’s face it: they’re nothing close to a monopolist in that space. Yglesias is right that in most of their business lines they should be left alone. Walmart and Target and Google and a tsunami of aggressive startups will keep them plenty busy.

However, there’s an exception: e-books. Yglesias has no sympathy for big book publishers, and he has a point. These are pretty gigantic companies in their own right, and although I suspect he gives their business practices short shrift in some important ways, there’s not much question they often seem pretty antediluvian. But this goes too far:

It is undeniably true that Amazon has a very large share of the market for e-books. What is not true is that Amazon faces a lack of competition in the digital book market. Barnes & Noble — a company that knows something about books — sells e-books, and does so in partnership with a small outfit called Microsoft. Apple sells e-books and so does Google.

Amazon has a huge share of the e-book market, and pretty much everyone—including Yglesias, I think—believes that Barnes & Noble is only a few steps from the grave. Unsurprisingly, Nook funding is in free fall. Sony has exited the e-book market and Kobo isn’t far behind. Even Apple, as mighty as it is, has only a tiny market share after several years of trying.

In theory, this is a great opportunity for an innovative startup. Startup costs are modest since there’s no physical inventory to worry about. Publishers are eager for new entrants. Maybe a smart startup could appeal to consumers with a great new e-reader concept. Or a better recommendation engine. Who knows? There are loads of possibilities. The problem is that no startup can possibly compete with a huge incumbent that’s willing to sell e-books at a loss. There’s no VC on the planet willing to fund a trench war like that.

So Amazon really does have a monopoly position in this market that it sustains via predatory pricing and heavy-handed business practices—against publishers both big and small—that might make John D. Rockefeller blush. Tim Lee pinpoints a big part of the problem:

I mostly agree with my colleague Matt Yglesias’s argument that Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers. But there’s at least one way US law gives Amazon excessive power, to the detriment of publishers, authors, and the reading public: ill-conceived copyright regulations lock consumers into Kindle’s book platform, making it hard for new e-book platforms to gain traction.

….In 1998 music publishers got Congress to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which made it a federal crime to unscramble encrypted content without the permission of copyright holders.

….While the law was passed at the behest of content creators, it also gave a lot of power to platform owners. If you buy a movie on iTunes, you’re effectively forced to continue buying Apple devices if you want to keep watching the movie. Tools to transfer copy-protected movies you’ve purchased from iTunes onto another platform exist, but they’re illegal and, accordingly, not very user-friendly.

Amazon has taken advantage of the DMCA too. Kindle books come copy-protected so that only Amazon-approved software can read it without breaking the law. Of course, software to convert it to other formats exists, but it’s illegal and accordingly isn’t very convenient or user-friendly.

And that creates a huge barrier to entry.

Aside from my general distaste for Amazon, I happen to think the Kindle app is kind of sucky. The Nook app is better, so I buy my e-books via Barnes & Noble. But the Nook app has its own problems, and you may prefer Kindle. That’s great! Competition! But I’m keenly aware that B&N is likely on its last legs, and then what? Amazon will have even less incentive to improve its reader, especially on less popular platforms.

I like competition. And it can’t be emphasized too much that the DRM issue is driven heavily by publishers, not just by Amazon. Nor is there a simple solution. Arguments of the techno-utopian “information wants to be free” crowd aside, there are pretty self-evident reasons why authors and publishers don’t want their books to be instantly available for free within a week of being published.

Nonetheless, this is a problem that begs for a solution. Partly it’s driven by DMCA restrictions. Partly it’s driven by those antediluvian publishers. And partly it’s driven by Amazon’s genuine monopoly position in the e-book market, which stifles innovation and promises to get even worse in the future.

So sure, leave Amazon alone in most of its business lines. But in e-books? Nope. They’re a monopoly in every sense of the word, and they use predatory practices to stay that way. They may offer cheap books, but in the long run it’s vibrant competition that truly benefits consumers. Regulating Amazon would hardly solve all our e-book problems—far from it—but it would be a start.

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Amazon Must Be Stopped – Sort Of

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