There is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone pays somewhere. So it is with books. They provide us with knowledge and enlightenment, but that edification comes with a price. The U.S. book industry emits over 12.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, or approximately 8.85 pounds of carbon for the average book (.89 lb). Much of this (~63%) is a result of forest losing their biomass carbon store. Such is the finding of joint research conducted by the Green Press Initiative and Book Industry Study Group (BISG).
They published their research report Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry. It will set you back $195, or you can see the highlights in a PDF, to read up on the good and bad news from the industry.
BISG tell us that book industry organizations consume roughly 1.2 million tons of varying grades of paper per year, but are interested in improving their environmental impacts. Aside from increasing their use of post-consumer content (see chart above) companies are said to be actively investigating reducing their overproduction and making sure that unsold books are pulped (instead of landfilled). We also read that they are moving to lower weight papers where possible, as well as ‘maximizing’ FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified or equivalent fibre in their papers. ::Green Press Initiative, via Environmental Leader.