THE ECO BOSS PROJECT

An experiment in conscious living.

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Save Trees, Read Books

What’s the best way to get your novel fix without destroying a forest? And how many trees does it take to make a Harry Potter book anyways? While it’s certainly less than a copy of War and Peace, it’s still too many. The world’s forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate and standing in line for the latest hardback isn’t going to help the problem. Books, in many cases, could be considered disposable objects. They grace our nightstands for a few days or even hours; most are read once or twice in their lifetime spending most of their existence dwelling on shelves as dust collectors. A live tree, by comparison, cleans the air and soil, provides oxygen, offers shade, and helps fight erosion.

There are a number of modern resources out there that allow you to satisfy your literary cravings minus the wood chipper, including the electronic book reader or e-book. This technology provides access to downloadable reading material via the World Wide Web without the pollution normally caused by the manufacture and distribution of books (The publishing industry produces over 12 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.). E-books also allow you to easily organize an entire library within a single lightweight device. No need for bookmarks either, re-open an electronic book or document and it takes you right to where you last left off. As if that weren’t enough, you also have the ability to look-up words as you read via a built in dictionary.

The downside? As with all electronic devices, purchasing an e-book means adding to the tons of e-waste that currently pollutes many poor communities around the world. And with sharing being the best way to green any reading habit, restrictions put on the limited use of a downloaded content are another drawback. So once again, it’s a matter of balance. Read on for more information to help you make the best choice for your lifestyle:

ELECTRONIC BOOK READERS

Apple iPad. Last to arrive on the scene, but first on every Mac groupie’s list, the iPad is definitely more than an electronic book reader. Features a 9.7-inch LED-backlit Multi-Touch display, offers up to 10 hours of battery life and allows its user to enjoy just about everything offered on iTunes, including “iBooks” and over 140,000 apps. Bonus, this gadget is free of arsenic, mercury, BFR, PVC and is “highly recyclable.” The iPad will be available in late March for $499.

Amazon Kindle. The Kindle comes with access to over 400,000 “digital” books, plus it gives you access to newspapers, magazines and popular blogs. All your daily reading in one little device. Enjoy 30 hours of uninterrupted reading per battery charge. Expandable memory is available if needed but shipped, the Kindle is capable of storing about 200 books, periodicals, personal files, and more. Best of all, the Kindle utilizes new electronic paper technology which means the screen reflects light like ordinary paper does. No more backlighting that’s harsh on your eyes and you never have to worry about the sun glaring on your screen. The device costs $259 while the cost of e-books runs about $10 for newly released, best sellers and $2 for your old favorites.

Sony Reader. The Reader plugs right into your computer via USB cable. You can download text documents and PDFs; it even plays music. Good for about 20 hours of reading. This device boasts e Ink technology that is similar to the electronic paper technology used in the Kindle. It makes reading the digital screen eerily similar to reading a paper page in a book or magazine. The Reader can hold up to 160 e-books which you can choose to read in one of three font sizes, on a six inch display. Also features a slot for optional removable memory cards. To download a new book, plug the Reader into your PC and choose one of the one million titles available at the Reader Store. Pick one up for $300 and fill it with your favorites. E-book prices vary.

AUDIOBOOKS

Audible. If you don’t have time for reading or are like me and retain information “told” to you rather than what you’ve read on a written page, give audiobooks a try. You can download these digital audio files to your computer, MP3 player, iPhone, Amazon Kindle and more to enjoy on the go. Audible is perhaps the most comprehensive audiobook resource, containing over 60,000 titles to choose from. AudibleListener memberships start at $14.95 per month.

iTunes. By now everyone knows iTunes. Use this PC and Mac friendly program to download music, videos, podcasts, audiobooks and more onto your computer or mobile device. Prices for audiobook downloads vary. If you already have iTunes, just click on the audiobooks category in the iTunes Store to shop.

BOOK RENTING

BookSwim. If you just can’t imagine reading your favorite novels on a digital screen and value cuddling up with a real paperback, say hello to book renting. You don’t have to run out to the bookstore for a new read, just browse BookSwim’s online selection and choose the ones you are interested in. They’ve got over 30,000 books (including textbooks) to choose from. You can even choose to buy the ones you really, really love. Book rental plans start at just $9.95 per month. Plus, no late fees so take as long as you want to finish that old classic and there’s no additional shipping or other costs, just your monthly membership rate. It’s like Netflix, but for books.

BOOK SWAPPING/TRADING

Zunafish. This is a book-swapping program which is a little involved but, if you have the time it’s worth a try. Basically, you post books you are done with, choose books you want (which other users offer), and then the site helps you arrange the exchange. No membership fees, you pay $1 per trade, that’s it. At Zunafish you can trade more than just books, it’s a hub for all types of multi-media trading.

Swaptree. Similar to Zunafish, these guys specialize in swapping more than just books. Bring your old books, music, DVDs, and video games, load ’em up to their site and see what you can get. Swaptree’s online program does all the legwork for you by arranging swaps that you either approve or decline. Each trade request will be e-mailed to you so there is no need to check the site on a daily basis. The service is free but I’m pretty sure shipping is not. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye but once you get your account set-up it seems pretty easy.

Bookins. This site allows you to trade books and DVDs with other Bookins members. No bidding, no negotiating, just a simple, moderated trade. The membership is free; you just pay $4.49 per trade which probably goes toward paying for the free postage you can print online.

LIBRARY

Library. Yeah, it’s old school but these things are still around and are constantly being updated with new material. They’ve even updated the system by integrating online features like e-book and audiobook borrowing. Libraries are environmentally friendly and socially just. They make books, periodicals, and even Internet access available to everyone, including those who couldn’t otherwise afford to read books. Make sure you have a valid Hawai`i State Public Library card to access their physical and digital (online) inventory of books and resources.

GREEN BOOK DESIGN

Cradle to Cradle. Another approach to saving trees is cradle to cradle book design. For those of you who have read and held the book Cradle to Cradle, you know what I mean. This is a concept in which there is no waste, no end cycle. Instead, in this case, the book is made entirely out of the same plastic-like material (pages, cover, everything) that can then be melted down and reincarnated into volume two.

BOOK OFFSETS

Eco-Libris. Although there are a number of places that you can go to plant trees as off-sets, only Eco-Libris plants trees to off-set books. If you absolutely have to buy a brand new, freshly printed book then think about spending an extra $5 (that’s the minimum) to help re-forest the Earth.

If you value this column and want to include it in your own publication, contact Keana Okuda for syndication rates at content(at)theecoboss.com.

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