Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is going green really worthwhile for authors?

The post this week on James Kaela, who is going to ride his bike for 1900 miles in 40 days to promote his new zero emissions book reminded me of the last piece missing in our series on the green future of the book industry - the one about authors.

Yes, just like publishers and bookstores, we believe authors can be a significant force in moving the book industry ahead toward a sustainable future. Just think about J.K. Rowling and the role she had in making Harry Potter so green (including
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which was called the greenest book in publishing history).

It's true of course that not every author has the power J.K. Rowling had (she for example blocked the Finnish version of Harry Potter no. 7 from being printed on local paper because it lacks the ecological FSC certification), but on the other hand it doesn't mean that authors are powerless unless they're best-sellers. Authors can make a difference, whether they're called Margaret Atwood or James Kaela.

But the (maybe) more interesting question is whether green choices are better for authors? When we talked about the future of publishers and bookstores, we made an argument that making greener choices in their cases is not just great for the environment, but also has a strong business case. Is this the case with authors?

We believe that although such a move won't necessarily generate benefits to authors in all cases, there's still enough evidence to support the assumption that going green is worthwhile to authors. Here are couple of examples:

1. Greener choices receive positive media mentions, which help to spread the word about the book and promote it. The book tours of Margaret Atwood and James Kaela are good examples.

2. Making sure your book is printed on recycled paper or FSC-certified paper can get the author a warm endorsement from NGOs, like in the case of RAN that published a list of
25 children’s books that are “rainforest-safe.” All books on the list are printed on post-consumer recycled, FSC certified or recycled paper, allowing parents the assurance of knowing that their childrens’ books are not contributing to the loss of Indonesia’s or other endangered rainforests.

3. Print On Demand (POD) not only reduces waste and books' footprint, but also gives authors (and publishers) a way to save money. Though not suitable for every author, in a future, where
Smashwords's Mark Coker estimate that "most authors will be indie authors", this is certainly a win-win solution for many of them.

4. Creative green ideas can generate more sales - Even just using the Internet and
social media networks for marketing instead of more traditional off-line marketing channels with greater carbon footprint is a win-win solution, generating usually better ROI and reduced environmental impacts.

5. Diversifying to other forms of publishing such as e-books might prove itself as another way of generating sales while reducing the book's footprint. Of course, as we say every time, we don't know yet how green e-readers really are, but from what we do know, we can definitely assume that they will come a more solid green alternative in the near future.

Given the relatively easy and cheap process of creating an e-book, it should be a good way for authors to go green while generating more sales from the growing numbers of readers who like to read their books on screens instead of paper.
These are just couple of examples. We're sure that there are plenty more. In all, we believe that the future of authors is no different from the future of the book industry, meaning that they go through the same trends.

These trends no matter how you look at them are either already green (POD, online marketing) or will be in green in the near future (e-books). What I like about these trends is that you don't necessarily have to be green to utilize them, but no matter what is your reason, both you and the environment will benefit. We do believe nevertheless that authors that will also know how to position themselves as "green" authors will even benefit more.
What do you think? We'll be happy to hear your thoughts!

Here are the articles we published so far in our series on the green future of the book industry:

Why should the book industry go green?

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

Read more about JK Rowling wants Green Paper for Harry Potter by CreativeCloud from the UK's leading supplier of printer cartridges

Read more about JK Rowling wants Green Paper for Harry Potter by CreativeCloud from the UK's leading supplier of printer cartridges