Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Natanya by Dror Burstein is the first book in Hebrew to go green with Eco-Libris!

We're happy to announce on a very special collaboration with author Dror Burstein to green up his new book 'Natanya' - 250 trees will be planted with Eco-Libris for each print run of the book.

This is a special collaboration as this is the first book in Hebrew that is going green with Eco-Libris! As you might know, Hebrew is my mother tongue, so I'm very excited about it. We're proud to add Hebrew to many of the languages of books we worked with to green them up by planting trees, such as Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Italian and English.

This is also the first book that we work with in Israel, so there's another reason for us to be excited about.

'Natyana', the third novel published by Dror Burstein, was released earlier this month and is already available online (on this link you will find more details (in Hebrew) on the book). Even if you don't read in Hebrew, I'm sure you can appreciate the beautiful cover of the book by
Ernst Haeckel (see photo above).

Here's more information about the author:
Dror Burstein was born in 1970 in Netanya, Israel, and lives in Tel Aviv. He first became a fully qualified lawyer, then he left the legal field and started studying literature. He received a PhD in Hebrew literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2001 and now teaches there as well as at Tel Aviv University. He also edits programs for Israel Radio`s music station and writes literary and art reviews. Burstein has been awarded the Jerusalem Prize for Literature (1997), the Ministry of Science and Culture Prize for Poetry (2002), the Bernstein Prize for his novel, Avner Brenner (2005) and the Prime Minister`s Prize (2006).

You can read Dror's blog (Under the Table) at http://drorb.wordpress.com/

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A new book of Flux by the Danish Paulo Coelho is going green with Eco-Libris!

We're happy to announce on a new book that was released yesterday by our partner, the Norwegian publisher
Flux. The book is the Norwegian translation of The Seer of Andalusia, the first book in a special trilogy written by Lars Muhl, who is often compared with Paulo Coelho.

Like always with Flux, this is a green celebration -
we're proud to announce that this book, as well as all the other books published by Flux is going green with Eco-Libris, and 2000 trees are being planted to balance out this great book!

Here's more about 'The Seer of Andalusia', or as it is called in Norwegian
'Seeren fra Andalusia':

Like Paulo Coelho, Lars Muhl was for many years a successful singer/songwriter who, concurrently with his music, studied the world's religions and esoteric knowledge. Then in 1996, he was struck down by an unexplained illness, which neither doctors nor alternative therapists could diagnose. For three years he lay in bed without being able to move or think straight. Through a close friend's intervention, Lars was put in touch with a seer who, via the telephone, brought him back to life. That was the start of a completely new existence and the beginning of that quest he so grippingly describes in The O Manuscript trilogy.

About the book:
The Seer
takes as its starting point Lars’ illness, his meeting with the Seer and their work on the holy mountain of Montsegur in the southern French Pyrenees. The book is not only a spell-binding introduction to the ancient gnosis of everything’s interconnectedness, but also a critical evaluation of a long list of limiting new age dogmas. When Lars and the Seer part, the latter hands an old manuscript into the author’s care; a manuscript that, surprisingly, turns out to be a doorway to the events that take place in the following two books of the trilogy.

About the author:

Lars Muhl was born in Aarhus on November the 14th, 1950. In 1967 he was a member of the band "Dragon Five". From 1968 to 1974 he was a member of the band "Daisy". He attended The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, from 1974 to 1976. He was a member of the band "Warm Guns" from 1979 to 1984. And he worked as a solo artist from 1986 to 1999. He accepted the Price of Honour from DJBFA in 1990 and WCM's Songwriters Million Certificate in 1996.

Lars Muhl has had a great interest in spirituality since he was very young. And concurrently with his music, he studied the world's religions and esoteric knowledge. In 1999 Lars Muhl decided to stop as an active musician to concentrate fully on his spiritual interest.

Lars Muhl is now working as a healer, lecturer and writer with speciality in spirituality and alternative treatment. In 2003 Muhl took the initiative at starting "Hearts and Hands", an apolitical aid organization based on the voluntary work of various therapists. The aim is to help people who are suffering from life crisis such as cancer and stress related illnesses.

Click here for a video clip of Lars Muhl speaking about the O Manuscript.

More books from Flux:
The Living Universe

Turning to One Another

Leadership and Self-Deception

The 100-years' Targets

The 5th Step

The Integral Vision

Dyp glede (Deep Joy):
Arne Næss on deep ecology

TearSoup - A Recipe For Healing After Loss


Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

APP - good or bad? An interview with the sustainability manager of the world's most controversial paper company

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is one of the largest pulp and paper companies in the world. It has also long been a target of green groups for its logging practices.

Two latest examples include RAN's report "Turning The Page on Rainforest Destruction", where APP is described as "highly controversial Indonesian pulp and paper supplier" and Greenpeace report "How Sinar Mas is pulping the planet", where they claim that APP "is destroying Indonesia’s rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands."

As I wrote here before I also had the chance to read an interesting article on Environmental Leader of Ian Lifshitz, Sustainability & Public Outreach Manager at APP, entitled "Balancing Sustainability with Economic Development in Developing Countries – The Case Study of Indonesia", where he describes the situation in Indonesia from his point of view.

I share the concerns brought up by Greenpeace and RAN, and I also don't agree with Ian Lifshitz on some of the points he made on his article. Nevertheless, I believe in the importance of an open dialogue, especially with those whom you don't agree with. I think this is an effective way to achieve positive progress and that's why I asked Ian to interview him on our blog, an offer which he gladly accepted.

Hello Ian. Can you tell us more about your job as a sustainability manager at APP?

My role as Sustainability Manager is part educator and part advocate. As an educator, it’s my responsibility to educate North American audiences about the balanced approach developing countries such as Indonesia need to take between social and economic priorities. As an advocate, it is also my role to promote globally recognized forest certification schemes, demonstrating that companies like APP are managing their business in a sustainable fashion.

What changes have you seen at APP when it comes to sustainability in the last couple of years? What were the main drivers to these changes?

APP has a set of priorities in its sustainable development plan, which are aligned with those of Indonesia and other developing countries in Asia. These priorities cover three aspects: economic development to alleviate poverty, social welfare, and environmental protection, all of which need to be addressed to attain balanced outcomes. To this end, APP’s operations in Indonesia follow strict protocols to assess conservation values and environmental impacts in line with the laws and regulations of the Indonesian government. APP also implements and maintains stringent, rigorous, externally audited Legal Origin Verification (LoV) and Chain of Custody (CoC) systems and protocols, which ensure our pulpwood supply is sourced legally and sustainably.

In addition to operational sustainability efforts, APP and its pulpwood suppliers play a leading role in the sustainable protection of endangered flora and fauna. We collaborate on four major large-landscape forest protection programs, including:

- The Giam Siak Kecil - Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve in Riau province, Sumatra, a 172,000 hectare UNESCO-approved wildlife reserve.

- The Taman Raja Nature Preserve in Jambi province, Sumatra, a protected 10,000 hectare nature reserve.

- The Senepis Sumatran Tiger Sanctuary in Riau province, Sumatra, which include 110,000 hectares of protected tiger habitat.

-The Kutai Orangutan Program in Kalimantan.

In total, APP’s pulpwood suppliers set aside nearly 500,000 hectares for pure forest conservation efforts. No other company in the pulp and paper industry worldwide has ever implemented conservation and carbon storage initiatives similar to these on such a scale.

What's your definition for a sustainably sourced paper?

When managed sustainably, the pulp and paper making industry, unlike the fossil fuel and mining industries, is harvesting a 100% renewable, recyclable resource. The vast majority of APP’s fiber supply comes from sustainable plantation forestry, which means the trees are planted expressly for the purpose of pulp production. In fact, in Indonesia, APP suppliers plant around 200 million trees per year and, by planting more trees than are harvested, we are progressively contributing to an increase in the country’s forested area.

Plantations mostly consist of Acacia mangium, Acacia crassicarpa and Eucalyptus pelita tree species that have been selected for their fast growth and suitability to a tropical environment. These trees can be harvested after 6 years from planting, which is significantly more productive compared to trees in Northern temperate or boreal regions that can take up to 60 years before harvesting. Therefore, plantation forest in the tropics can yield the same amount of trees with a much smaller footprint, and thus smaller environmental impact, than plantations in the Northern regions.

APP’s fiber supplier’s pulpwood plantations are not monoculture, or made up of a single tree species. We use the mosaic plantation concept, which interlinks plantations with greenbelts, corridors and other conservation areas that help to ensure the protection of biodiversity and provide habitats for wildlife.

Can you tell us about the working conditions of the people working for APP in Indonesia?

In Indonesia, approximately 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas where forestry and/or agriculture are the main source of economic livelihood. APP has created more than 70,000 jobs in Indonesia and the company remains an important source of economic development in the country.

In addition to job creation, APP is committed to enhancing the communities in which we operate. During my visit in Indonesia I have seen APP deploy community-based programs including providing both land and water to local farmers, drinking water to communities during the dry season; educational opportunities through scholarships, healthcare support through subsidizing check-ups, clinics, environmental protection through conservation projects, rigorous standards at mills, and support for local NGOs.

What's your response to the agreement between Indonesia and Norway, where Norway will pay Indonesia $1 billion in return to “A two-year suspension on new concessions on conversion of natural forests and peat lands into plantations will be implemented"? How it will influence APP?

APP is committed to the sustainable development of Indonesia and is dedicated to supporting the Indonesian government and its policies of achieving its environmental and development goals.

A proposed two-year moratorium would be welcomed by APP. A moratorium, or freeze, is not uncommon in other industries worldwide, such as commercial fishing, and has a proven track record of allowing those industries to review and re-assess their sustainability issues, while allowing a period for dialogue between governments, NGOs and other third parties.

Once the final agreement between the governments of Norway and Indonesia is signed and made into law, APP will assess how it will support the objectives of this new partnership.

Last month Greenpeace published a report (Sinar Mas Pulping the Planet) that includes serious accusations against APP. At the same time, I understand that you deny any wrongdoing. This might create further confusion with the public over what is happening in the Indonesia - who should we believe here, APP or Greenpeace? Why?

To be clear, the report is unequivocally inaccurate and deliberately misleading. APP is committed to transparency, and we open our doors to credible and responsible NGOs to examine our products to understand the sustainable aspects of our raw materials and company.

Rather than investing their resources to work against us, we invite NGOs to examine our operations and work with us to seek new solutions that balance the complex and interconnected needs of the developing world. Regrettably, instead of contacting APP to have a meaningful dialogue, Greenpeace published this report, making false and misleading claims about our sustainability commitments. Below, I have highlighted some of the inaccurate claims in the report, and provide the facts of our operations.

- Greenpeace’s claim of a ‘secret’ plan by APP to increase its current pulping capacity by up to seven times, is simply false. Indonesia’s regulations require transparency for such expansion plans to be approved and supported by different levels of the provincial and central governments. Additionally, Greenpeace’s allegation is illogical since roughly an additional 20 million acres of gross pulpwood concession area would be needed to achieve the purported increase in production, yet currently in Indonesia, there is only some 14 million acres of land allocated for such plantations

- Contrary to Greenpeace allegations, APP’s pulpwood suppliers only operate on land that the government has expressly set aside for pulpwood plantation development. All of APP pulpwood suppliers’ land is subject to rigorous, multiple socio‐environment assessments, including an environmental impact assessment, as well as micro and macro‐delineation by independent third parties. This ensures that high‐conservation value areas, such as critical peatland which the government identifies as protected, remains protected.

- Finally, Greenpeace accuses APP of compromising the habitat of endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tiger. Again, this simply is not true. APP supported the conservation of261,930 acres of production forest that has been set aside by its pulpwood suppliers and other concession holder, to serve as the core of the Senepis Sumatran Tiger Sanctuary in the Riau province, a pioneering initiative that is a vital contribution to the survival of this species, not its extinction.

The Environmental Leader reported that "Several leading companies have already responded to Greenpeace evidence of the Sinar Mas conglomerate’s “illegal” environmental and deforestation practices in Indonesia and are canceling their contracts with the Indonesian palm oil and paper giant." - What's your response to this?

APP is a brand umbrella for paper products manufactured by several pulp and paper companies in Indonesia and China. APP operates independently from PT. SMART Tbk's palm oil with different entities, management and shareholders.

Despite the circulating rumours started by the GP report, overall volume of APP products to customers has not been impacted upon. Most our associates know that these rumours are unfounded.

This is not the first time when we see a pattern of a campaign of an NGO focusing on APP that is followed by big companies that stop doing business with APP (here's one example) - Did you ever try to engage with these NGOs and if you did, what was their response?

To underscore what I wrote in my original Environmental Leader post on May 28th, like any business, APP loses—and gains—customers on a daily basis and this is not an uncommon occurrence in any industry. Customers are motivated by various business decisions. By the same token, some companies are the victims of distorted campaigns by NGOs who promote misinformation about APP’s record to unfairly pressure these companies. Some of that pressure includes insisting that our customers only source FSC-certified materials, a standard that NGOs founded and arbitrarily favor, despite the existence of other recognized certifications.

Due to FSC Principles 6 and 10 that eliminate plantations developed after 1994 to be eligible for FSC certification, it is nearly impossible to obtain FSC certificated pulp and paper product in Asia unless the raw material is imported. Only 10 percent of the world’s forests are certified, and less than two percent of Asia’s forests are certified. As an alternative, APP has sought and achieved PEFC certification, a larger global certification scheme which is internationally recognized and that accounts for more than two-times as many hectares of forest as FSC.

APP is always eager to work with those NGOs and conservation groups that take an interest in exploring responsible and truly equitable solutions to the variety of challenges facing Indonesian forests and communities.

No business is perfect. There is always room for improvement. While APP is proud of its sustainability accomplishments, we are willing and eager to work with NGOs to continue making progress in these vital areas. We believe there is more we can learn from credible international NGOs and their experiences working in developed countries to build sustainability into business operations. Together we can work on crafting balanced solutions for the developing world – one that is striving to improve living standards and economic development in an environmentally sustainable way.

What's your vision for APP in 5 or 10 years from now? Is it more likely that we'll see major changes in the way you do business in Indonesia including new collaborations with NGOs, or would it be more of the same?

The dynamics of forestry in the developing world are vastly different compared to North America and Europe, and as such APP is often seen within the industry as challenging the model of the traditional pulp and paper-making companies.

APP is helping Indonesia develop a sustainable forestry and pulp and paper industry. We respect the rights and opinions of NGOs with regard to sustainability and environmental issues in Indonesia, China and elsewhere. Yet APP does not often receive the same respect in turn, APP and NGOs share many of the same objectives and we feel strongly that we can work together toward achieving our joint objectives, now and in the future.

Without question, we continue to desire to work with NGOs that are prepared to take a broad, balanced and responsible view of sustainability issues and the importance of poverty alleviation in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Is there a possibility that you will ask a neutral body to assess the Greenpeace report like Sinar Mas Group did to assess Greenpeace’s claims in the past?

APP is committed to transparency, and we open our doors to credible NGOs to examine our products and to understand how our sustainability commitments balance the complex and interconnected needs of the developing world.

Recently APP published ‘Getting the Facts Down on Paper’ a report outlining the company’s commitment to sustainability in Indonesia. This report describes how APP has been fulfilling its obligations to operate in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way. In the report we respond to allegations made by NGOs, including WWF and Greenpeace.

To further validate the report’s findings, APP worked with Mazars - an independent auditor, operating in 56 countries worldwide. The audit conducted by Mazars found that the facts contained in the APP report were accurate and, therefore, recent, allegations made by environmental NGOs were indeed inaccurate. This is of significant importance as the information contained in the APP report also rebuts the statements made by Greenpeace, their recent report and letter regarding the activities of APP.

At APP, we look forward to future opportunities to work side-by-side with members of the NGO community to develop solutions to the unique challenges of conducting sustainability efforts along with providing much needed economic development in Indonesia.

Do you think that you're losing or winning the battle on public opinion?

I don’t believe it is a win or lose scenario. There is a lot of miss-information about APP in the marketplace and we welcome the chance to help educate the public and other important stakeholders about our sustainability commitments.

I would like to thank Ian for taking the time to reply my questions and I would also invite you all to add your comments, questions and any other feedback you have on this issue.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Green book of the week: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting (and a giveaway!)

Today we have a book about one of the most significant and easy actions you can take to reduce your (food) carbon footprint.

Our book is:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting

Author: Chris McLaughlin

Chris McLaughlin is a master gardener and garden writer whose work has appeared in magazines such as Urban Farm Magazine and The Herb Companion. She also writes for several gardening websites, including Vegetable Gardener.com. She's the feature writer for Vegetable Gardens at Suite 101, and is the San Francisco Gardening Examiner at Examiner.com. Between garden writing assignments, Chris, teaches children gardening and plant science.

Publisher: Alpha

Published on: May 2010

What this book is about?
Waste not, want not.

The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to Composting takes readers step by step through the process of selecting the right compost container, filling it with the right "ingredients," maintaining the mix at the right temperature and humidity, and using the end product.

- A concise format, simplified approach, and thrift-conscious price Chris McLaughlin

- Author is a Master Gardener and an expert on all forms of composting

- Gardening has risen greatly in popularity in the last few years, with an added boost from first lady Michelle Obama, and so has composting, which is cheap, effective, and environmentally friendly

- Thousands of state, regional, and municipal programs have been developed to encourage composting and thus reduce landfill waste

What we think about it?

Following the controversial piece of Stephen Budiansky on the New York Times , entitled 'Math Lessons For Locavores', Kerry Trueman wrote an interesting reply on Huffington Post, where she quotes the New Scientist as followed:

"More energy is wasted in the perfectly edible food discarded by people in the US each year than is extracted annually from the oil and gas reserves off the nation's coastlines."

So food waste is definitely an issue, and if solution no. 1 is to look for ways to reduce this waste from the first place, solution no. 2 is to compost, which as "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting" explains reduces "the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills or dumps". As Chris McLaughin writes in the introduction to this book, "the truth is that composting is about as simple as it gets." So if you're looking for meaningful yet easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint, composting can definitely be the thing for you.

Composting has so many advantages that you're just wondering how is it that not everyone is doing it. I believe that part of it is convenience, as people find it less convenient than throw their food leftovers to the trash, and part of it is just lack of awareness of the process and how easy and fun it is. Now, the first group who looks for convenience, probably needs more than just a guide and I guess only a sort of incentives program such as RecycleBank can get them into action. The second group on the other hand will find this book very valuable.

The book itself is well-organized, written in an easy to understand language and is full of details of every related issue, including my favorite one - warms (did you know you need about 1000 warms on average to start a compost bin?). It helps to figure out step by step how to start composting and you learn everything you need to know all the way from selecting a container to using the final product. The book even gives you an idea how to use the compost as a platform to help your community. I can tell you from experience that personal composting is nice, but sharing a compost bin with your neighbors is really fun!

Bottom Line: If you ever wondered what composting is all about and if it's for you, get this book!

Disclosure: We received a copy of this book from the publisher.


We're giving away our review copy of this book, courtesy of the publisher.

How you can win? Very simple. All you have to do is to add a comment with an answer to the following question: What you like most about composting (or if you're not there yet, what do you think you'll like most when you'll start)? We will have a raffle on Monday, August 30, 5:00PM EST between all the readers that will add their reply. The winner will be announced the following day.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dear Jeff Bezos - Part 2: I get a disappointing answer and try again!

Couple of days ago I wrote to Jeff Bezos, explaining to him that I'm considering to buy the Kindle but I first want to know more about the Kindle's environmental and social impacts.

I wrote Jeff Bezos that my request is very simple:
Please make sure the Kindle is as environmentally and socially friendly as possible and share the information about your efforts with me and other interested stakeholders. You can read the whole letter here.

Couple of days went by and I received a reply. Well, not from Jeff, but on his behalf. Here it is:

Hi Raz,

I'm Valari Parmenter of Amazon.com's Executive Customer Relations. Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and asked me to respond on his behalf.

We’ve carefully reviewed your concerns and understand you feel strongly about this issue. We require our suppliers to be in compliance with all applicable manufacturing laws to sell on Amazon.com.

I'm happy you're also concerned about properly recycling Kindle. Amazon.com recognizes the importance of recycling electronic equipment at the end of its useful life so we’ve created a recycling program for Kindles and Kindle batteries. All Kindles sent in for recycling will undergo material reclamation by a licensed recycling facility and Amazon covers all the costs associated with shipping and recycling. For more information about this program, please visit the link below:


We value all feedback from our customers, and I thank you for taking the time to send us your comments about this issue. Although we won't be able to comment further on this topic, we hope you'll allow us to continue to serve you.

Thanks for your interest in Kindle!


Valari C Parmenter
Executive Customer Relations

It won't surprise you that I was a little bit disappointed with this reply. Although Valerie discouraged from continuing this dialog, I decided to reply and be more clear and specific. Maybe it's my fault and the request wasn't understood. So here's my reply to Valari:

Hi Valari,

Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it, but I'm not sure I received an answer to the main concerns I brought up, which were:

1. What efforts Amazon is making to ensure the Kindle is as environmentally and socially friendly as possible?

2. When will Amazon publish the Kindle's footprint and share information about it with its stakeholders?

E-waste is becoming an increasingly important issue (even the EPA is making it now a top priority - http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/08/18/epa-chief-cites-e-waste-as-a-top-priority/), so I appreciate the information on your recycling program, but I was wondering what Amazon is doing to incentivize its customers to recycle their Kindle devices besides making the recycling program available?

I look forward to hearing from you.


Now we need to wait. I hope to hear from Valari soon. In any case I'll keep you posted!

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eco-Libris is collaborating with Pubmission, online submission manager for publishers and writers

We are happy to announce on a new collaboration with Pubmission, a great new online service for publishers and writers. With every ream of paper that Pubmission saves, they will plant 5 trees with Eco-Libris.

Pubmission is offering a very valuable and green service, taking the submission process online and makes it more manageable and proactive for publishers and writers.

Pubmission can't guarantee publication, but they can save you time, frustration, and unnecessary slush-pile suffering. (And they spare a few trees, too, not to mention the new ones they plant with us).

Wolf Hoelscher, the founder and owner of Pubmission, has 13 years of experience in the publishing industry, most of it as a senior editor or an acquisitions editor at both print- and web-based companies. He’s also a writer well-acquainted with the challenges posed by the submission process. As he has been on both ends of the slush pile, he is well-aware of how inefficient, unfair, and frustrating manuscript submissions are for writers, agents, and editors.

For more information about Pubmission, check their website at http://www.pubmission.com. You can also follow them on twitter and facebook.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The future of bookstores - business as unusual, local solutions and positioning for success

Three articles I read in the last couple of days reflected three different perspectives on the present situation and the future of Independent bookstores:

1. Business as Unusual - I learned from Publishers Weekly last week that NYC indie bookseller McNally Jackson will be getting an Espresso Book Machine, which prints POD books while you wait, by 2011.

Why this is business as unusual?
The New York Observer explains:

Currently McNally will order a book for a customer if a desired copy is not on hand. With the EBM, the store would be able to print one out right there. Buyer John Turner sees the machine as a way to expand inventory. It also reduce
s the hassle and wait time associated with ordering books by request.

The idea is very simple - adding a tool that can provide readers with the capabilities of Just In Time (JIT) inventory that is even better comp
aring to what they can get when buying over the Internet, as it's faster and might be also cheaper.

The Espresso Machine is not a killer app, but it's certainly an important addition to brick and mortar bookstores that want to compete in the digital age and meet the needs of readers that are shaped by the speed and the easiness of the Internet.

2. Looking for local support - Portland Tribune had an article about the challenges booksellers in the city are facing ("Booksellers face the E-challenge"). Portland is well known for its love for books and bookstores. According to a study mentioned in the article, per capita Portland had the eighth most bookstores in the nation.

Booksellers who were interviewed for the article talks about their difficulties because of "a rocky economy and the rise of E-books." The booksellers in Portland understand there's a need in change, but not sure what to do - Sellwood bookstore owner Karin Anna says for example that “I think we will have to change. How to do it is the question.”

Their direction though is very clear - looking for support of their community. Roberta Dyer, co-owner of Broadway Books in Northeast Portland, explained:

“There are certainly fewer of us (local bookstores) than there used to be. Those of us who have weathered the storm so far have found support from the community and in our little niche in the neighborhood. We have a loyal customer base.

The only problem is what you do to not only keep this base, but also to increase it. It's very clear that no matter how supportive the people in the community are, they will have increasing temptations to use other channels for their book purchasing, whether it's because they start reading e-books or they look for cheap deals online.

Prof. Charles Heying, a Portland State University professor of urban studies and planning, whose book “Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy” will be published in October by Ooligan Press, said in the article that "People here [in Portland] still appreciate the touch and feel of a book" – but is this enough? can bookstores in the city rely on it? I am not sure.

I believe looking for answers locally is the right way to go, but bookstores in Portland, as well as in other places, need to redefine their business model and provide more value to their customers to keep their business thriving. And by more value I don't mean more of a good feeling, but real incentives.

Couple of weeks ago I suggested here a model that will provide bookstores customers with both personal monetary benefits and the feeling that they're contributing to the prosperity of their own community. This model is based on creating a collaboration with other local businesses to enable these businesses to provide customers with discounts for each other.

This is just one example, but I believe that many more models can be developed on the basis of a win-win strategy that will provide customers with more than just appreciation to their local bookstores. Appreciation and even connectivity, which Prof. Heying talks about, might be good for now, but definitely far from being enough as the customer value proposition of independent bookstores for the near and long-term future.

3. Positioning for survival and success - Jolie Bosman reported yesterday on the New York Times ("Bookstore Arrives, and Sides Are Taken") about a new bookstore, Books & Books, that recently opened its doors in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., stirring animosity in a town that already had an independent bookstore.

The article is presenting the questions whether there was a room in this little town for another bookstore, when the older one, the Open Book, is already struggling. Right now, it seems that the two indie bookstores are in sort of a fight between them, which is of course bad for both. Don't get me wrong - competition is good, but fight is bad. In this situation, it may well be that as one of the residents there, James Kramon, predicted, both stores be here a year from now.

So what's the solution? Positioning. If there's a room for two bookstores in Westhampton Beach, it will be just if both will be positioned differently. If both bookstores will offer the same products, atmosphere and buying experience than there's a good chance one or even both won't make it. But, if each of the stores will have a different feels, it can work. In times of growing challenges, both the Open Book and Books & Books should look one at another as an opportunity and not as a risk. This is their way to success.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dear Jeff Bezos, please make Kindle the greenest e-reader

I started considering buying a Kindle. I'm sure many people consider it given the latest price drop. But first I must know more about the Kindle's environmental and social impacts.

So I wrote an email to Jeff Bezos and see if he can help me here. I want to share it with you because I hope many more readers who share the same concerns will write Bezos about it, so he'll know that customers and potential customers really care about these issues. So you're more than welcome to email this text to Jeff Bezos at jeff@amazon.com.

I promise to update you once I receive a reply. In the meantime here's the email:

Dear Jeff,

I'm considering to buy the Kindle and I've got a request from you.

First, let me tell you I really like you and appreciate everything you have done so far to promote book reading. In 1994 you founded Amazon.com and revolutionized online bookselling. You changed the book industry forever. Now you can do it again.

My request is very simple: Please make sure the Kindle is as environmentally and socially friendly as possible and share the information about your efforts with me and other interested stakeholders.

I know you look at the Kindle a more than just a business. You look at it as a mission. You said it yourself to Fortune Tech:
"We think of it as a mission. I strongly believe that missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it's not just about the business. There has to be a business, and the business has to make sense, but that's not why you do it. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you."

This is great, but could you please add a "green" dimension to your mission?

I mean, I know you care about what customers say and you want to take their feedback into consideration to make the Kindle the best e-reader. You told Charlie Rose that people want "
purpose built device, where no tradeoffs have been made, where every single design decision as we walking down the process has been made to optimize for reading." That's true. But I really wish you would add the word "sustainable" just before "reading".

For me, no tradeoffs mean not just better screen, but also making sure no blood minerals are used for the Kindle, that it doesn't contain harmful and hazardous substances, and that it is made in a safe working environment,
where environmentally responsible manufacturing processes are used and workers are treated with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes.

No tradeoffs also mean to me that you're doing the best you can to make sure Kindles will be recycled by users when they stop using them and that you will publish the Kindle's carbon footprint on a regular basis to show your progress.

Yes, I know you don't like to publish figures on the Kindle sales. But this is different. This is about transparency and about showing your customers that you care not just about business, but also about the environmental and social impacts of the e-reading revolution you're leading.

I don't want to sound like a paranoid, but I'm a bit more worried when I read Ron Adner's analysis on Huffington Post that
you have "drawn a clear line in the sand indicating that when it comes to digital reader devices, the company will focus on low-end, dedicated products." Adner explains that margins of the Kindle expect to decrease to zero. His conclusion is that " it means the company can stop heavy investment in developing reading devices, and instead focus on its clear competitive advantage: selling books." It's definitely reasonable from a business standpoint, but does it mean that there won't be a place for environmental and social considerations in the design/manufacturing process of the Kindle?

Jeff, I hope you can prove I'm worried for nothing. I hope you can show that you are interested in making the Kindle the greenest e-reader in the market. Not just because it's important for planet earth, but because it is important to me and to a growing number of readers who want to make their reading more sustainable.I believe you can lead another revolution here, bringing the mainstream not just a device that provides the opportunity to 'buy once, read everywhere,' but also a truly sustainable way to read books.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another reason to mooch books at BookMooch!

We wanted to remind you of our partnership with BookMooch, a great book-swapping community, with a simple and user-friendly point system, where every time you give someone a book, you earn a point and can get any book you want from anyone else at BookMooch.

With more than 74,000 members from over 90 countries and about 500,000 book titles that are available, there's always a good book you can mooch. Once you've read a book, you can keep it forever or put it back into BookMooch for someone else, as you wish. And yes, it's totally free. You only pay for mailing your books.

BookMooch and Eco-Libris are partnering to offer Green Mooching - a special bonus for bookmoochers who balance out their books: For every 10 books you balance out with Eco-Libris, you will receive one bookmooch point you can then use at BookMooch to mooch a book online for free (and If you don't have a BookMooch account yet go get one right now :)

The process is very simple – Email us your BookMooch username after you make a purchase on Eco-Libris website, or enter your BookMooch username in the comments box during the payment process. We will credit your BookMooch account accordingly.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

5 comments on "Quick Change in Strategy for a Bookseller"

There's an interesting article on the New York Times today by Julie Bosman about the problems and the unclear future of Barnes & Noble.

Here are five thoughts on the issues she brings up in the article (each comment starts with the relates quote from the article):

1. “The shift from the physical to the digital book can pick up some of the economic slack, but it can’t pick up the loss that is created when you don’t have the customers browsing the displays,” said Laurence J. Kirshbaum, a literary agent. “We need people going into stores and seeing a book they didn’t know existed and buying it.”

Laurence Kirshbaum is right regarding the importance of exposure - a survey of Zogby International for Random House from 2008 (The Reading and Book Buying Habits of Americans) shows that although most people know what they want to buy when they go to bookstores, they're still likely to buy more books that they didn't plan to buy in advance.

Here's the data from the Zogby survey:

Do you very often, somewhat often , or not at all often go into a bookstore knowing exactly what you’re looking for?
Very often 38%
Somewhat often 43
Not at all often 17
Not sure 2

When you go into a bookstore for a specific book, do you ever make additional unplanned book purchases?
Yes 77%
No 19
Not sure 4

Nevertheless, this added value is also provided today by many online channels, not to mention recommendations on books you find while searching Amazon or other online stores. I know it's not the same as browsing the displays, but still I'm not sure how much the decline of brick and mortar stores will actually hurt our ability to get exposed to new books we haven't heard about before.

2. "Whoever ends up in control of Barnes & Noble’s 720 retail stores will have to grapple with the fundamental changes in the industry — and if the shift to e-books continues, prove that Barnes & Noble can be as successful on the digital side of bookselling as it has been for print."

I believe being successful on the digital side of their business is the easier part. The real challenge for whoever runs Barnes & Noble is to find how to make their brick and mortar bookstores an asset for the company and not a liability that will drag the company down.

"William Lynch, the chief executive, said in an interview on Friday that the chain was retooling its stores to build up traffic, add products like educational toys and games, and emphasize its own e-reader, the Nook. “We think we’ve got the right strategy,” Mr. Lynch said. “The growth in our e-books business is about nine months ahead of our plan.""

What is exactly your strategy for the brick and mortar bookstores, Mr. Lynch? I certainly hope it's not just selling more toys and games and promoting the Nook. This won't be enough to sustain these stores.

4. “I’m in favor of anything that brings traffic in the store,” said Ms. Reidy of Simon & Schuster. “If it’s toys or games that brings a family into the bookstore, then I say fine.”

I am not sure how toys and games will bring more significant traffic to the stores, when these are already competitive markets with many established brands (Toys "R" Us for example) and a growing online market. I'm really skeptical if B&N can re-establish themselves as a games and toys preferable store that will attract enough customers to compensate for those who stopped coming because they buy books or e-books online. My suggestion to B&N? go for a green strategy!

5. "In a twist straight out of the movies, some publishers speculated that many of the independents that survived the big chains over the last 15 years might be in an unusually stable position... “Being small and privately held allows us to be more nimble,” said Chris Morrow, owner of the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt. “Our competitive advantage has been the curation aspect — knowing our customers and picking the right books"

Being small and independent has its own advantages and disadvantages. The problem is that many of B&N's fundamental problems (online sales, shift to e-books, recession) are the same problems independent bookstore are dealing with. What I'm saying is that independent bookstores also need to develop a strategy to succeed in the long term, no matter how good or bad B&N will eventually do.

My suggestion?
Couple of weeks ago I suggested here a model for independent bookstores that will provide customers with both personal benefits and the feeling that they're contributing to the prosperity of their own community. This model is based on creating a collaboration with other local businesses to enable these businesses to provide customers with discounts for each other.

More articles on the future of bookstores can be found at http://www.ecolibris.net/bookstores_future.asp

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Green book of the week: Green Morality by Edward Flattau (including an interview with the author)

This week our green book is "Green Morality: Mankind's Role in Environmental Responsibility"
by the renowned environmental columnist Edward Flattau.

This book, with a title that looks more relevant to our life than ever, will be released next month, but was already described as “an easy-to-read must-read for all who love our planet and want to know the truth about what is happening to it." (Alex Shoumatoff, contributing editor and veteran environmental correspondent)

Published by Los Angeles independent social issues press, The Way Things Are Publications, “Green Morality” analyzes manmade global environmental atrocities supporting a theme that environmentalism must become a universal moral imperative to avert long-term environmental destruction. Flattau discusses topics ranging from corporate and industrial environmental immorality to failed public policies, and corrupt or immobilized political leaders. The book advocates a re-alignment of modern society’s value system and economic infrastructure in order to avert environmental destruction and create an environmentally and economically sustainable society.

After reading "Green Morality", I find Shoumatoff's description very accurate and I decided to ask the Flattau, who is the nation’s longest running syndicated environmental newspaper columnist with 40 years in the industry and columns in more than 120 daily newspapers, for an interview to learn more about his thought provoking book. Luckily he agreed and I have the pleasure of sharing it with you.

Hello, Ed. What inspired you to write this book?

Frustration at our failure to learn from the lessons of the past. The environmental problems of today are by and large, not new and solutions were developed decades ago. They were frequently not implemented then and the same holds true now. There is also my frustration at the partisan paralysis that has rendered our politicians virtually incapable of meeting their moral obligation to current as well as future generations. It is appalling to see how we are shortchanging future generations.

In the section about "the good", there seems to be a little about technology and a little about personal commitment and individual success stories. Is there really that little good in the larger environmental movement or the politics of sustainability?
Perhaps the most optimistic environmental development is the increased widespread public awareness of the threats to the planet’s ecology. Whether that translates into effective action across the board in time to avert irreversible harm is yet to be determined. Still, as I mentioned in the book, many corporations have become enlightened about incorporating efficiency and sustainability into their operations.

Biomimicry is far more than a passing fad as more and more people in all walks of life realize that to make nature an adversary rather than accomplice is a losing proposition. A voluntary simplicity lifestyle is sprouting up around the nation and there are an estimated 750,000 households off the grid and self-dependent on solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy. One of the most hopeful trends of all is the greater environmental sensibility of our younger generations, thanks in large part to new progressive curriculums in our educational institutions.

You focus on consumption as a major barrier to upholding our moral imperative of conserving the earth. Changing consumption patterns is considered to be almost an impossible task in the affluent developed world. What do you see as the most important steps on this issue,and how fast do you think it could change.

A crucial step in changing our pattern of conspicuous consumption is to elevate quality over quantity. Durability and a high level of performance should be valued over volume and rapid turnover of possessions. Recycling should be routine and planned obsolescence totally discredited. Conservation should enjoy more prestige than consumption, and frugality should gain favor with the realization that it is not tantamount to deprivation. We are beginning to see this sea change in American society, but to get it up to proper speed, we need political leaders bold enough to show us the way, and up to now, there have been powerful few of those.

How would you suggest addressing the consumption gap in the developing world? isn't there a parallel moral imperative to enable them to catch up with the rest of us? what are some of the ways we could do that and at the same time protect the environment?

Addressing the consumption gap in the developing world will require us to set an example by adopting a sustainable lifestyle that provides the basic comforts of life without destroying the natural resources on which all living things depend. If we provide that existence as a goal, when the developing nations do approach our standard of living, they will spare the earth in the process. Setting an example for them means our placing an emphasis on conservation, quality over quantity, recycling and reuse over planned obsolescence, and health over profit (not in place of profit, mind you). Those values will provide a comfortable standard of living while leaving the earth’s life support system in tact.

What do you hope that your readers will take away from your book?

I hope readers will embrace the moral values referenced in the book not only in words but in actions. I also hope they will be convinced that we do have the capabilities to meet the formidable environmental challenges of the 21st Century.

You suggest political inaction on environmental issues is inherent to the long term nature of environmental issues because dealing with these issues doesn't offer any immediate results that can be translated to political gains. Other than building up public support for environmental issues, what could be other incentives for politicians to get more involved?

Our politicians could escape the trap of catering to immediate voter gratification by translating future threats into more compelling terms, namely through references to the pocketbook. Identifying environmental consequences of inaction in huge dollar and cents costs rather than scientific abstractions would win public support faster and in greater numbers. Our leaders could also set an example with their own personal behavior.

Could you share your thoughts on the recent BP oil spill? it seems like many of the themes of your book apply here. There is political inaction (at best), corporate greed, and mixed popular debate. Can we really expect corporations like BP to avoid accidents like this one?

The BP spill is a classic case of where health (both human and environmental) should take precedence over profit, and tragically did not. For this moral precept to prevail, there must be strong regulation that is strictly enforced, and hopefully that will be the case in the post BP world. Gulf Coast residents were caught between a rock and a hard place.

Because of jobs, they were beholden to an oil industry that at the same time was destroying their environment (carving up their wetlands with shipping channels). Moreover, the use of oil and gas is a one time proposition, whereas the fisheries and tourism damaged by the spill are infinite sources of income if the natural resources on which they depend are responsibly managed.

Indeed, as much income as the oil industry generates for the Gulf region, tourism and fishing produce more revenue. The way out of this trap for Gulf coast residents is to gradually phase out oil drilling and replace it with renewable energy industries. Louisiana politicians have historically been derelict in diversifying the energy economy, given the handsome largesse that the oil industry has showered on them.

What was some of the feedback you received on the book and is there another in the works?

So far, the reviews have been extremely favorable. For the moment, I am just continuing with environmental commentaries. As far as future books are concerned, it’s possible I might take a crack at how President Obama met his formidable environmental challenges, assuming a compelling story line develops.

Thank you, Ed.

Edward Flattau blogs on The Huffington Post and posts news and updates on Twitter and on Facebook.

The book will be available next month, but you can already pre-order it at http://waythingsarepublications.com/?page_id=84

Disclosure: We received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting Sustainable Reading!