Friday, November 26, 2010

Which e-reader is the greenest one - Kobo, Sony, Nook or the Kindle? An holiday gift buyer's guide

Black Friday is a good time to get to the second part in our analysis of purchasing an e-reader as a gift this holiday season. In the first part we discussed the question in which cases it can be considered an eco-friendly gift. Today we try to determine which e-reader is the greenest one.

We compared 4 popular e-readers - Amazon Kindle Wireless, Barnes & Noble Nook Wi-Fi, Kobo Wireless and Sony Reader Pocket Edition. As you can see we didn't include the iPad, as even after the discounts Apple is offering now, it costs $458, which I guess makes it less likely that it will become a popular gift. The other 4 e-readers cost $100-$150, which is a more reasonable pricing for a gift.

One obstacle we had is the lack of information. Unfortunately, the only company that publishes a detailed environmental report on its eReader is Apple. Therefore some important information that can change the results is still missing and we hope it will be available soon. We believe it is the responsibility of the companies selling these e-readers not just to provide quality products, but also to be more transparent and provide customers with information on the e-readers' environmental and social impacts.

We compared the characteristics of the 4 e-readers in 11 categories. Each e-reader that won a category got 1 point. In couple of categories there were more than one winner (for example, recycling) and then each of them received one point. So without further due let's go to the results:

Kindle - 4 points for winning the categories of battery life, ability of user to replace the battery, memory (storage) and recycling.

Sony - 4 points for winning the categories of weight, ability of user to replace the battery, availability of book lending from libraries and recycling.

Kobo - 3 points for winning the categories of ability of user to replace the battery, availability of book lending from libraries and toxins.

Nook - 2 points for winning the categories of capability to loan ebooks to friends and availability of book lending from libraries.

So technically the Kindle and Sony Reader share the first place, but among the two, the Kindle has better results as the 2 points Sony Reader got for ability of user to replace the battery and availability of book lending from libraries do not actually have any environmental impacts (they are more socially-oriented, which is also important, but at the same time do not have any influence on the footprint of the device).

The full comparison can be found at

So the bottom line is this: We still know too little on the environmental impact of e-readers, but from what we do know, if you went through the test we offered last week and still thinks e-reader would be a good fit for the person you want to buy it to, then from a green point of view the Kindle is your best choice.

More resources on the e-Books vs. physical books environmental debate can be found on our website at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting Sustainable Reading!


Eddie said...

Great post... I think that this will be the hot ticket item this Christmas now that they have been tried and true!

Anonymous said...

You obviously never held, or operated, a Nook or a Kindle, or you would know that:
--the Kindle is a sealed case unit. To replace the battery, one must mail the unit back to Amazon and have them replace it for you.
How much carbon does THAT cost? And how many dollars does that cost?

-- Nook has an OPEN case. To replace the battery (something which is only going to happen every 3-4 years anyway), the owner pops open the case, unscrews a single screw, and inserts a replacement battery which she may obtain at any NEARBY B&N Store, or on the web.

Please do some actual research before you start shilling for Amazon like all the rest of the "reviewers" out there.