The carbon footprint of one e-reader is estimated to be approximately 168 kg. That’s a lot! Toxic materials (zinc, for example) are used to produce e-readers, and such devices need to be properly disposed of and processed so that they do not create e-waste, which is already a problem. E-readers also need to be charged, and home electricity, for the most part, comes from coal-fired power plants, which are one of the dominant sources of greenhouse gases.
One paper book creates 1–7 kg of СО2, and if the paper comes from a responsible, certified resource (that is, the producer cuts down specially grown trees and immediately plants new ones), then everything is super! However, the print ink may contain toxic components.
Still, for books, you don’t need to mine minerals or materials to create the product, and everything is easier with books. On the other hand, books are often mailed, which also causes additional СО2 emissions from diesel transportation.
For an e-reader to “cover” its carbon footprint, you would need to read 100–200 e-books. If your e-reader contains electronic ink, then it consumes energy very economically, and you only need to charge it once a month or so.
Remember that it is necessary to ensure proper disposal of e-readers. Otherwise, they will contaminate the soil and water.
We are all for making informed choices because there is always a chance of harming nature. If you, for example, plan to donate or sell paper books after reading them, then choose paper books. The same with e-readers — if you appreciated all the cons and pros, then make the choice consciously.