3 Cool Ways To Green Your Reading Habit

by heather

If you’ve started feeling painfully guilty every time you buy a new book (all those trees!), or you’re looking for thrifty ways to save money when it comes to your reading habit, then you’re in luck. I’ve got some suggestions on how you can make your book obsession a bit more eco-friendly.

I’m first looking at Swap Sites, and then we’ll be diving into the wonderful world of Kindle. Lastly, I’m looking at several sites you can download books for free. So, let’s get reading!

Fast Facts On The Trees Used To Make Books

Planet Green, a Discovery company, had these fascinating but sobering facts on the consequences of our book buying habits.

  • There is a book published somewhere in the world every 30 seconds.
  • One tree will provide enough paper for only 116 averaged sized books.
  • It takes 4.4 gallons of water to produce one book.
  • For every ton of recycled paper that’s used in a book, 24 trees are saved.

I’m not a math whiz, but when you do the numbers on this it’s mind boggling. For instance, how many trees do the major best sellers go through? I found one stat online that said a 250 page book that sells one million copies will need over 12,000 trees.

And, that’s just for that one title.

So, it’s easy to see why buying brand new print books might not be the greenest option. In fact, after finding those stats out I’m not sure I can walk into a bookstore and look at it in the same way ever again. Sigh.

Anyway, we’ve got some eco-friendly options here: Swap sites, the Kindle, and free downloads. Let’s start with book swap sites.

What The Heck Is A Book Swap Site?

A swap site is an online community of users who swap books (or cds, or dvds) with each other to keep from having to buy them brand new. They’re frugal, green, and pretty exciting (after all, who doesn’t love getting free books in the mail?)

Swap sites are only for books you don’t want back. After all, you’re mailing your books out to people who can keep them, or swap them with others if they want. You’ll never see it again once you send it out.

Here’s how it works: on the swap site, you list all the books you’re willing to give away. Next, you make a wish list of books you’d like to read.

The site then starts searching for you. They locate people who want to read the books you’ve got, and also find others who have the books you want.

Most sites work on a point system. That is, for every three books you mail out to someone else you get one point. Most books cost one or two points. This is going to be different on every book swap site, of course, but that seems to be the average from what I found online.

And that’s it. You mail your book out to someone, and get a book from someone else in return. All you pay for is the postage. Everyone benefits.

Swap Site Resources

Think you’d like to try using a swap site? Here are a few to get you started:

How I Greened Up My Own Reading Habit With A Kindle

I love books. I was an avid reader as a kid, and am an avid reader as an adult. This means that my library used to be completely and utterly out of control. I don’t know how many books I had (I never really did a master count), but it was a lot.

Since I fell in love with micro home living last year, however, I realized that 95% of my book collection was going to have to go. After all, if you’re living in a home that’s less than 500 square feet there’s just no room for hundreds of books.

So last year I began the heart-wrenching, emotionally traumatizing process of donating most of my books to the Carnegie District Library in Howell.

It’s been a long process, and I’m still not done. After all, if you love books then you know how difficult a process like this can be. I didn’t know about swap sites until just a few months ago, so I was unable to utilize that amazing resource. On the upside, however, my local library got the books, so I’m happy about that.

So, how have I greened up my own reading habits?

Well, I’m definitely not buying new books, that’s for sure. Now that I’m aware of just how many trees and energy go into producing one brand new book, I’ve sworn off new bookstores for good.

Instead, last summer I invested in a Kindle.

Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device

Why The Kindle Is A Great Investment

Let me start out by saying that I love my Kindle. In fact, love might be an understatement. I adore my Kindle.

There are several reasons why buying a Kindle is a good idea if you’re looking to go green.

The first is the obvious one: you no longer have to buy paper books. You’re not using any resources to support your reading habit. All books are delivered wirelessly to your Kindle, which means no more trees will die because of your obsession. For me, this was a huge, huge perk to investing in a Kindle.

Secondly, the Kindle stores 200 books. This means if you’re interested in micro home living, or simply saving space in general, you don’t have to worry about not having anything to read because there’s no room for your library. All you need is your Kindle. Also, it’s important to realize that the Kindle stores 200 at a time. You can actually have more stored in your Amazon account or on your laptop. You can take them off or put them on your Kindle at any time.

Thirdly, depending on your reading habits, a Kindle can be surprisingly frugal.

I know, I can see your eyes popping from here. Yes, the Kindle is $359. And in today’s economy, I know that’s a steep price tag. But if you love reading older books, like the classics, then you can get some great bargains. Over the long term, a Kindle will probably pay for itself.

To prove my point, here are my last five purchases that I’ve made on my Kindle:

  1. Les Miserables- Victor Hugo $.99
  2. The Awakening- Kate Chopin $3.96
  3. Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte $.99
  4. The Secret Garden- Francis Hodgson Burnett $1.50
  5. The Princess Bride- William Goldman $6.40

Almost all the books available on Kindle, even the new releases, are less than $10. And the classics, as you can see, are often less than $2.

Reading the classics is what I love best, so for me I’m saving money buying them through my Kindle. And unless Stephanie Meyer comes out with a part 5 to add to my current Edward Cullen, “Twilight” obsession, I won’t be buying many, if any, brand new books.

Note to Stephanie Meyer: Please oh please come out with a Part 5…

Green Your Reads With Free E-Books

Think you can’t get something for nothing anymore? Think again. There are several ways you can get free books online, if you know where to look.

My favorite is Project Gutenburg. They’ve got over 27,000 titles online, free for the download. Here’s my master list of free book download sites:

Last Word

Books are completely wonderful. After all, where else can you spend one day living the life of a 12-year old girl growing up on the streets of Brooklyn in 1912, and then the next day experience the life of a peasant in post-revolution France?

Books allow us all to see the world from other people’s shoes. They help us develop empathy and compassion, and take us to places we’d never get to see otherwise. They open up the world, and all the mysteries it has to offer.

It is possible to love books, and read them voraciously, without harming the environment at the same time. I don’t know where the future of books is heading, but if I had my guess I’d put my bets on digital formatting. It makes sense in every way; it’s cheaper, takes up far less space, and doesn’t use resources to produce.

The downside? Digital formatted ebooks lack the romance that a traditional paper book holds. I know all too well the distinct pleasure of curling up with a hefty book and a soft blanket. It’s a luxury I’ll never be able to fully give up.

The Kindle comes close to recreating that intimacy between reader and book. I still feel “connected” through my Kindle, a connection that is completely lacking when I read a book on my laptop. But, that’s just me.

I hope the resources I’ve put out here at least give you some options for greening up your reading habit. After all, one less book bought by thousands of people really adds up!

Republishing Policy:

Like this post? Great! You’re welcome to reprint anything that’s posted on TheGreenestDollar.com, as long as you link back to the original article. Please see my Republishing Policy for more information.

{ 14 trackbacks }

Posts about Ebooks as of February 26, 2009 | Sixways - Ebooks
February 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm
3 Cool Ways To Green Your Reading Habit
February 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm
3 Cool Ways To Green Your Reading Habit | buy-amazon-kindle2.com
February 26, 2009 at 1:41 pm
Welcome Smart Spending Readers! | The Greenest Dollar
February 27, 2009 at 9:44 am
Weekend Roundup: Books Edition | smartfamilytips
March 1, 2009 at 7:54 am
All Things Eco Blog Carnival Volume Fourty Two | Focus Organic.com
March 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm
Diary of a Smart Chick » Post Topic » SmartChick at the Blog Carnival: Green
March 17, 2009 at 11:04 am
Greening Your Reading | Real Words
March 17, 2009 at 9:44 pm
Paperless future with Amazon.com's Kindle? - Greener People
May 6, 2009 at 1:00 pm
Kindle…the iPod for reading? : Birmingham Recycled
May 7, 2009 at 2:08 pm
Cheaper Living Tips: Free Book Clubs | Thrive: Good to Grow
May 15, 2009 at 8:34 am
Amazon Kindle Product Review | The Greenest Dollar
June 11, 2009 at 6:55 am
mp3 audio books
July 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm
Are Kindles Greener than Regular Books? « Pragmatic Environmentalism
January 20, 2010 at 8:22 pm


acorn February 26, 2009 at 11:41 am

Also check out BookCrossing: http://bookcrossing.com/

Aya @ Thrive February 26, 2009 at 12:46 pm

In my attempts to be frugal I’ve stopped buying books altogether and have become a loyal library-goer. But the library has it’s drawbacks, especially because I’m not a fast reader and I like to take my time, but also because I’ve always liked owning books I love.
BUT! So many trees! I’ve considered a Kindle, but it might be that I haven’t looked into enough, but I haven’t decided if it’s a good investment (if it has the types of books I want to read). Your entry definitely made me reconsider it again, but even if I don’t get it, I’m definitly going to look into those swap sites.

THANKS! good post 🙂

DJ February 26, 2009 at 1:54 pm

I’m a very quick reader… does the Kindle slow you down? That screen looks so tiny that it might only hold a paragraph or two.

heather February 26, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Hi DJ,

I have the first Kindle, and there about a one second delay between pages. I’m a quick reader too, but I haven’t been bothered by this. The screen holds about 3 hefty paragraphs at a time.

Apparently they’ve quickened the refresh rates in the Kindle 2, so I don’t think this is a problem anymore.

One of the best features to the Kindle that I forgot to bring up is the fact that the screen is simply amazing. There is no glare at all, even when you’re reading outside in the sun, and it’s actually easier on your eyes when you’re reading in bright light than a paper book.

Hope that helps!

heather February 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm


Buying a Kindle is definitely an investment. The biggest reason why it’s got such a hefty price tag is because of the screen, which is nothing like a traditional computer screen.

It really does look more like paper, and as I said in my comment to DJ, there’s no glare at all. If they could make laptops with a screen like that, we could all easily work outside in the sun. Bliss!

Anyway, as you can tell I really do love my Kindle, and consider it money well spent.

Thanks so much for writing in!

DJ February 26, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Yes, thanks!

I’ve been so tempted by the Kindle. Which is odd, because I’ve always had kind of a horror of e-books, because of how much I love the way a real book feels, smells, etc.

But the Kindle seems to be as close to perfect a reader as I can imagine. Except for the price tag. ; )

Ally J February 26, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Great post. Based on your feedback, I think I could be a Kindle convert. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, but I agree that there’s nothing better than curling up with a book.

Kathryn February 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Another great source for free and low cost ebooks is


They have their entire catalog of Science Fiction and Fantasy available for download, including new releases for about $6. Baen also has a Free Library, with over 100 books available in a multitude of formats, including Kindle ready.

heather February 27, 2009 at 12:09 pm


Thank you so much for writing in with that link! I hadn’t heard of that one, but I’ll add it to the list.

Beth @ Smart Family Tips February 28, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Another great post, Heather. I’ve been on the fence about the Kindle, too, but you may have swayed me. I’ve become a huge fan of the library, but I find there are many books I’d like to read that our library doesn’t have.

AP Newton March 2, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Excellent post. I’ve linked to it on our site.

Katie Graczyk May 7, 2009 at 8:39 am


It was an interesting read and I enjoy your writing style! My problems with the Kindle, like many I’m sure, are that it doesn’t have that curl up on the couch factor and I also like (and would miss!) the smell of books! That being said, I do feel its an interesting concept and I can see a lot of the merits it has. Very informative and something I’d consider when I finish my degree and could (hopefully!) afford one!

Ichi May 25, 2009 at 6:09 am

This is so true. I don´t have space for my books anymore. I live in an average flat and have literally thousands of them.

I a currently trying to find out if there is a device which is eye-friendly like the Kindle but works with the free books on pdf downloadable from the web.

Could anyone give me some advice, please? Thank you!

heather May 25, 2009 at 7:50 am


The cool thing about Kindle is that you can email documents to yourself. But, I don’t think you can email .pdf yet, which is kind of a shame. Although, given that so many documents are in .pdf format I would imagine that Amazon is working to fix this.

As far as another device that can handle .pdf, I really don’t know. My only idea is to buy a very small laptop, like the Dell Mini, and view them that way. My husband has a Mini, and I can tell you that the Kindle screen is much, much easier to read off of.

Good luck in your search!

Comments on this entry are closed.