The Environmental Impact of E-books at Boston College Introduction Electronic books (E-books) are becoming a significant proportion of scholarly literature used for research at top universities like Boston College. The environmental impact of this change is not well understood and having this information would be useful to Boston College’s libraries as they continue to collect scholarly literature for student research. An E-book is defined as a piece of digitally formatted scholarly literature, including journals, article collections, and other peer-reviewed texts that are didactically written and only accessible by membership to a database. Methods Juliette Denis Allegra Donadio Mimi Klein In addition to understanding the environmental impact of E-books and their increased usage at Boston College, it is important to understand the needs and wants of the student body. The researchers created a 15-question survey through the online platform, SurveyMonkey, to assess the general consensus on campus, and distributed it to 72 undergraduate students across all four years and four schools within Boston College. We also gathered data regarding student printing habits at Boston College and noted the university’s library inventory of paper books, E-books and E-readers (Apple iPads). Research Questions 1. What are the environmental impacts of E-books and are they greener than paper books? 2. Do Boston College students prefer to use E-books or traditional paper books? 3. Should Boston College Libraries invest in more E-books? Literature Review 25% 50% = 10 students 75% 100% Figure 2. Percentage of professors who don’t allow electronics Survey Results The print industry involves the consumption of raw materials, The most significant findings revolved around format preference, E-book usage, and professor habits. We found that paper production, printing, shipping, transportation, and disposal. Between 25-36% of books printed do not sell and are 76% prefer to print and read E-books rather than use digital copies. 75% of students use library resources more than returned to publishers to be disposed of. This industry twice per semester, but less than half of the respondents had annually consumes 125 million trees, produces 153 billion ever used an E-book more than twice. Despite this low gallons of wastewater (78 more times that of E-readers), and number, 95% of students at least somewhat recommend that the average book produces between 4-7.46 kg of GHG. BC Libraries invest in more E-books. We discovered that 99% of students have had at least one professor who banned electronics in class during their time at BC (Figure 3). Producing E-readers involves a similar supply chain of material, manufacturing, distribution, reading, and disposal, with the two main E-readers being iPads and Kindles. iPads and Kindles release 130 kg of GHG and 168 GHG in their lifespans. Thus, if an iPad user reads between 17.5-32.5 books and a Kindle user reads between 22.5-42 books, then they will have offset the total carbon footprint of their device. Figure 3. Projected change in CO2 Emissions due to global E-reader sales Figure 1. Printed Books Offset by E-readers Table 1. Boston College Library Inventory Data Results Recommendation Figure 4 indicates that there has been a consistent and general Boston College Libraries should continue to invest in E-books and E-readers (iPads). They are more environmentally efficient increase in annual printing in O’Neill Library. From 2011 to and provide students with the convenience and ease of 2014 the total pages printed increased from 3,063,435 to accessing information from their personal laptops or tablets. To 4,036,296. In addition, O’Neill Library houses significantly address student and faculty preference for hard copies, we more paper books (2,286,576) than E-books (528,311) and recommend faculty inform students of the environmental more paper books are checked out than iPads. The university implications associated with printing and paper books versus plans to invest in more iPads in the future. When these iPads electronic texts. Faculty should utilize the online Canvas are taken out of circulation, librarians keep a few around in submission site, rather than request hard copies of assignments case they need extra or they donate them to various and should be dissuaded from banning electronic readers in organizations on campus including the Montserrat Program. class. There should be a library informational event as a part of freshman orientation that introduces and explains all of the 3.41 3.56 4.04 library’s E-literature resources, including iPad lending. Administration should reduce the number of free printing 3.06 pages from 500 to 100 pages to reduce printing numbers. Conclusion 2011 2012 2013 2014 Figure 4. Total number of pages printed in O’Neill Library from 2011-2014 = 1 million sheets of paper Data Analysis The increase in printing from 2011 to 2014 could be explained by the fact that many professors require students to hand in hard copies of assignments. The fact that students check out more paper books than iPads means that they either prefer paper books or are unaware that the library lends iPads. Because the library recirculates and donates it’s old iPads, the E-readers and therefore E-books used at Boston College are environmentally sound, especially in comparison to paper books. E-readers are convenient and provide users with easy searchability, while conserving library shelf-space. Boston College Libraries increasing their E-reading selection follows a global trend towards digitalization. This trend condenses the availability of physical books altering the role of libraries on campuses as places to socialize or work, rather than research or take out books. This shift to screen-reading results in a loss of tactile and responsorial senses that aid in absorbing and comprehending information. E-readers also offer convenient searchability, correlated with both positive and negative study habits. The student preference to print is the greatest challenge to the environmental soundness of E-reading, so without reductions neither paper books nor E-books will result in greater environmental efficiency. Acknowledgements We would like to thank the immeasurably kind and responsive mentors Sally Wyman and Enid Karr as well as our advisor Tara Pisani-Gareau for their continued help throughout this project.