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E-book readers: a greener gift? 12/10
(This article is adapted from the December 2010 Consumer Reports magazine.)

E-book readers are expected to be a hot gift item this year. 13 percent of shoppers are planning to pick one up, according the Holiday Shopping Poll conducted by Consumer Reports—that’s up from 4 percent last year.

Most current models have black-and-white, e-ink screens. But newer models, including the Nook Color from Barnes and Noble, have color LCD screens—the screen technology that's found in most laptop computers.

Screen technology affects battery life

Most models using e-ink rely on reflected ambient light to illuminate their screens, and so they use much less energy than the LCD screens that are found on other e-readers as well as laptops and many phones. That gives e-ink models a relatively long battery life. In fact, the manufacturers claim you can get between 10-30 days of use before you need to recharge. (One drawback: unlike LCD screens, the e-ink screens typically aren't backlit, so they can be as difficult to read as printed books in dim light.)

By comparison, with an e-reader like the Nook Color, the LCD screen is nice and bright even in dim light, but battery life is very short. The Nook Color will run just 8 hours on a charge, claims Barnes and Noble. (That’s on a par with the iPad and the best laptops.) But such a relatively short battery life could be a real concern for e-bookworms.

Whichever type of screen technology and e-reader you choose, there are several other environmental concerns besides power and battery life. A sampling of opinions and environmental reviews of e-book readers are listed below.

Check out the articles, and if you decide to buy an e-book, use it for a long time and be sure to recycle it.

Related links

"The environmental impact of Amazon’s Kindle," by Emma Ritch, Cleantech Group, August 2009

"iPads and Kindles are better for the environment than books," by Brian Palmer, Slate Magazine, August, 2010

"E-Books Outsell Hardcovers on Is That Good for the Environment: Saving trees may not be the biggest impact of the switch to iPad-like devices," by The Daily Green Staff, The Daily Green, July, 2010

Watch video on choosing an e-book reader

Consumer Reports E-book reader buying guide

E-reader face-off: Apple iPad vs. Amazon Kindle

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