E-book or paper book? Bol.com shows customer more sustainable choice

Research by Milieu Centraal: 'downloading is more sustainable than printing'

In short

From today, bol.com will show customers what a more sustainable choice is when looking for a book. More sustainable books can be recognised by a Duurzamer‘ label and clicking on this will take customers to a webpage with further explanation. This is now possible because Milieu Centraal was commissioned by bol.com to research the climate impact of books. This showed that a digital reading and listening book is usually a better choice for the climate than the new paper variant. However, there is a reading threshold: at least 25 books have to be read on an e-reader until there is climate gain from reading digital books on this device. Besides e-books, second-hand paper books are also a more sustainable choice.

Jori Ebskamp, lead sustainability at bol.com: “We want to help customers make well-informed choices and many of them indicate that sustainability is important. For this it is essential that we have insight into the climate impact of the articles. This is a complex process, which is why we asked the experts at Milieu Centraal to sort this out for the ‘books’ category. Customers can now recognize 210,000 different book titles in the range on bol.com that have the label ‘Duurzamer’. Because the climate impact of a book depends on many factors, such as the binding method and the weight, these characteristics are presented in a decision tree. It provides good insight into why one book is a more sustainable choice than another.”  

Climate impact digital book is in device
Milieu Centraal, the independent information organization for sustainability, compared the climate impact of purchasing a Dutch-language paper reading book with the climate impact of downloading a digital reading or audio book. With a paper book, paper, printing and transport to the front door were considered. In the case of a digitally downloadable reading or audio book, the downloading and usage, and the production of the e-reader, tablet, telephone or laptop are included. 

“The climate impact of a digital book is mainly in the production of the device on which it is read. If people don’t often read a digital book, it is better to do so on a device that is already in use, such as a tablet, laptop or phone. In addition to climate impact, the mining of rare metals also plays a role in electronics,” says Mariska Joustra, sustainable consumption expert at Milieu Centraal. She therefore points out to consumers that it is important to use electronics for as long as possible.   

Exceptions to the rule
A second-hand paper book is always a more sustainable choice. So pass on your paper books after reading them, Milieu Centraal advises. Another exception are thin or small editions: when a Dutch-language paper reading book weighs less than 125 grams, the digital version is no longer the better choice. In that case, the paper version is a more sustainable choice than the digital reading or audio book. 

Decision tree & labels
Based on the findings of the study, Milieu Centraal has developed a decision tree that shows bol.com customers which book choice has the least impact on the environment. In addition, digitally downloadable reading or audio books have been given a ‘more sustainable book’ label. Customers can click on this label for further explanation. The product page of the book also contains a short explanation of why it is a more sustainable book. 

Bol.com & sustainability
We want to do better every day: from packing and delivering as economically as possible to using 100 percent wind and solar energy in all our buildings. With our sustainable assortment, we want to help customers make a conscious choice and we reduce our CO2 emissions per package as much as possible. By 2022, bol.com will be climate neutral according to the Climate Neutral Certification standard. Together with the international consultancy Climate Neutral Group, bol.com has mapped the CO2 emissions of its processes – from the moment that articles arrive at bol.com in a fulfilment center to the delivery to the customer’s doorstep, and everything in between – and set reduction targets according to the rules and guidelines of the Paris Agreement. The remaining emissions are compensated by bol.com. For the 50,000 sales partners who sell via the platform, bol.com also compensates the operational emissions.