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24th September 2020

Buy, borrow or swap: How to read books sustainably

Masie Scott discusses environmentally-conscious and sustainable ways to buy books
Buy, borrow or swap: How to read books sustainably
Books on display in a secondhand bookshop. Photo: The Mancunion

I love to treat myself to physical copies of books, but sustainable book-buying is of paramount importance. The true cost of owning a new book is largely environmental rather than financial. Here is how to read sustainably.

The manufacturing of print editions of books relies on the use of an excessive amount of paper. The World Counts has recorded that ‘paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills’. Sustainable book-buying can help combat the amount of paper waste produced annually.

E-readers help to combat the issue of paper waste, but they are not everybody’s cup of tea. I would like to encourage a more environmentally conscious form of reading for people who don’t have access to electronic devices.

So, here’s a list of ways to read sustainably:

  1. Borrow books from your local library

    Local council libraries have huge catalogues of books and they are both accessible and (largely) free! Many libraries across the UK allow you to order books and access e-books at no extra cost.

  2. Order new and secondhand books from the World of Books online shop

    World of Books is a Sussex-based organisation that donates its profits to charity and sells fiction and non-fiction at affordable prices.

  3. Book-swapping

    I would recommend regularly swapping and sharing books with friends and family members if you share similar tastes. Physical copies of books have more mileage when they are shared amongst people. Books are like clothes…they are made to be used many times over, and loved for many years instead of being single-use.

  4. Visit the book section of your local charity shop

    Charity shops often have a great selection of fiction and non-fiction. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find the latest book releases, but you can find some gems. Buying books secondhand is a sustainable, budget-friendly way to shop. Oxfam has an online shop, which includes extensive listings for books.

The list I have created is by no means exhaustive, so let’s discuss sustainable ways to buy books in the comments!

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