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What’s better for the climate: A paper book, or an e-reader?

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What’s better for the climate: A paper book, or an e-reader?

In the face of human-caused climate change, paperbacks and e-readers each have pros and cons.

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The summer reading season is here.

Some people will opt for paperbacks because they’re easy to borrow and share. Others will go for e-readers, or audiobooks streamed on a phone.

But which is the more environmentally sustainable option? Reading’s carbon footprint is not large compared to other things people do, like travel, and it isn’t something most people consider when choosing how to read a book. But for those looking for small changes in their lives to reduce their impact on the climate, it might be worth exploring how the ways we choose to read books affect the planet.

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A complicated question to answer

Whether it’s better to read books in print or on a device is complicated, because of the complex interplay of the resources involved across the entire lifecycle of a published work: how books and devices are shipped, what energy they use to run, if they can be recycled.

Digital reading is on the rise — especially audiobooks. According to the Association of American Publishers, they now capture about the same share of the total US book market as e-books — roughly 15%. But print is still by far the most popular format.

“Publishers are interested in preserving the business that they’ve created over hundreds of years,” said Publishers Weekly executive editor Andrew Albanese, explaining why the industry is focusing most of its efforts on improving the sustainability of paperback and hardcover books, rather than digital formats. “They are looking to run those print book businesses as efficiently as possible, as cleanly as possible, as green as possible.”

On the one side: traditional book publishing

Traditional print publishing comes with a high carbon footprint.

According to 2023 data from the literary industry research group WordsRated, when it comes to pulp and paper, print book publishing is the world’s third-largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, and 32 million trees are felled each year in the United States to make paper for books. Then there’s the printing and shipping — to say nothing of the many books that are destroyed because they remain unsold.

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Although it’s standard practice in the industry, publishers don’t want to destroy books. So instead, many are donating unsold copies, switching to on-demand printing, or, like Chronicle Books, are reducing their initial print runs to see how well the titles sell before they print more.

“We felt that it was better to have a higher cost and have less waste,” said Chronicle Books president, Tyrrell Mahoney.

Chronicle Books, like many other publishers, is also trying to use more sustainable paper.

“We have this great partner in India who has now figured out how to use cotton-based up-cycled materials to print as paper,” Mahoney said.

Publishers are also rethinking book design. It might be a surprise, but certain fonts can be more climate-friendly by using less ink and less paper.

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A side-by-side comparison of one of Harper Collins' new sustainable fonts (right) and a regular font (left.)

Harper Collins has introduced sustainable fonts that use less ink.

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“So far, these subtle, imperceptible tweaks have saved more than 200 million pages across 227 titles since September,” said Harper Collins’ senior director of design Lucy Albanese. NPR could not independently verify these page savings.

On the other: digital publishing

All well and good. But digital reading seems to have a considerable eco-advantage over print because it is paperless, so it saves trees, pulping and shipping. Moreover, tech companies that make e-readers such as Amazon, which sells the market-leading Kindle e-reader, offer recycling programs for old devices.

“By choosing e-books as an alternative to print, Kindle readers helped save an estimated 2.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions over a two year period,” said Corey Badcock, head of Kindle product and marketing. NPR could not independently verify these emissions reductions.

But digital devices also come with a substantial carbon footprint, predominantly at the manufacturing stage. Their cases are made with fossil-fuel-derived plastics and the minerals in their batteries require resource-heavy mining.

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The short answer to which is better: it depends

“It’s not cut and dried,” said Mike Berners-Lee, a professor of sustainability at Lancaster Environment Centre in the United Kingdom, of the comparative climate friendliness of digital versus print reading.

Berners-Lee, the author of The Carbon Footprint of Everything, said the average e-reader has a carbon footprint of around 80 pounds.

“This means that I’ve got to read about 36 small paperback books-worth on it before you break even,” he said.

Figuring out whether to take a digital device or a paperback to the beach ultimately depends on how voraciously you read.

“If you buy an e-reader and you read loads and loads of books on it, then it’s the lowest carbon thing to do,” Berners-Lee said. “But if I buy it, read a couple of books, and decided that I prefer paperback books, then it’s the worst of all worlds.”

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Yet Berners-Lee said that reading is still, relatively speaking, a pretty sustainable activity — regardless of whether you read using an e-reader, phone or old-fashioned paperback.

Both audio and digital versions of this story were edited by Jennifer Vanasco. Isabella Gomez-Sarmiento mixed the audio version.

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Lifestyle

Swanky airport lounges are arriving at LAX, like this Chase one. But who can get in?

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Swanky airport lounges are arriving at LAX, like this Chase one. But who can get in?

While a swanky airport lounge can’t alleviate Los Angeles International Airport’s infamous curbside gridlock, it can make it become a more distant memory.

The latest predeparture sanctuary that will land at LAX? It’s from a company best known for its bank branches. Chase announced on Thursday it will open a 9,234-square-foot Sapphire Lounge at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), near Gate 148. An opening date was not shared.

Dana Pouwels, head of airport lounge benefits and strategic partnerships for Chase, said the company is investing in meeting its customers where they are.

“Los Angeles is home to many cardmembers and a popular destination among Chase travelers,” Pouwels said. “And as a native Angeleno who frequently travels through LAX to visit home, I’m excited to bring a Chase Sapphire Lounge to my home city.”

Based on renderings, the premium Chase space will feature expansive tarmac views — a first for a lounge in TBIT’s main concourse — along with a dramatic waterfall-style chandelier above a granite and wood bar. While Chase was mum on proposed amenities, if it’s anything like the company’s other lounges now at five airports, expect it to skew higher-end.

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The first U.S. Sapphire Lounge for Chase debuted in Boston one year ago. Features include a gourmet buffet and à la carte dining (their Sapphire burger is a particular standout); dedicated wellness and shower rooms; and a residential-inspired design meant for both work and leisure. Meanwhile, the LaGuardia Airport location in New York that opened earlier this year even offers complimentary facials and ultra-high-end private suites (for a hefty additional fee).

Pouwels said the “space will pay homage to Los Angeles while embodying local modern elements that celebrate the culture of the city.”

To get unlimited access to Chase Sapphire Lounges in the U.S., travelers must be enrolled in the $550-per-year Chase Sapphire Reserve with Priority Pass membership. Those with a Priority Pass membership from another premium travel credit card (such as an Amex Platinum or Capital One Venture X) can enter a U.S. Sapphire Lounge once each calendar year at no cost.

Currently, there are no Priority Pass-accessible lounges at LAX, so Chase’s lounge will be a boon to a wide range of travelers once open.

The airport lounge wars continue

Lounge competition is fierce, especially among the major credit card companies. Access has widened dramatically in recent years as issuers push for premium card sign-ups and build out their own branded spaces. While that means more crowded lounges, it also means more options for travelers.

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in 2013, American Express entered the business of owning and operating airport lounges with the Centurion network. More recently, Chase’s Sapphire portfolio and Capital One’s lounges are the answer to the incumbent.

At LAX, Amex opened its Centurion Lounge in 2020, just a few steps away from Chase’s future site. The nearly 14,000-square-foot area features a variety of luxe amenities, including a bespoke food menu from executive chef Nancy Silverton, a spa area with chair massages and mini-manicures, and shower suites.

Dave Jones, deputy executive director of commercial development at Los Angeles World Airports, says that lounges improve the travel experience, especially as the airport redevelops. “LAX looks forward to providing our guests with more lounge options based on their consumer preferences, as well as accommodating the growing demand for lounge access,” he said.

Other LAX lounges in the pipeline

Chase isn’t the only player set to open a new lounge at the airport. Air France will unveil its first-ever LAX lounge at TBIT on June 21.

A carrier spokesperson said L.A. is one of the “most important markets for Air France” and is part of a wider global investment in lounges. When it opens, the LAX location will become the sixth Air France lounge in the U.S., joining Washington-Dulles, Houston Intercontinental, San Francisco, New York JFK and Boston.

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Meanwhile, over at Terminal 4, Delta Air Lines will open a high-end Delta One Lounge by the end of 2024. It will feature an outdoor terrace, over 10,000 square feet of space, and a seamless connection from an exclusive check-in area for Delta One passengers.

It’s part of the carrier’s strategy to offer a new “premium” tier of amenities for international business-class guests. “Premium lounge customers should feel welcomed and known when they walk in the door, just as they would at their favorite hotel or restaurant,” said Claude Roussel, vice president of Sky Club and lounge experience at Delta.

The first Delta One lounge will open in New York in late June.

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NPR’s Morning Edition invites your thoughts on marriage

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NPR’s Morning Edition invites your thoughts on marriage

For our upcoming summer series, NPR’s Morning Edition wants to hear your thoughts on marriage.

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This summer, Morning Edition brings you a series on love and marriage!

Whether married or not, we want to hear from you! Fill out the form below and someone from our team may reach out to hear more. You can also upload your responses as a voice memo, while keeping each answer to less than a minute. Please submit responses by Sunday, June 16 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

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Your submission will be governed by our general Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. As the Privacy Policy says, we want you to be aware that there may be circumstances in which the exemptions provided under law for journalistic activities or freedom of expression may override privacy rights you might otherwise have.

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Female hitman used hijab disguise in attempt to wipe out Birmingham family

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Female hitman used hijab disguise in attempt to wipe out Birmingham family
A hired killer from the US disguised herself with a hijab before trying to shoot dead a man and his family in Birmingham, a court has heard. Aimee Betro, 44, a hitwoman from Chicago, was hired by Mohammed Nazir, 30, and his father Mohammed Aslam, 56, to carry out a revenge killing against the owner of a boutique clothing store and his family. But M…
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