Green Titles, Green Books

October 23, 2007

World Meteorological OrganizationBlog Action Day and the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize are now past, but it remains an apt time to highlight a few key books on environmental issues which are available (for free) at WOWIO.

This year’s awarding of the Peace Prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was met with controversy in some circles. Essential to any reasoned discussion of the merits is an actual reading of the IPCC’s report, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis — particularly the Summary for Policymakers.

The Battle over Hetch HetchyFor perspective on the larger debate over environmental policy, a look at the early clashes over preservation and resource utilization in America can provide insight on the debates that continue to this day. The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America’s Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism by Robert W. Righter (Oxford University Press, 2005) looks at the social and political conflict that led to the birth of the modern environmental movement and reframed the national conversation in the terms we see today.

Walden and Walden Pond, A HistoryHenry David Thoreau’s Walden (WOWIO Books, 2007) is the seminal work that gave a voice to the then-unarticulated tension between the yearning for nature’s simplicity and a modern lifestyle increasingly dissociated from the natural world. Walden Pond: A History by W. Barksdale Maynard (Oxford University Press, 2004) tells the story of the pond itself, from its days as a spiritual retreat for Thoreau and Emerson to today’s role as environmental and cultural icon.

In a nice congruity with the spirit of the subject matter, these books are all in downloadable ebook format. Despite the not-insignificant environmental cost of running the web and the life-cycle costs of the devices needed to consume the content, digital books are still an enormous step forward compared to the impacts of printed books — some 20 million trees consumed for books sold in the US alone, plus the power and waste by-products associated with their printing, distribution and disposal.

When considering the issues surrounding the environment, what are the titles that influenced you the most?


  1. I see you have done some research on ebook readers. Is there one you recommend over the others for reading wowio books? Sony Reader?

  2. There’s no clear-cut winner on this question. It depends very much on your budget, planned usage and the type of content you will be reading.

    If WOWIO books are your primary reading material, you’ll need one that displays PDFs well.

    The Sony Reader is good for reading text-oriented books (as opposed to graphic novels, comics or other books which contain significant graphical content). It has the advantage of being very portable with long battery life, but PDF text display can be a bit on the small side, depending on the particular book, and often only half of a page is visible at a time (not a problem with text, but it can be an issue with graphics). If possible, I’d recommend testing it with a few books to see how it works for you. Since the display is grayscale, it’s not ideal for graphical content. Its lack of a search tool, limited navigation options and slow display performance also limits its usefulness for reference reading.

    A lightweight slate or tablet PC might be a good choice if a machine of that size is acceptable, along with a much higher price. Battery life is not nearly as good, and they require more maintenance than a dedicated device. However, these machines have several huge advantages. Since Adobe Reader is available, its broad assortment of search, navigation and display options add a lot of flexibility to the reading experience. Even more importantly, PDFs and color graphics are displayed with no compromises — full pages are displayed beautifully.

    Lastly, handhelds and phones can also be pressed into service but they tend to be compromised by their small screens. The iPhone and iPod Touch may potentially be the most capable of the bunch, but their software support and file handling are not yet ready for ebook use by mainstream users.

    If you can wait six months to a year, I expect that the machines will become dramatically more capable as software matures and a new generation of devices becomes available.

  3. Thanks for the reply. Cost is a big factor for me. In fact, the Sony Reader is a little expensive for me, but I think I can get by. I am most interested in reading text pdfs on the device. Maybe I’ll have to go to a Circuit City or something and see if I can test it out.

    Wait six months!? Gasp! I can’t do that! Just kidding.

  4. Heh, six months does seem like a long time! I believe the Sony Reader is available at Borders and Fry’s. If you have one available, bring an SD card or Memory Stick with some PDF books on it. Perhaps the store people will let you test it on a demo machine. The key to testing PDF files on the Reader is to view it in landscape orientation — press and hold the “Size” button to toggle the display (or go through the menus to the settings screen).

    I bought my Reader by taking advantage of a Sony credit card offer — sign up for a Visa card and get the Reader for $49 + tax and shipping. The offer appears to be good until the end of October, though the free bonus ebooks from the Sony store are no longer included.

    I ordered and received mine with no problems, though the Sony Rewards site was not terribly clear or helpful in the process. Others are getting theirs by calling Sony directly. Read about their experiences at the MobileRead forum.

  5. That’s a very tempting offer. We’ll see.

  6. I would suggest using GreenTextbooks.org
    Save Money, Save The Planet
    GreenTextbooks.org specializes in the recycling of textbooks, DVDs, CDs. Buying used textbooks not only saves you money, but cuts down on greenhouse gases caused by the manufacturing of new textbooks.
    With GreenTextbooks.org you’re not only saving trees, you are saving some green.

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