CO2 Footprint of Books

In view of the worldwide size of book publishing we should also keep an eye on the CO2 footprint of book publishing. The Italian association of publishers gave a brief overview of the likely CO2 footprint the printing of a book causes. Their best guess is at ½ a kilo of CO2 on average. For simplicity of calculation and assuming that an editors’ association is unlikely to overstate the amount, let us assume it is 1 Kg CO2 per book. The most CO2 is consumed not in the book production but in the transport of the items, machinery and personnel involved in producing, editing, selling etc. Of course, paper is recycled to a large amount. Certified sustainability of paper from trees has become a standard in most countries.
Nice twist to the issue: your own library at home has become a CO2 storage, if you keep them or lend them or pass them on to others. Reading can be a little bit addictive and buying books as well. Reading online or electronic books reduces your CO2 footprint. The best way to imagine the reduction of your CO2 footprint, however, is to buy or to borrow a book on travelling which replaces the actual journal by reading on the couch. Yes, being a couch potato is good for the planet, and if you want to buy a book, walk to the book shop or the library if possible. If you enjoyed flying previously shift over to buying books on planes, airports, clouds in images or stories that involve extensive travelling instead for the sake of your own CO2 footprint and future generations.
Even a book will need somehow wood as input, many alternative ways of leisure time or professional activities are worse in terms of CO2 footprint. Any e-book, e-journal or e-newspaper is even better for the planet, especially if we think of the millions of paper copies across the world that are printed but never sold. Knowing your market is crucial to reduce misallocation of ressources. E-books are so much easier to store as well using regenerative energy for the content servers around the world.

Work Subordination

One of the defining principles besides the job description, working time, working place, remuneration of a work contract is the subordination to a superior. The employment contract entails some more or less strictly executed form of direction, but a right of direction nevertheless. This element of subordination has become a major issue in the definition of whether you are effectively an employee or a self-employed person. The digital revolution had enlarged the kinds of subordination. Platforms and algorithms, that distribute work among several employees (but named platform workers) disguised the subordination to a superior level of management to the platform and its seemingly anonymous algorithm. Many young riders were saying, I don’t like bosses, but I am willing to accept a “technical” platform that distributes work tasks only seemingly in a non-discriminatory way. Due to a failure of labour legislation to regulate early enough a thriving model of fake self-employment developed throughout Europe and beyond. Labour Courts have contributed a lot to correct the disguised subordination. Even Uber is advertising that they only operate as a broker of tasks, but have no subordinated employees. The related issue of subordination remains largely the same. Subordination to an algorithm of the distribution of tasks is the end result.
Many start-up enterprises use Kanban boards to facilitate project and team management. Shifting tasks between employees, introducing new tasks and self-selection of tasks are potentially subordination-free allocation of tasks (example software). Flat hierarchies seem more manageable through the use of such tools. The number of tools that integrate other office functions is impressive. When testing such tools, that become more popular also in the distribution of household tasks, beware of the data-hungry nature of such tools. For example, warns correctly in the small print that for its full functionality it would need to have permission to use “your” camera, microphone, contacts, photo library, calendar etc.
This demonstrates that subordination, nowadays, is complemented by the algorithmic use of a lot of privacy, we would never have agreed to a boss in person should even ask for. The new and old subordinators have powerful tools at hand, the subordinated will have to get their act together and limit the amount of subordination they are willing to accept.
Again, this is a generational topic. The low threshold to accept technical subordination in younger generations, your autonomous level-5 car is breaking earlier than you even perceive a risk, is confronted with the higher threshold to accept personal subordination for youth. Interestingly, for older generations the obverse is true. All in all, we have ample reason to rethink and re-define also in legal terms the manifold, disguised and new forms of subordination related to work.


Some say, a book is a book, is a book. This is to reiterate the lasting effect a printed volume might have. Many books are a form of a documentation of facts. Creative writing in whatever form finds most of the time some way into a format of a book. For centuries books have facilitated the diffusion of myths and stories throughout societies including translated versions of the content. 2 aspects are constituent here (1) form and (2) content. Annual book fairs receive most attention for new content within more or less the same rectangular format. There are, nevertheless, interesting variations of the form to be discovered as well. Traditionally book binding was the art that gave shapes to the content. Images in form of film are yet another representation of the book content. All this is “dealt” with at the Frankfurt book fair #fbm23, particularly in form of dealing in and with copyrights. New forms of delivery of content, online or as e-book, have added to the variety of books. Pay as you go or as abonnement with monthly delivery is the old and maybe fashionable new way to digest abundant content. People trust in books. The format as book in general seems to remain an authoritative form to present content, irrespective of the truthful or fictional kind of the content. The more we live in insecure circumstances, the more we tend to be willing to hold on to a pile of paper nicely woven or clued. It is still a very powerful tool to guide imagination for all ages. It allows us to learn at our own rhythm as far as we are willing to go. We are, or seem to be, in control of the process as well as the likely outcome. And yet, the spice of life is the surprise. Book it.


Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Das geht. Nach gut 6 Monaten mit einem Blogeintrag pro Tag hat sich eine Textsammlung ergeben, die recht umfassend ausgefallen ist. Nach eigenem Monitoring der Themen, wie die Bearbeitung der UN-Themen zu strategischen Entwicklungszielen, oder der alphabetischen Auflistung von Schlüsselwörtern der Sozialwissenschaften sind nahezu täglich Kommentare entstanden. Neu war für mich die Bildredaktion, als Kommentar, Erläuterung, Selbstkritik oder wissenschaftliche Referenz. Eine interessante Variante, Erkenntnisse mit Key-Visuals zu unterstützen. Die bildliche Erinnerung an Beiträge ist ein eigenes Inhaltsverzeichnis. Klar, Hund- und Katzenbilder werden das Ranking der am meisten aufgerufenen Beiträge gewinnen. Egal, wir machen fröhliche Wissenschaft, immer weiter, immer heiter, so bleibt es lebenslanges, lebensweites Lernen.

Book Creation 2017

Writing and creating books has been ongoing for more than 2000 years. The history facilitated by Gutenberg’s invention of multiplication through the printing press has helped along the reformist movement of Martin Luther as well. Single pieces of book art are more rare. The Bibliotheca Wittockiana in Brussels has a rich collection and changing exhibitions. The photo below was taken there in July 2017.

As I attended a workshop on book binding held by Mina Aboudarr I went through all steps of book production myself to get a hands-on impression of this centuries old profession and art work in special cases. With much fun I walked through the process of writing, months before, and self-production of my very own monograph. Self-publishing is likely to be the next step. Currently the book is “in pressing” but not in press.
… and all beginings have some magic … or in original voice from Hermann Hesse: … und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne, …