top of page

Sustainable Publishing: Embracing Eco-Friendly Alternatives Over Traditional E-Books

After researching and writing the article Debunking the Myth: How Printed Books Are Actually Eco-Friendly, or Books Exhale Oxygen (the article was published on Ariel Chart under a different title) it forced me to take a step back and reconsider some things.

My initial intention for this article was to clarify, debunk the myth, and educate people as to the truth of the printing industry and how much damage - or lack of damage - it inflicts upon the enviroment. In fact, printed books are much more beneficial to the environment than ebooks are. I won't go into detail here. You can read the article through the links provided above.

Now, admittedly, some of our titles have never - and will never - be available on electronic platforms or ebooks; namely our children's books. It has been an unofficial and unspoken rule that Broken Keys Publishing & Press' children's titles (The Brain Colouring and Learning Book, Vol. 1, The Tao of Fey, Mishko the Friend Bat, Clean Water for Lukong, Kat and the Meanies, Little Dragon) are not, and will not, be available in any electronic format. Paperback and print editions only. There are reasons for this. Children do not need more electronics or screen time. Children's books are to be tactile experiences and ones meant to be shared with their parents, grandparents, and loved ones. There is a bonding associated with sharing a story.

A few other titles have not been made available electronically as well but for different reasons. Nancy Steele's Love Defined is a journaling/workbook and does not lend itself well to an electronic format.

But it has been a combination of approaching year's end and reflection upon my previously mentioned article that drew my attention and questioned, what was the ratio of ebook-paperback sales?

Looking only at 2022 and 2023 the results were somewhat surprising.

96.63% of all titles' sales were paperback editions, leaving only 3.37% as ebooks. It makes me wonder whether it is even worth the energy to create the extra and secondary format/layout for ebooks at all. Factor this with the point of the enviromental damage of ebooks (lithium poisoning - see Books Exhale Oxygen) and I am left seriously contemplating abandoning ebooks all together. Although I wouldn't go back and remove or delist currently published titles from their ebook options, I am considering no longer offering this option.

There was a time not too long ago where ebooks were the only viable option to reach a world-market without crippling shipping and delivering costs, but gone are those days. With Amazon's and other's Print-on-Demand services and worldwide distribution networks, printed editions can be attained nearly anywhere at extremely minimal costs.

Combine that with the challenges and troubles the brick-and-mortar big-box-bookstores are facing and the apparent return of the independent bookshops, the desire and demand for paperback and hardcover books might be returning; or maybe, better put, the niche market for the ebook is drastically shrinking.

Could this account for the Random Penguin House - Simon Schuster mystery? During their recent Anti-trust trial, it was reviled that 50% of their 58,000 titles per year sold less than a dozen copies. Let me reiterate that: 29,000 books sell less than 12 copies every year.

That number is staggering. How can a company function like this?

But it isn't until we understand exactly what they mean when they say “title.” We would normally imagine a single book or title would count as 1. But it doesn't. A book could exist in paperback edition, ebook, hardcover edition, audiobook, possibly even more than one ISBN for paperback and print-on-demand editions. A single book - as we might assume them to be - could actually count as 5 “titles.” Could these 29,000 titles selling less than a dozen copies per year be partially composed of ebooks? The devil's in the details, but these details matter. Something isn't selling.

With the more and more extreme weather we are witnessing and experiencing worldwide, maybe it is time to play our part and stop offering the ebook option?

This is something Broken Keys Publishing & Press will be pondering and considering in the new year. This is something we will be bringing to our writers', authors', and poets' attention and hopefully having a dialogue. This might be a positive step forward. Nay, this might be a necessary step forward.


Keep up to date with breaking news, new releases

and events, and keep your thumb on

the pulse of Ottawa's literary scene.

Subscribe and follow us on social media -

46 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page