Business Brains

E-books aside, history publisher makes history with bold paper sourcing decision

Posting in Environment

As a bibliophile, Arcadia Publishing's move to accelerate adoption of environmentally responsible paper is a great sign. Now, if we could get the bookstores to take notice.

Somewhere in some blog post or another, I have declared the inherent green-ness of my Amazon Kindle, because I read voraciously and it just seems like the right thing to do. I especially like the fact that some books, like Al Gore's new enviro-savvy title "The Assault on Reason," cost less in this electronic format than it does on paper. Although I recognize that the pricing dynamics of e-books are about to change because of the forthcoming Apple iPad.

But I digress. The real intent of this post is actually to send out some mini-props to a 100-year-old publisher that has just taken the step to use paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for all of its titles. And, being that the company in question, Arcadia Publishing, will put out more than 700 local history titles this year, this is not an insignificant feat.

The reason that this matters is that paper that is certified by FSC has been harvested according to methods that have sustainability at their hard, from an ecological and economic standpoint.

Arcadia's business decision was prompted by The Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper (which I knew nothing about until I received the information about this particular development). One of the underpinnings of the treatise is the face that it advocates the industry's collective average use of recycled fiber to increase from about 5 percent today to 30 percent by 2012. Another one applies to use of FSC products, which the treatise would like to see reach 20 percent by the same timeframe.

Although Arcadia doesn't say anything about recycled paper, it has exceeded the FSC requirements by a lot. Two years early.

So, here's where I stick my neck out and point out that this is a great opportunity for one of the big booksellers (or an independent) to get out in front of the competition. I, for one, have stood by the local history rack many times in my local Borders location. Wouldn't it be cool if Arcadia and the bookstore made a big deal out of the responsible paper decision. And, to take a page out from Wal-Mart's sustainability handbook: Both Borders and Barnes & Noble could have a huge impact on the adoption of recycled or FSC paper, if they encouraged publishers to use it. I know Barnes & Noble has already taken a stand to promote magazines using recycled paper, which is really great considering the number that are tossed every month. But how about all those hardbacks and paperbacks that line their shelves?

I suppose Barnes & Noble's Nook product, the competitor to Kindle, would count here. But there's opportunity to do much, much more on behalf of the environment. Not to mention the whole charitable angle of being able to pass along books until they find a good home.

Stream of consciousness over.

Share this

Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure