Hugh Griffin
Monday, March 30, 2009

With public awareness and concern about environmental issues, independent and large publishers wishing to maximize sales are responding by producing printed books featuring recycled content papers.

When dealing with your book printer, clearly tell them you want to use recycled content papers and ask for free samples before making decisions. With careful selection, using recycled content papers (cover and text stocks) should not increase your cost or diminish quality. If your printer is U.S.-based, you may reasonably presume whatever papers they suggest will be responsible choices (due to U.S. regulations) and enable you to print "Recycled Content" wording and/or a logo in your book.

Bear in mind when designing a book, if your content requires the use of "ultra white" stocks (for the cover or interior pages), you may end up spending an extra 5 to 10 cents 'per book' owing to how the recycled content versions of these stocks are made. Most recycled content papers are not "brilliant or ultra white" because recycled content papers are generally not chlorine bleached in the re-pulping phase. A word of caution: Just because a paper is labeled "Chlorine Free" (often referred to as ECF - Elemental Chlorine Free) does not mean that "chlorine derivatives" were not used instead (thanks to chemical industry lobbyists). The one sure way to know how a recycled content book will look is to get samples and compare them for "visible particulate," color and overall appearance before making paper decisions.

Ironically, what constitutes "Green Publishing" now seems to have spawned several disagreements. One of the biggest arguments is between those championing "e-books" over "p-books" (printed books):

Those who condemn printed books in favor of e-books somehow overlook the environmental impact of strip mining, heavy metals, plastic, energy and landfill demands required to build, use and dispose of electronic devices.

Those who favor printed books over constantly obsolescing e-devices correctly point out that using recycled content papers reduces pressure on landfills but somehow overlook the environmental impact of inefficient traditional distribution and return practices.

My view: both types of books "have merit," but using only one path to publish virtually guarantees lower sales. When printing books, make it a point to use recycled content papers. When doing e-books, make sure your versions are widely readable on ALL types of existing electronic devices (to minimize e-waste). These two choices alone will significantly reduce environmental impact while enhancing your sales and marketing results.

Another disagreement exists "within the ranks" of those who agree that using recycled content papers is the best course of action:

Several "Non-profit" organizations (which actually have their roots in various industry marketing campaigns) spend very serious money to convince print buyers they must "prove their Green-ness" by requiring printers to add one specific recycled content logo or another to publications (ignoring the reality this simply pushes more ink into the recycling loop). What's behind these powerful marketing campaigns: huge amounts of money are changing hands. Before a printer can "print" many certification logos, they must pay large, and usually ongoing, fees to whichever organization's logo they print. Ultimately, that overhead falls onto the printer's customers.

The simple truth: most any book printer can buy and print papers certified by these various organizations, but unless "money changes hands" between the printer and the certifying organization, that printer's work cannot inlcude the organization's trademarked logo (or "name" in many cases). Given the universal Recycled Content logo and wording are in the public domain and free to use, it sadly becomes apparent that some are more interested in protecting their "non-profit income stream" than in encouraging and enabling the widest possible use of "green" papers for their own sake.

Cutting through industry jargon and confusing claims, here's the basic information you need to know:

* First, recycled content papers no longer cost significantly more, and many are not a noticeable downgrade in appearance or quality (paper color, opacity or visible particulate).

* Second, recycled content papers come with varying types and amounts of recycled content. There are two categories of recycled content used: "pre-consumer waste" and "post-consumer waste." The higher the "post-consumer waste content," the more environmentally friendly a paper is.

* Third, both text and cover recycled content papers are readily available nationwide. Various paper companies and printers have their own particular trade names for their lines of recycled content papers, and because these names are generally more "marketing-driven" than "content-driven," it pays to specify exactly what recycled content you want.

Currently the most popular, and therefore lowest priced text papers feature 30% post-consumer content, and cover stocks feature 10% recycled content.