Friday, October 31, 2014
In most progressive rock music, movement through its sound doesn’t necessarily happen smoothly or obviously. Often it is made in unexpected and unanticipated ways, which is the way of progress in most situations. Progress happens with little steps. We recently came across a lovely example of how it works in the real world of printing and publishing, in the Life and Ecoedicion office of the regional Ministry of the Environment for Andalucia in Spain. This is a local government office that wants to provide an example of green procurement and services. The office has set up a project to improve publishing and production processes and goods procurement, so that they are more environmentally friendly.
The idea is to produce a reference brand that printers and publishers recognise and support. The administration in Andalucia wants to promote sustainable publications and to provide consumers with complete and consistent environmental impact data. They expect this information to be a factor in purchasing decisions. The Ecoedicion Manual is a guidance document the adminstration has produced for its own publishing and distribution activities, however it is hoped that other publishers and municipalities will also use the manual. A campaign is underway to encourage other companies to join the network and nearly 80 Spanish printers and publishers from all over Spain have signed up so far. A pilot project is underway that includes various regional ministeries who have committed to publishing and printing green publications that will bear the Ecoedition ecolabel.
As part of this project the Life and Ecoedicion Office is developing Product Category Rules (PCR) for printed books. This is ambitious because Product Category Rules are difficult to develop for print media products. As far as we are aware only the Japanese Printers Federation is making a stab at it for the graphic arts. PCRs are important because they provide the basis for determining what should be covered in an environmental impact calculation. The work in Spain is intended to provide the partners in Ecoedicion with a common framework on which to base their calculations.
Having a PCR for printed books makes it possible for publishers to produce consistent Life Cyce Assessments for their products. The Ecoedicion Office’s PCR covers printed books of various types and provides the information to be addressed in an environmental impact calculation. If this work is of interest to you, you can find out more about it at the website
, where the PCR is available for public comment. We are taking tiny steps but we can be confident that, like progressive rock, they will eventually make sense. Such is the way of progress.
Friday, October 31, 2014
Books are surely one of life’s greatest pleasures. Whether its shopping for them, sending them to people as presents, looking at them on the shelves, or even just reading them. The yumminess of a well-produced book may be why the number of people in the US who read a book last year, rose by four percent. For a country of over 316 million people, this is not small cheese, especially given how often the printed book death knell gets so loudly tolled.
Pew Research base their numbers on the results of a survey conducted last January. They wanted to learn more about American book reading habits, e-book penetration and tablet ownership. They found that seven in ten Americans read a printed book and that only 4 percent of readers exclusively read e-books. According to the study 50% of Americans own a tablet or dedicated electronic reading device and 55% of them use their tablets for reading e-books. Last year, 76 percent of Americans read a book and they averaged twelve titles throughout the year.
It is good news for publishers and printers that the number of people buying and reading books is rising, particularly in the US where there are so many alternatives for sofa-borne entertainment. What is less positive is that the US still has one of the developed world’s poorest records on waste management. The country generated 251 million tonnes of rubbish of which only around 87 million tonnes were recycled and composted. This is equivalent to a recycling rate of 34.5 percent. In European countries such as Germany and Sweden the rate is much higher at 62% and 49% respectively. In 2013 71.7% of paper was recycled in Europe, whereas in the US only 63.5% falling from 65.1 percent in 2012, was despite a rise in paper consumption. The American Forest & Paper Association aims, rather unambitiously it has to be said, to get the US to recycle over 70% of paper by 2020.
How much of that volume will be books is impossible to say. There are plenty of publications that deserve to be pulped sooner rather than later, but beautiful books are hard to throw away. They end up being reread and shared for reuse for years. They have a magic all their own, whether they’re stacked on the floor or lined in tidy rows on the shelf. They are friends, family, strange yet familiar new worlds full of enticing possibilities and wondrous journeys. And whatever the convenience and immediacy of an e-book, how very much more boring is a collection of dull and anonymous e-books compared to the enticement of the printed equivalent beckoning you to embrace the ideal reading device. This ad
for IKEA sums it up perfectly.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Does this sound like an impossible task? Of course it does, but it has to be done if the media industry wants to be able to benchmark and monitor its carbon footprint. We have managed to develop an ISO standard for calculating the carbon footprint of print media (ISO 16759), so now all eyes are on electronic media.
The idea has been knocking around for a while within Working Group 11 (WG11) of TC130, the ISO technical committee responsible for graphics technology standards. Most of the TC130 work relates to print but some of it, for instance in PDF standards, also relates to electronic communications. The problem is that understanding electronic media’s carbon footprint depends on a different knowledge base that than of print media. It requires understanding of all the stuff related to content that happens in prepress, from content creation to colour management. But it also requires an understanding of networks, servers, archiving, data distribution and of course the devices used to view electronic media.
Quantifying the carbon footprint of all of this is hard, however it can be done if enough brainpower is thrown at the problem. A document is already under development based on the same methodology as ISO 16759. It specifies a consistent method that should provide defensible, trustworthy and above all accurate data. This document is now in the hands of a Joint Working Group (JWG) set up between ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission’s committee responsible for audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. The IEC is already working on a quantification methodology for calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of electrical and electronic products and systems. The new JWG combines the expertise of WG11 and IEC members to develop a robust standard for calculating the carbon footprint of electronic media.
It won’t be easy because the document must specify how organisations and end users should define the parameters for calculating the carbon footprint of electronic media. The document will be published as an ISO standard, and will provide specifications for how to calculate the carbon footprint. This includes information about the carbon footprint of the viewing hardware and of the data load associated with a given electronic media product and its use. The creation, publication, distribution, storage, archiving and use of electronic media on any digital device are all to be included. This work is expected to depend on expertise sourced from the electronics and graphic arts industries and to take two years to complete. The timeline is subject to the availability of required expertise for developing the document. Experts specialised in data, server, network and content management, and publishing, are requested to express their interest to participate in this work. Experts are required to attend two one day international meetings per year, plus additional meetings with local experts.