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An ebook reader like the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader has obvious appeal for anyone who likes to keep a stack of reading material to hand, but doesn’t want to drag a half a library around wherever they go.

The grey area, of course, is whether an electronic device like this is a greener option than a buying a paperback — it certainly uses less paper, but about the manufacturing process, use of plastic, battery, and everything else..?

Research does suggest that, on balance, ebook readers have a smaller environmental footprint than a printed book, but only if certain conditions apply. Specifically, ebook readers are a much greener option for heavy readers and anyone who gets through at least 23 books a year will be helping, not harming, the planet.

That research was carried by Cleantech Group in 2009 and the reason for mentioning it is an excellent new infographic that attempts to clear the waters about ebook readers and the environment.

You can see the whole infographic over at the WellHome blog (it’s far too large to include here), but it makes for interesting reading — and includes an all-important list of sources at the end.