Thursday, 30 April 2009

Google Book Search

In news today, Google are setting up a deal to digitise thousands of books so that they are available to download from the Internet for users worldwide. At present the deal is only being agreed for the United States, but is expected to be expanded across the globe. Many see this as a positive step as it will make books more accessible and safe-guard books from going out of print in the future, as well as re-releasing out of print books on the Internet. Others view the move as a potential future monopoly on all digitised books, which may well have significant repercussions on the future of publishing.

From an environmental perspective there are many pros and cons on both sides of the argument.

At present, it takes roughly 43 trees to make 1000, 1lb books, using the pulping process. This does not take into account the manufacturing process and how much carbon this consumes, along with delivery and marketing. suggest that each book requires 1.3 trees to be planted to make the process carbon neutral. But how much carbon would be used to scan and store the number of books being suggested by google?

It is highly recognised that data centres are one of the biggest producers of CO2 in the world. To run a 1MW data centre for 1 year, you would produce over 8,300 tonnes of CO2, and that doesn't include staff or production and destruction of equipment. The amount of trees required to make that 1MW data centre carbon neutral would approach 17,000 every year (or 395,000 1lb books!).

Google are very conscious of their carbon footprint, whether it is for ethical or economic reasons. They are constantly recording PUEs of 1.21, and have measured one data centre as low as 1.15. With this in mind, how many forests are Google plating to offset its digitisation of millions of books?

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