Up on the environment? Self-publishing may be the answer

In September 2008, the U.S. Green Building Council released the number of LEED-Certified buildings in each city of the U.S.  In the same month, self-publishing author Gang Chen published LEED AP Exam Guide through Outskirts Press and became one of the top-five highest earning Outskirts Press authors in the fourth quarter.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and has become the widely adopted standard  for determining the “green” factor and sustainability in buildings.  The number of LEED-Certified buildings was one of the parameters used to determine the top-10 most sustainable cities of the union, which according to Entrepreneur magazine, are:

• Austin
• Boston
• Chicago
• Los Angeles
• Minneapolis
• New York City
• Philadelphia
• Portland
• San Francisco
• Seattle

What does LEED certification have to do with self-publishing? LEED Certification, going “green” and sustainability factors are here to stay. Writing and self publishing a well-positioned book about a growing cultural trend is how self-published author Gang Chen earned over $14,000 in royalties in November, 2008 from Outskirts Press.

But print-on-demand publishing contributes more toward green initiatives than fat royalty checks to LEED authors.  Unlike traditional publishers who print 50,000 copies of a book only to destroy 40%-60% of them on average, print-on-demand full-service publishing companies use technological advances in digital printing and electronic distribution to produce one book at a time. Books are printed only after they are purchased, only after there is a need.

“The magnitude of waste within the traditional publishing business is astronomical,” states Brent Sampson, president and CEO of Outskirts Press, Inc. “It is no longer an inconvenient truth but rather an out-and-out fact. Earth cannot continue to weather this storm. All industries must find ways to conserve and recycle. For the publishing industry, the best way to do that is to not print books that have not already been bought.”

While there are no hard and accurate numbers to determine the number of trees involved in an average Random House failure, it can be roughly estimated that 500 sheets of 8.5×11 paper requires about 5% of an average tree. With the common hardback page count in the 500-700 page range, 5% of a tree doesn’t last long within a 50,000 print-run. Books that are not quickly sold at full retail prices are remaindered and discounted up to 75% off before being returned to the corporate publishers, who subsequently destroy them. Returns on some traditionally published books reach 70%.

On the other hand, print-on-demand publishers like Outskirts Press employ conservation tactics wherever possible. Books are printed when they are demanded by the consumer. Additionally, the most common book sizes through Outskirts Press feature eco-friendly, recycled paper.

“Our most popular sizes are 5×8, 5.5×8.5, and 6×9,” Brent Sampson states. “The crème-white 55 pound paper used to print books in these common sizes are post-consumer, featuring 30% recycled materials. Not only do we avoid print-runs that may be unnecessarily high, we are cognizant of opportunities to conserve even within the normal course of business.”

Offering a 30% post-consumer paper option meets green sustainability standards. Compared to virgin fibers (non-post-consumer), a recycled paper fiber requires 44% less energy to produce and emits 38% fewer greenhouse gas emissions when produced.

Not all publishers offer eco-friendly, recycled paper choices. For more information about what the publishing industry is doing, and can do, to further support this effort, visit the Green Press Initiative at http://www.greenpressinitiative.org.