The call to address sustainability in the book publishing industry isn’t new. Yet ongoing news about the devastating effects of climate change has heightened the urgency for all industries to take action towards reducing their environmental impact. Last year, we wrote about challenges to publishers’ sustainability efforts that we heard at the London Book Fair. Last week they introduced a whole lounge dedicated to these conversations at this year’s Fair. And yet, has there been traction on reducing our industry’s carbon footprint? NetGalley recently surveyed our client publishers about their sustainability strategies.
More and more publishers are making commitments to reducing their carbon emissions. From reducing paper waste to decreasing carbon emissions, publishers are looking for ways to minimize their impact on the environment. And yet nearly half of our survey respondents told us that they are not sure whether their organization has a sustainability or carbon-reduction strategy. Even worse, 33% said their organization does not have a strategy.*
After ABA Midwinter earlier this year, Publishers Weekly pointed out, “Boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling, plus the resulting packaging, garbage, packing tape, and waste, prompted one bookseller to ask if there might be another way to manage all those tempting ARCs.” At NetGalley, we know there is a way—and we’re thrilled to be part of the solution.
In the last 12 months alone, publishers have uploaded about 24,000 books to NetGalley.com and NetGalley.co.uk, and approved 3.3 million requests from members to read them digitally.** That is 3.3 million books, including review copies, that were not printed, and yet still reached the intended, enthusiastic audience they deserve. Booksellers, librarians, educators, reviewers, and media who want to make an impact have leaned into digital reading for their work, and over 300 publishers and hundreds of authors are using NetGalley to meet that demand. (In addition to helping to ‘green’ the publishing industry, we know NetGalley has the added benefit of reducing costs to the publisher, compared to printing and shipping all those ARCs!).
In further good news, companies like Springer Nature Group are leading the charge by reporting on their efforts. Their report, “Driven by Discovery: Sustainable Business Report 2022”, released earlier this month, looks beyond the supply chain, delving into employee engagement with their SDG Impact Challenge (saving 86 tonnes of CO2 and matched by Springer Nature), reporting on carbon offsetting and business travel (business flights remain low compared to pre-pandemic levels), and reduced resource use since they have moved to hybrid work.
For more on the state of sustainability in the book publishing industry:
- Independent Book Publishers Association: IBPA Advocacy Committee Urges Adoption of Digital ARCs
- Publishing Perspectives: From Amsterdam: Rachel Martin on London Book Fair’s Sustainability Lounge
- Publishers Weekly: Three Years On, Children’s Publishers Have Adapted
- Book Riot: The Cost of Reading: The Book Industry’s Carbon Footprint
- IBPA Pub U Online: Greening Your Publishing Program, Karla Olson (Patagonia Books)
*NetGalley Sustainability Survey, April 2023
**April 2022 – March 2023