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Self-Publishing News: Storytel’s 2023 Report Throws Light On The Environmental Impact Of Audiobooks

Self-Publishing News: Storytel’s 2023 Report Throws Light on the Environmental Impact of Audiobooks

ALLi News Editor, Dan Holloway

Environmental sustainability is very much on the publishing industry radar. It’s a subject I’ve reported on many times. And it’s an area where indies who tend to use print on demand services have found themselves in an advantageous position.

There has, however, been very little awareness raising work (or indeed internal research) by the industry on the impact of digital books. With the growth of streaming subscriptions this feels like an increasingly large hole. These services mean that increasing server capacity is required, in addition to the cost of the hardware we use with its hunger for rare metals. And on top of all this, the increasing integration of AI tools and techniques into the technology around the production, marketing, and consumption of digital books will only add to the resource cost. And despite the continual double digit year on year growth, there is even less said about the impact of digital audiobooks, which you would imagine to be even more energy hungry than ebooks.

So the release of the annual report from Storytel last week makes really interesting reading. The report goes into detail trying to break down the carbon footprint of its audiobook provision.

What’s most interesting is a comparison of the impact of audiobooks with print books from the print division of Storytel. A print book accounts for 344 grams of carbon. An hour of listening to an audiobook has a cost of 2.3 grams. Even for a relatively long 10 hour book, that’s an order of magnitude less. Also really interesting is looking at the components of which those figures are made up. For print, 43% of carbon comes from the paper, 11% from the printing, and 6% from transportation. For digital, 11% comes from the servers where data are stored, 34% from the transmission of the data, and 55% from the devices receiving the data.

Storytel’s commentary on the figures is equally interesting. They mention supplier partnerships a lot, whether that’s the paper mills they work with or the fact they use Google Cloud for their streaming, who promise a zero carbon service by 2030. And although it’s not front and centre, and is positioned as “under consideration,” there is a mention of print on demand. It’s an indication of how publishers and platforms are conscious of engaging with these issues, No doubt much of that engagement is driven by customers. And one could argue that the profile of Nordic customers might be expected to place a particular premium on sustainability. But as publishers ourselves, working in partnership with suppliers, this is an insight into some things worth considering.

You can read the full 118 page report here. There is considerable detail on the company’s sustainability strategy and current state. And there is plenty more on other aspects of its audiobook offering and plans.

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Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


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