Friday, 28 January 2011

The dawn of the paperless book

With the publication of its Q4 results, has announced that it is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. In 2010, for every 100 paperback books Amazon sold, it sold 115 Kindle books. During the same time period it sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books. These figures relate to's entire U.S. book business and include sales of books where there is no Kindle edition but exclude free Kindle books, so they are conservative.

I love my Kindle - the reading experience of the Pearl e-ink display is pleasingly like paper and it consumes very little energy - with wifi switched off the battery life is remarkably long. The device is lighter than all but the thinnest paperbacks, too. Acquiring a new title requires no paper and ink to be consumed, incurs no transport burden and creates no waste. There's the embodied energy in the e-reader to consider, of course, but I plan to keep mine for a very long time and I'm a voracious reader, so that should mean the carbon payback won't take too long.

I've been in the office equipment industry longer than I care to admit to, and all that time I've been hearing about the holy grail of the paperless office. Yet in a single year, Amazon has made real the dream of the paperless library.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Reversal of fortune - how Kutch turned an earthquake to its advantage

Don't get me wrong - I am not for a minute suggesting that an earthquake can be a good thing. But in one region of India it seems that it has been a catalyst for sweeping economic reform that in the end has brought enormous benefit.

In 2001, the Kutch region was devastated by an earthquake that killed around 15,000 people and injured more than 150,000. Houses, schools and hospitals were destroyed in an area which already suffered from poor infrastructure and lack of employement opportunities. But 10 years on, Kutch is enjoying a boom. The city of Anjar has become a global pipeline hub, with capacity of 1.5 million tonnes per year and expected to double. Steel mills have sprung up to cater for the pipe industry and the area's plentiful supplies of limestone and lignite have led to the establishment of cement plants. It is home to Welspun India, one of the largest textile factories in India. And at Mundra a new port has been established that rivals Mumbai.

The road network is excellent, and there is finally a railway station at Bhuj. The ports at Mundra and Kandla enjoy links to the Delhi-Mumbai line. Shops, restaurants and service industries have come up to serve the new industries and wages are high enough to attract migrant workers into the area. Arid farmland has become attractive real estate, turning impoverished farmers into wealthy men who have invested their new-found wealth in shops and other businesses.

The industrialisation of the area may not be an improvement from an environmental point of view, but it has brought previously unknown levels of opportunity and prosperity for its residents. What seems to have brought about this transformation is a five-year exemption from excise duty and sales tax, announced by the Central and State governments for new industrial investments in Kutch commencing production by July 2003. It was initially claimed that the tax breaks could bring in Rs 25,000 crore ($ 5.5 billion) of new investment, a figure that was first dismissed as wishful thinking, but is now estimated to have exceeded Rs 20,000 crore.

Kutch suggests that providing tax breaks for a disaster-hit district can instigate a virtuous circle of investment and growth that is sustainable, with the potential to not only rehabilitate victims but improve their quality of life.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Resource scarcity could hamper business growth, says Defra

Defra has conducted research to determine how scarcity of materials and resources could affect the viability of businesses in the future. Its Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Evidence Programme concluded that the depletion of some materials and resources might lead to price volatility as well as restricting their availability. The consequences could affect both the viability of businesses and their ability to deliver on policy goals.

Resource efficiency is a key focus for Defra. It considers that awareness of the threats is patchy and as a result not enough businesses are taking action to conserve limited resources and to find alternatives. This is very much a commercial issue: Defra has calculated that UK business could save over £6 billion by adopting resource efficiency measures that cost nothing or would pay back within a year.

Defra has already begun to tackle this issue with the ‘Saving Money, It’s Your Business’ campaign and the  ‘Can You Afford Not to?’ booklet. This new report identifies the resources posing the greatest risk to specific business sectors because of anticipated threats to their availability, providing data that will enable Defra to engage efficiently with individual sectors to mitigate the risk, as well as highighting opportunities for new markets and technologies.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Ethical url shortener

To be honest, I hadn't really considered the ethics of url shorteners until I heard about In fact, the thing that first appealed to me was the opportunity to use a url shortener that can't be used by the people who distribute the kind of material I wouldn't want to be associated with. But having visited its website I've discovered a whole host of reasons why it's better than most - and here they are. is the brainchild of Memset, which offers carbon neutral hosting and has a strong reputation in sustainable IT circles. Memset promises that will be ad-free and free to use forever, and is clearly a safe pair of hands for your data.

And if you were wondering, the .gd url extension is owned by the island of Grenada.