In my recently released novel The Digital Sea, the Ecoverse corporation is the Google-sized behemoth (or should I say Facebook since it’s 2011) that controls the networks and software that make up the ubiquitous augmented world. The company motto is Conservation through Digitization. Meaning that users, by utilizing a digital world overlain the real one, save the environment. Why buy new clothes when you can have your avatar change on a whim and a thought? Why repaint your house, requiring buckets of dangerous chemicals, when you can snap your fingers and change the color?
While the company and the level of technology are fiction, the idea that AR can help reduce our carbon footprint is not. Right now we have various digital media like music, movies, and books that have already shed their physical selves and now dance on the head of a pin, speeding around the Internet requiring only the energy required for the information to exist.
As real books move to eBooks, more than just the singular book that was purchased is saved. This has to do with the quirky business model that publishing has been using for the last fifty years. Most books do not have their complete production run sold so thousands or tens of thousands of books will be destroyed if the warehouse doesn’t have space anymore for a poorly selling book (and more book warehouses are being closed down meaning publishing companies will pull the plug faster.)
For most books nowadays, eBooks and print-on-demand services through Amazon or Lightning Source mean that only the books purchased are produced. The Espresso Book Machine will mean that in the future, you can go down to your local bookstore and pick up any book they have on file without having to wait for Amazon to ship it (thus reducing the carbon footprint further).
Augmented reality, too, offers the magic of reducing carbon footprint to any product given that it is made up of only information and provides no functional physical result. For example, clothes for keeping warm are functional, but fashion styling is purely informational, designed to display status and individual taste.
The reduction of wasted books was one of the reasons I chose to put out The Digital Sea using those two methods, so that only the books that were going to be read were produced and nothing more. I considered doing only eBooks to stay in spirit with the concept of the digital sea, but the eBook market is still small and I’m not that dogmatic about it.