Sustainability and Audiobooks at Manchester University Press

audiobookWhether you’ve introduced Meatless Mondays or gone hybrid on the roads, many of us are looking at how we can reduce our impact on the environment and make our daily lives more sustainable. So what about when it comes to how we read?

At Manchester University Press (MUP), we care about sustainable publishing practices, so we’re thinking about what we do as well as how we do it, and we know many readers are interested in being responsible consumers when it comes to books.

The environmental advantages of ebooks are clear – with no paper, printing and shipping required, digital books place much less of a burden on the planet’s resources. And if you listen to an audiobook, you’re already winning! Audiobooks race into the lead for having the lightest carbon footprint in publishing, as you’ll most likely be listening to them on a phone or laptop you already own, so no additional raw materials or energy to manufacture a bespoke device are needed.

Let’s go even further; have you considered these aspects of production and usage that make audio a sustainable reading choice?

  • Audio can be a great option for users with print or visual disabilities, allowing content to be accessible in an alternative format without requiring specific technology tools or devices.
  • Libraries do audiobooks too! And by borrowing an audio title rather than keeping it forever, that ultimately means less digital file data being hosted on global servers. Check out BorrowBox or your local library website for more.
  • Audiobook production has become increasingly sustainable since the pandemic, as narrators and producers have portable recording setups and can frequently work remotely, so the energy and resources needed to keep studios running, and for people to travel to them, is reduced, if not completely eliminated.

MUP works with audiobook producer Sound Understanding on many of our titles. Here’s SU’s publicist Thérèse Barton on how sustainability is a key part of their production process: “Covid called for more agility in our approach, and the majority of our audiobooks continue to be produced remotely, often with each contributor working in a different location. This helps keep a very low carbon footprint for our projects.”

“The remarkable growth in the audio market has come about because it fills a need for immediately accessible content, and at the same time allows hard-pressed consumers to multi-task or simply enjoy an alternative way of accessing a book. In an increasingly eco-conscious environment, the benefits and sustainability of audio will surely continue to drive its success.”

MUP’s audiobook programme is now in its second year, and we have so far largely focused on releasing books aimed at a general readership interested in society and the world around us. Social responsibility is high on our agenda for many of our audio editions – why not check these out for your next audiobook download or streaming choice:

  • Ecocide Kill the corporation before it kills us by David Whyte – the first book to argue comprehensively that we need to destroy the legal and political basis for the corporation if we are to have any chance of reversing the climate emergency.
  • Black resistance to British policing by Adam Elliott-Cooper – Akala reviewed this powerful book for us, and commented that ‘Adam’s grasp of both history and the reality on the ground today makes for an impressive read as he brings to life the characters and communities resisting policing’.
  • Held in contempt: What’s wrong with the House of Commons? by Hannah White – a perceptive critique of the House of Commons, arguing that its reputation is in a downward spiral, and without urgent reforms that equip it to fulfil its important role as a cornerstone of our democracy, it will surely fade into irrelevance.
  • Culture is bad for you: Inequality in the cultural and creative industries by Brook, O’Brien and Taylor – in the words of Kit de Waal, this book is ‘the missing link in any discussion of class and culture. All you ever wanted to know and then some.’
  • The War on the Uyghurs: China’s campaign against Xinjiang’s Muslims – the first account of one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian catastrophes. Revealing how China has used the US-led War on Terror as cover for its brutal suppression of the Uyghur people, it provides a lucid and far-reaching analysis of a cultural genocide, while allowing the voices of those caught up in the tragedy to be heard.

MUP is committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as part of our social responsibility strategy, and are proud that our audiobook programme makes important contributions to Goal 12, Responsible Consumption and Production.

Why not try an audiobook next time you’re looking for a simple way to lighten your carbon footprint?