How Many Pages Does it Take to Print the Entire Internet?

atkins bookshelf triviaAlthough Wikipedia contains a staggering 5,324,147 articles in English, and 40 million articles in 293 languages (consisting of more than 27 billion words) its size pales in comparison to the enormous size of the entire Internet — the ultimate, global encyclopedia.

In March 2015, George Harwood and Evangeline Walker from the Center for Interdisciplinary Science at the University of Leicester (Leicester, England) wanted to find out how many pages it would take to print the entire Internet. In the introduction to their paper, “How Much of the Amazon Would it Take to Print the Internet?”, the scientists wrote: “Despite being only 25 years old, the Internet has grown so that in 2014, 40% of people in the world were using it. Its growth has been not only in the number of people utilizing it, but also the amount of information contained in pages within it. What if these pages, instead of being [on] a computer screen, were printed onto actual paper pages? To illustrate how much paper, and consequently how many trees would be needed in this endeavor, the Amazon rainforest has been chosen as a theoretical source for the ‘real pages’ of the web.”

Harwood and Walker estimated that at the time of writing their paper, the Internet contained 4.7 billion English pages (4,723,991 to be exact). They estimated that each Web page would result in 30 printed pages (A4). Based on these assumptions, it would take 136.2 billion pieces of paper to print the entire Internet. Since each tree yields about 17 reams of paper (containing 500 sheets of paper), it would take approximately 16 million trees — 113 square kilometers of the Amazon rainforest (.0002% of the total rainforest that encompasses 5.5 million square kilometers) — to print the entire Internet! (Imagine placing that print-on-demand book in your Amazon shopping basket; and imagine the shipping costs…. Yikes!) For comparison, when artist Michael Mandiberg printed the entire English contents of Wikipedia for his art project, it took 5.3 million pieces of paper (7,600 volumes of 700 pages each).

Incidentally, in 2013, American Poet Kenneth Goldsmith invited people to participate in a crowdsourced art project, “Printing the Internet,” held at an art gallery in Mexico City. He invited people to print out and mail Web pages to him. Over 600 stranger obliged; Goldsmith collected about 10 tons of paper — capturing only a tiny portion of the entire Internet. Although some praised his Sisyphean art project, he was criticized by many for not being environmentally conscious and razing a small portion of the Amazon rainforest.

Read related posts: How Many Pages Would it Take to Print Wikipedia?
Wikipedia by the Numbers
How Many Articles on Wikipedia?

Serendipitous Knowledge
Best English Dictionary
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?

For further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Statistics
http://www.physics.le.ac.uk/jist/index.php/JIST/article/view/100/57
http://www.worldwidewebsize.com
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/05/18/if-you-could-print-out-the-whole-internet-how-many-pages-would-it-be/?utm_term=.72b998c03a8f
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/print-this-web-page-mail-it-to-mexico-citys-labor-gallery-make-art/2013/07/26/534e2582-f320-11e2-ae43-b31dc363c3bf_story.html?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.c46d2dbcd81b

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