Printing the Internet – How Much Would it Cost?

At Gould, we are always calculating the paper costs of our clients’ printing projects, so this story from the University of Leicester definitely caught our eye…

George Harwood and Evangeline Walker, students at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science at the university, decided to demonstrate the vast size of the internet by investigating how many pages of standard A4 paper it would take to print the entire web (and by extension, how many trees you’d need to source to produce that much paper).

Printing the Internet

Of course, with the internet now estimated to contain 4.5 billion web pages, and with hundreds of new sites being created every minute, it turns out you’d need a lot of pages and a lot of trees - but maybe not as many as you’d think…

source - Business Insider UK

Getting It All Down on Paper

The students began by estimating how many paper pages they would need to print all 4,273,991 of Wikipedia’s English language web pages. They took a sample of ten random pages, worked out how many paper pages they’d need to print the average page (in this case, 15 pages) and then multiplied the figure by the number of web pages - a whopping 70859865 paper pages in total.

By scaling up their findings to account for the billions of web pages floating around on the internet today, they came up with an initial figure of sixty-eight billion and one hundred million pieces of paper - but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Not every web page will fit on 15 paper pages, of course - some could require as many as 100 - so George and Evangeline upped their average to 30 paper pages per web page. With this more accurate average in place, it turns out you would need an estimated one hundred and thirty six billion pieces of paper to print the internet.

How Much of the Amazon Would it Take to Print the Internet?

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. The students then used their findings to calculate how many trees they’d need to produce enough paper to print the web, using the Amazon Rainforest as a hypothetical source.

How much of Amazon Would it take to print the Internet

With approximately 400 billion trees, the rainforest covers a staggering distance of over 5 million km22 - though it’s believed at least 20% of the forest’s original size has been lost due to deforestation.

With 500 A4 sheets per ream, they figured out that English Wikipedia would equate to 141,720 reams - and with an average of 17 reams per tree, you would only need to consume 8337 trees (or 12% of a single km22 of the forest).

But what of the whole internet? How much of the forest would be depleted if you chopped down enough trees to print all those billions of pages?

Less than 1%.

George and Evangeline’s calculations estimated that printing the entirety of the non-explicit web would only require 0.002% of the forest. Even if you factor in the ‘deep web’ - the portion of the web which can’t be found by search engines, thought to be hundreds of times larger than the ‘public internet’ - the students found that you’d still only need 2% of the forest. Source - Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics

Calculating Paper Costs - It’s What We Do

In other words, if you were ever crazy enough to try and print the web, it might just be doable - as long as you ignore the fact that millions of new web pages might have been created by the time you’ve finished.

The price tag would also be astronomical, too - but if you came to Gould, we could not only calculate the cost but also help you find ways to reduce it.

The sales experts at Gould can help you source paper for your print project at the best prices globally - but that’s not all we can do to save you money. From selecting the most appropriate paper grade for your publication, to reducing your printer waste and providing paper management services, Gould can help you cut down on your paper expenditure and boost profits on your next project.

You can even use our free Paper Professors tool to identify the ideal paper products for your publication. Fill in our online questionnaire and put us to the test today.