How much paper would it take to print out Wikipedia?

An intrepid Wikipedian named Nikola Smolenski has calculated how much paper it would take to print out the English entries in Wikipedia and produced this handy chart showing the relative sizes of the pile of paper and an adult male. This doesn't include the History or Discuss pages, which would make it a lot less useful than electronic Wikipedia (nevermind the lack of a search interface!). I think that Wikipedia is one of those documents that is inherently electronic.

Here's Nikola's assumptions: "Using volumes 25cm high and 5cm thick (some 400 leaves), each page having two columns, each columns having 80 rows, and each row having 50 characters, ≈ 6MB per volume. As English Wikipedia has 4.4GB of text (October 2006) ≈ 750 volumes. Note that this is conservative estimate, as it doesn't include images, tables etc. which take up more surface than the text which describes them." Link (via Digg)


  1. Actually, we at the Wikipedia 1.0 group are planning to produce a paper version of Wikipedia. However, the release should be considerably smaller than this graphic would indicate, because we plan to limit any general release to the more important topics only. We also plan to release topic-specific books taken from these lists, similar to the German Wikireaders.
    Martin Walker (User:Walkerma on Wikipedia)

  2. Yes, but what percentage of those 750 volumes is inaccurate? Rather high, I’d guess. GIGO, folks.


  3. The real question is…

    How big would the fire get if we torched it immediately after it finished printing?

    And how many marshmallows could be roasted?

  4. …Now, ww’re just talking about articles, right? Not talk or admin pages, where easily thrice the number of pages are wasted with British teenagers posing as “admins” bully their way into keeping articles berift of useful information, right? If you included all that waste of bandwidth – as an appendix of sorts – then the question then becomes just how many rolls of toilet paper would be required to print it all.

    As to whether the rolls are 1-ply or 2-ply, I’ll leave that as an extra credit question…:p

  5. That image is based on data from October 2006, when the English Wikipedia only had around 1.4M articles. We’re almost to two million now (per

    [In these counts, the term “article” excludes redirects; pages outside the article namespace (like Talk: or User: pages); blanked articles; and articles without internal wikilinks.]

  6. The “Wikipedia 1.0″ DVD should be put in a “Voyager 3″, with a note: “sorry for the lame disc we sent earlier”.

  7. …But do we *really* want some ET thousands of years in the future to find such a disk on a long-dead probe, only to find the blatherings of the likes of Sceptre, Matthew Fenton, Chris Griswold, and others of their ilk representing Humanity to the universe? We’d be better off sending Encyclopedia Dramatica.


    …No, we’d be better off sending BoingBoing.

  8. Is there a relatively painless way to get the wikipedia on my Ipod without having to replace the OS?

  9. I’ve been working on a “performance art” project: printing out wikipedia volumes and selling them door-to-door .

    So thank you Nikola Smolenski! Now I can show my clients how much shelf space they’ll need.

  10. Just for the record, I don’t think that I am particulary intrepid, or indeed that intrepidness was needed to make that image. It’s just a moment of inspiration I had and I am glad that people like it. I wrote more about the image at Reddit:

    (On the other hand, if someone took a look at my Wikipedia contributions, well, perhaps that could be described as intrepid.)

Comments are closed.