Info overload: it's 3.6 zettabytes

US households consumed approximately 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008, according to the “How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers,” released by the University of California, San Diego. One zettabyte is 1,000,000,000 trillion bytes, and total bytes consumed last year were the equivalent of the information in thick paperback novels stacked seven feet high over the entire US, including Alaska.

The study measured information consumed by US consumers in and outside the home for non-work related reasons, and included the gamut of information sources, including going to the movies, listening to the radio, talking on the phone, playing video games, surfing the Internet and reading the newspaper, among other things.

“This report is a snapshot of what the information revolution means to the average American on an average day, who consumes 34 gigabytes and 100,000 words of information,” said report author Roger Bohn. “The total volume of 3.6 zettabytes consumed last year is much larger than previous studies have reported, partly because they measured different views of information, such as information creation rather than consumption. Also, nobody had looked at the role of computer games, which generate a staggering number of bytes.”

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