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Invisible Costs of Inexpensive Printers

Aug 26, 2008
As a computer user for the last decade or so, over time I've noticed that printers become cheaper and cheaper each year. While this seems like a great deal, one thing hasn't changed: the cost printer ink. Inkjet printer ink has not really gone down in price at all in the last decade. In fact, you're probably spending more on printer ink now than ever before.

Here is the problem - ink is pure profit for printer manufacturers. Printer companies rely on the whole "razors and blades" model that the Gillette popularized. It works like this. To begin with the printer companies sell you the printer for cost or close to it and then they sell the ink at a significant markup. This works well for them because while they only sell you the printer once, they sell you ink over and over again. Thus, since they make lion's share of profits on the thing that people run out of, the printer manufacturers make recurring sales and recurring profits without having to advertise to do so.

Even worse for the consumer, inkjet ink cartridges are not interchangeable between printers or manufacturers in most cases.. Epson cartridges don't work with Cannon or HP or Lexmark, because that way the printer companies can all make money by being the only one to sell ink cartridges for their printers. It's a pretty good racket for them.

The phenomenon of cheap printers only serves to further increase the problem of expensive ink. As of last Christmas, the average consumer was able to buy an all-in-one printer from HP for only thirty five dollars. That is actually less than the cost of the printer itself. My friend, we call that a tipping point.

Think about that for a second. If you own that printer, every time you run out of ink, it will cost you more to buy an ink cartridge, than it than it did to buy the printer. Sure, that means the printer was cheap, but that also means that HP is making more money off of you right?

The other thing that is costing you more money on your cheap printer is this idea of home photo printing. Yes, home photo printers can in fact print nice four by six prints. While it's very convenient, do you ever stop to consider how much money that is costing you? How much are you really paying per print?

Let's say you get maybe a hundred and fifty prints out of your fifty dollar ink cartridges. In that case you are paying about thirty three cents a print. Now, compare that thirty three cents per print to an online printing service like HP's Snapfish service.

Snapfish charges nine cents a print plus the cost of shipping. That works out to around fifteen cents per print depending on quantity. By printing at home you could be spending almost twenty cents more per print. Is the convenience of printing at home worth twenty extra cents a print?

I for one think the whole printer market is ridiculous. There is no reason that ink cartridges should be more expensive than the printer itself. I'm not saying that you should be spending more on a printer just to spend more, but don't just look at the sticker price of the printer. Look at the cost of the ink as well.
About the Author
Brian is a writer who hates spending too much money on inkjet ink cartridges, especially black ink cartridges. For more information go to http://www.inkjetinkcartridges.net/
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