June 8, 2008
For the longest time, I’ve tried to tell friends and family members that inkjet printers are a racket and create a completely false economy — they represent the razor blade business model on steroids. Consumers love the low entry price and seemingly have no problem whatsoever paying 40%-50% of the printer’s cost just for ink refills. They also don’t seem to notice that ink — especially black — is used at a supernaturally fast rate.
With my old printer, it took only 1.75 refills and I had bought the printer brand-new again.
With any luck, the jig will soon be up, because as it turns out, inkjet ink is the most expensive substance you’ll ever buy:
And wouldn’t you know, it turns out that printer ink, especially for photos, is probably the most expensive substance per volume you’ll ever buy—more expensive than gold, oil, perfume, even blood in most cases. If you’re buying name-brand ink cartridges, which typically hold a few milliliters of ink, you’re shelling out the equivalent of between $3,000 and $5,000 per gallon. (Suddenly, spending $45 to fill your car’s gas tank doesn’t seem so extravagant, eh?) Just as an idea of how valuable this particular golden goose is, more than 40 percent of HP’s $2.63 billion operating profits from last quarter came from it’s imaging and printing group alone. In other words, ink keeps printer companies in the black.
So what to do about printing photos? I just send mine to Costco or even Apple and have them shipped to me, depending on urgency. That way, I avoid the cost of the printer, ink and paper. My only printer is a reliable Brother B&W laser, which I will replace with a color laser eventually (which won’t be for photos).
Bottom line: these printers are a back-loaded ripoff and have been since day one. Now, most manufacturers (save HP) are even making their ink cartridges impossible to get aftermarket ink into, which means they can’t be refilled easily (or at all).