June 8, 2008

The World’s Most Expensive Fluid

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).


  1. The World’s Most Expensive Substance « memoirs on a rainy day on June 8th, 2008 at 7:57 am

    […] The World’s Most Expensive Substance Published June 8, 2008 asides , politics-social-racism , technology Tags: asides, Clusterflock, cost, Epson, HP, ink, inkjet, laserjet, social, technology Guess what it is? It’s not gold or oil. It’s inkjet ink. We are all paying between 3000$…? […]

  2. Michael Grant Smith on June 8th, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I’ve been disgusted by the same thing for a long time. Once-durable investments like printers are eventually going to end up like disposable cameras. Print 250 pages and throw the whole thing away.

    I wonder what Big Brown’s semen would have fetched if he had finished at the other end of the order yesterday?

    The math is too icky to calculate.

  3. Derek White on June 8th, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Kodak had a printer I bought that was supposed to have really cheap ink, and it did, but problem is the printer sucked and I had to send it back to them. But in theory, it was a hell of a lot cheaper page per page.

    For anyone that has ever tried refilling their own, again, nice in theory, but ends up being more trouble than it’s worth…

    They’ve got us by the balls.

  4. Daryl Scroggins on June 8th, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I once saw a big stack of refurbished Epson inkjet printers on sale at a big electronic store here in Dallas. I forget the model but the printer was priced at $29. I was looking at them when a man came over, popped the cover off one they had opened for display, and extracted a cartridge. “Yes!” he said. “These are the retail-capacity cartridges! Sixty dollars worth of ink here!” He loaded three printers into his basket.

  5. JM on June 13th, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    While I appreciate your analogy, a gallon of gold would be worth somewhere along the order of $2M. Quite a bit more costly than ink.

  6. xxtoni on May 7th, 2010 at 11:20 am

    These assumptions are totally false,the most expensive fluid in the world is pyrophosphatase.
    It costs 60 000 000€/liter

  7. Rob on May 7th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I also appreciate what you are getting at, but for argument’s sake (sorry, gotta throw this one it) a more expensive fluid sometimes is coming from some of the world’s finer sperm banks.