Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Inkjet Refill Racket.

Let me state that I once was unabashedly passionate about my now aged Canon i70 photo printer. It is compact (in fact portable if you buy a battery for it), fast, prints remarkably great images up to 8 x 10, and does documents too at a respectably brisk clip. When digital cameras first appeared, I’d spend weekends cooped up with my photo-spewing friend, printing out scores of crisp, colorful masterpieces to shove in the face of anyone who would look. “Isn’t it amazing! I printed it myself!” I would crow, impressed not only with my handiwork, but more with how I stuck it to the man by not paying for pricey store-made prints. Then I’d run to Staples to load up yet again on $40 worth of ink cartridges.

And there’s the rub. Printers are sold using the razor blade business model—the printers are dirt cheap, but you have to keep buying ink for eternity. 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?).

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Mike Stajduhar said...
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