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HP Explains Why Printer Ink Is So Expensive

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the megabucks-per-picoliter dept.

HP 651

CWmike writes "'There's a perception that [printer] ink is one of the most expensive substances in the world,' says Thom Brown, marketing manager at HP. Well, yeah. One might get that feeling walking out of a store having spent $35 for a single ink cartridge that appears to contain fewer fluid ounces of product than a Heinz ketchup packet. Brown was ready to explain. He presented a series of PowerPoint slides aptly titled 'Why is printer ink so expensive?' I was ready for answers. The key point in a nutshell: Ink technology is expensive, and you pay for reliability and image quality. 'These liquids are completely different from a technology standpoint,' Brown says, adding that users concerned about cost per page can buy 'XL' ink cartridges from HP that last two to three times longer. (Competitors do the same.) The message: You get value for the money. No getting around it though — ink is still expensive, particularly if you have to use that inkjet printer for black-and-white text pages."

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Confusing (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331122)

If people are paying for the precision and technology behind the ink printing itself, that still doesn't explain why it's so expensive. How can they afford to print the label on that ketchup packet for so cheaply? Printing and ink technology isn't exactly brand new, I guess I'm a little confused. If I pay $35 for an ink cartridge that is the size of a ketchup packet, it better be super concentrated precision ink that can stick to tin foil and will last for a gazillion print jobs. HP seems better at selling snake oil then they do printer ink.

Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (4, Insightful)

tyrione (134248) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331124)

and even Color Laser Toner, twice on Sunday. This fad with inkjet is amazingly short-sided by people who would buy this junk and just print off their digital photos, instead of buying digital picture frames to load up their images to have around the house. Keep buying it as my Laser montone and color printers are dirt cheap today.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331146)

Meh... or just go to a photo finish place and get them printed at 12 cents for a 6x9.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (4, Insightful)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331214)

I bought a color laser printer over two years ago, and haven't had to buy toner yet. I haven't been careful about what I printed...the printer volume page says it has printed 3463 pages, all the color toner cartriges indicate 100% full, and the black toner is 60% full.

I'm never buying an inkjet again.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331328)

I bought an HP Color LaserJet 3800n four years ago. The color cartridges are rated at 6,000 pages each but I have printed over 8,000 color pages and only now am I having to replace the three color cartridges (I'm using two black cartridges for each set of color cartridges). The best part: The printer sits there in power saver mode but it will print the first page in less than 20 seconds when I send it a print job.

When the cartridges started running low, I bought an HP Color LaserJet CM2320nf MultiFunction Printer (printer, scanner, color copier and color fax machine) for less money than replacing the color cartridges on the 3800n. (I decided I could use the fax especially when it saved me $100 on the printer.) But the CM2320nf had starter cartridges, so I will be buying a black cartridge for it this week.

I do like having two color printers, so I'm going to replace the cartridges on the 3800n one at a time to spread out the $900 cost.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331230)

Do cheap, new (not used and refurbished) laser printers exist for consumers?

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (3, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331318)

I've seen HP mono laser printers go for $150. Newegg's got a Brother mono laser for $70 + $2 shipping right now.

Brother Laser Printers (4, Informative)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331474)

I own two brother laser printers (one at school one at home) and would recommend them to anyone looking for a cheap laser printer. The older, an HL 2070N has done a little over 10,000 pages in the 5 or so years since I got it. The newer one, an HL 2170W I've had for about a year and printed around 1600 pages on. They come with a toner cartridge good for around a thousand pages, after which I recommend buying the "high yield" ones which are around $40 and good for around 2600 pages. You'll also need a new drum unit ever 13,000 pages or so, but that hasn't happened yet.

One thing to look out for though, neither of these models seems to have postscript support that I can tell. Brother does have Linux drivers, but I've had occasional issues with them (actually nothing in the last 6 months or so). The few times that I've tried them, the Windows and OSX drivers seemed ok.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (2, Insightful)

Christophotron (812632) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331330)

I paid about $80 for a brand new Samsung ML-2510 monochrome laser printer. This printer can be found for even less if you get it on sale. I buy the (non-OEM) cartridges on Monoprice for about $20 apiece. One cartridge will last me FOREVER. At least 1000 pages I am sure. Oh, the cartridges are also easily refillable with a $6 bottle of standard copier toner. There is a removable plug on the cartridge that allows direct access to the toner chamber. It's not really worth my time, though, because the cartridges are so cheap. I have been using this printer for about 3 years and have only used up two cartridges.

I haven't been interested enough in color printing to buy a color laser, but I am sure that cheap, good ones do exist.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (2, Informative)

juventasone (517959) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331354)

About $80 for monochrome lasers and $150 for color lasers. Some of the additional cost is mitigated immediately by the fact that the included "introductory" toner cartridges contain more pages than the included ink cartridges in a $50 inkjet.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331396)

Define "cheap". I got a new color laser printer a couple years ago for just under $200.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (2, Informative)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331408)

Do cheap, new (not used and refurbished) laser printers exist for consumers?

Go to Okidata.com. There you will find a B4600 for $299.00. Sure, that's not the $90.00 you'll pay for an inkjet, but you would go through at least 10 inkjet refills by the time your first $30.00 toner cartridge runs out.

You can find better deals online than what you can find by going to the company's website. I remember a Brother Laser printer with wireless networking for $100 about a year ago.

I mention Oki because it's what I use. But HERE [google.com] is another Brother.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (1)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331442)

I got a Konica-Minolta PagePro 1350 for $100 4 years ago. Replaced the toner cartridge once @ $74. Simple B&W and fast.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331484)

Do cheap, new (not used and refurbished) laser printers exist for consumers?

Depends on your definition of cheap. Fry's today sent me some paper spam today advertising a Brother color-laser for $150. There's a Samsung color laser for $150 shipped on Amazon. No, that's nowhere near the $79 Best Buy color inkjet, but they're probably not as crappy, either.

HP's consumer color-lasers are starting to play the same consumables game as their inkjets, so use some caution there.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331552)

The aforementioned brothers are a good bargain for consumers. Quite low initial cost, although the carts are slightly higher than some more expensive brands. However $50 for a cart that's good for five reams is a pretty good deal when you compare it to a typical inkjet printer that's only good for just under half a ream for $30....

That's if you're willing to accept monochrome, and you're not printing on envelopes: I haven't had much success with toner making it through mail-sorting machinery.

But you should be willing to accept monochrome, because color printing is a terrible deal for home use. They rate the cartridges at 5% coverage to be able to claim 200ish pages of output (assuming you print quickly enough that evaporation/cleaning cycle doesn't burn off a significant fraction of your supplies).

But photos and even presentation pages are rarely using that little ink, so if you do the math it's often more economical to get your presentation pages from the office supply store's color laser printers and your photos from the drug store. Plus, your photos will be either dye-sub or photographic positives, which is better for color fidelity and longevity.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (5, Informative)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331258)

Digital picture frames still suck. You get a tiny, low-res screen for prices sometimes comparable to a 24" 1920x1200 monitor. Sure, the display electronics will add some cost, but come on.

I always tell people to go to the store to get their digital pictures printed out. It's far cheaper than owning & maintaining your own printer, and typically higher quality. Commodity color lasers (of which I am a fan, too) really don't produce nice super-high-res color glossies.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (4, Interesting)

caseih (160668) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331432)

Of course, apparently HP has a patent on a way of making toner abrasive so it wears out the drum faster, allowing them to sell more drums to customers. In fact most HP printers combine the toner with the drum, making their printers some of the more expensive ones to replace toner in.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (5, Informative)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331526)

This fad with inkjet is amazingly short-sided by people who would buy this junk and just print off their digital photos, instead of buying digital picture frames to load up their images to have around the house.

I got my first inkjet printer around the time my daughter was born, seventeen years ago. Inkjet printers may be many things -- including sharp-edged tools to gouge the hell out of people's wallets -- but they are not a fad.

Digital picture frames are not a replacement for printed photos. They're arguably tacky, especially on a wall with a power cable, they're small, they emit rather than reflect light which is often undesirable, and they have a smaller color gamut and much lower resolution than (good quality) prints, to say nothing of being overpriced themselves. When I just want to look at my pictures, I already have a monitor that's larger and higher quality than any digital frame. The biggest detraction is their power consumption. You can buy a lot of ink for what it costs to power a bunch of digital frames "around the house".

All that said, yes, the ink is grossly overpriced. I expect this will change in time as patents slowly expire.

And the expression is "short-sighted", not "short-sided". The implication is that people are, metaphorically, not looking very far ahead, not that they are somehow impaired by being tiny polygons.

Re:Give me Laser Toner any day of the week (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331540)

The inkjet has been around for decades. I think it's well beyond the point of calling it a fad.

If there are any good digital picture frames, that would be news to me, I haven't seen any. The ones I've seen all use the lowest grade TN panels possible short of having stuck pixels, are very low res, poor viewing angle and bad colors.

I'm down with monochrome laser, but I haven't found another color laser that I'm willing to risk money on. I need something that is networked and duplex. I had bought an HP 2605dn, one problem is that its optical path isn't sealed so I have to disassemble it every other cartridge set to keep it printing nicely. Newer HPs have more expensive toner cartridges and seem to not offer as much printing at that. None of the other brands seem that confidence-building either, reviews seemed to have too many red flags.

No... (5, Insightful)

GWRedDragon (1340961) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331126)

They want you to think ink costs a lot to produce, but it's actually that they are selling the printer as a loss-leader with the idea that the cost will be made up for in ink sales.

Razor Blades (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331196)

It's just like Razors and Razor Blades. That's how Gillette and Schick make their money.

Re:Razor Blades (3, Informative)

JustinKSU (517405) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331210)

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razor_blades [wikipedia.org]

"In 1901, the American inventor King Camp Gillette, with the assistance of William Nickerson, invented a safety razor with disposable blades. Gillette realized that a profit could be made by selling an inexpensive razor with disposable blades. This has been called the Razor and blades business model, or a "loss leader", and has become a very common practice for a wide variety of products."

Re:Razor Blades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331246)

except they do not charge $35 for a month old mayonnaise packet that has been left out.

Re:Razor Blades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331524)

Comparison doesn't really hold, as a razor without the razor blade is just a plastic handle.

Re:No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331444)

That's mostly it. However, the argument that they need to pay for ink technology development is partly true as well.

We'll know for sure when someone comes out with an upfront expensive inkjet with cheap cartridges. That's never going to happen, because for upfront expensive there's lazarz.

Inkjet printers are mostly sold in package deals with computers, and then used for a few pages once every few months. For that, they need to be as cheap as possible.

Re:No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331506)

Agreed. Kodak used to sell a cheap instant Polaroid camera for $20. Each package of film cost...$20 more dollars....Where was the profit, I wonder?

Re:No... (2, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331538)

Which is probably why HP fights tooth and nail against any sort of ink-refiller system.

Personally, I don't use a printer at home, there's no point. At work I rarely use one, not too much point there either.

When you control the market (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331128)

You can charge anything you want. This might as well have been titled "DeBeers explains why diamonds are so expensive," or "Saudi Aramco explains why oil is so expensive."

It's their business model... not the cost of ink (5, Insightful)

CodePwned (1630439) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331140)

It's simple. They sell printers at a loss and ink at over 500 to 5000% it's value. That's why you see all those kiosks that will refill your ink. The problem is some of them don't use "quality" ink. You know a company is full of shit when they start to use microchips to prevent 3rd party ink cartridges. Be smart!! Buy a laser printer. Most of those are VASTLY more efficient. I've printed almost 2,000 pages off of my Samsung ML 2581ND laser printer and it's still going strong.

Color prints work the same. If you invest in a good printer, the ink doesn't cost much. If you get a $20 printer expect to pay that $50-$70 difference in ink.

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (3, Informative)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331204)

Walgreens Drug stores are doing refills for $9.95. I suspect that usually that works pretty well.

Don't use monoprice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331398)

I used their HP ink. It's terrible. One color cartridge did not work. Got another one and it's working so far.

The printer didn't like the black cartridge after a month. I forgot the error message. The replacement started to spit out gray text after 3 months, like it was running out of ink. I cleaned it and it's working for now.

I'll try walgreens next, but I think the cartridges themselves are bad so I'll have to refill with HP cartridges.

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331218)

You know a company is full of shit when they start to use microchips to prevent 3rd party ink cartridges.

I wonder if somebody out there is making a living selling little DIY electronic doodads that bypass that "feature."

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (1)

Werkhaus (549466) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331322)

My non-canonical refills come with a small plastic chip-holder doodad and instructions on how to remove the chip from the Canon originals.

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (2, Informative)

Sir_Dill (218371) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331434)

Buy a CIS system.


I bought one from them about 6 months ago for the price of two sets of cartridges for my epson.

if I want archival pigment based inks, I buy 100ml bottles for about ten bucks each.

the dye ink that I got with the kit does the job and comparing prints from epson carts using the same paper and image, there is no difference that I could see.

The real reason is that they subsidize the cost of the printers through small, quickly used, expensive carts that have a finite lifespan that is not related to the number of pages printed or the amount of ink left in them.

Personally I would rather pay an appropriate price for the hardware, and a reasonable price for the consumables.

As consumers we need to stop supporting planned obsolescence and overpriced proprietary consumables.

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331516)

Yep, sure are check this out [inkproducts.com] .

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331242)

Seconded. I bought an el-cheapo color laser printer on clearance a few years back for $200. The print quality is way better than any inkjet ever will be and I'm still on the original toner cartridges that came with it. The biggest downside is that it takes up a bit of space, has a rather long warmup cycle, and probably consumes a lot more electricity than an inkjet. But I'm sure that cost is more than offset by not having to buy $30-$50 in liquid gold every few months.

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331448)

I am the happy owner of a Brother 1440 laser printer with 6000 page toner and an HP 9800 business inkjet which uses the same cartridges as the designjet 500 plotter (that is, huge cartridges). Small cheap printers are for cheap, silly ignorants.

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331452)

Or cheat using an auto-refill kit and *gallons* of ink from a supplier for a cheaper cost than toner.

Re:It's their business model... not the cost of in (1)

Trecares (416205) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331480)

2K pages is nothing really. We have a HP 4200 that has several hundred thousand pages printed and it's only needed the scheduled maintenance to replace the fuser and other stuff once. It still prints the same as it did the day we got it. We get about 15-20K pages before the toner needs to be replaced.

2K pages on the other hand might be something for a inkjet printer. That printer you have is rated to handle 12K pages a month. Coincidentally, it does have a microchip. I don't know if it's to prevent third party units or just to track page usage.

Because... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331142)

...There is tender love and care in every drop!

Re:Because... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331310)

That would only explain the white ink.

non-story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331144)

"HP exec tries weaky to justify more-expensive-than-gold printer ink" -- fucking non-story.

Um, isn't ink for printers akin to cellphones? (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331152)

Seems to me that cellphones - which sell at a loss while you pay for the service - are similar to ink printers.

Makes business sense to me!

not the only available option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331154)

that's why we refill them with reasonably priced ink here in mexico... yeah, the warranty gets void but who cares?

Re:not the only available option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331236)

2 plane tickets to Mexico are probably cheaper then a new ink.

Why? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331162)

"It's expensive because people pay it."

Until people go to cheaper per-page laser printers (with bad photo quality) and move away from inkjets, they'll get the most they can squeeze out of people. People pay for the ink, so they sell the ink for those profitable prices.

Photos != inkjet (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331170)

I hardly print anything anymore. Photos I have printed at Costco as they are dirt cheap and better quality than what you can do at home. They also sell enlargements up 30"x20" for $8.99. That is amazing as it would probably take an entire $35 cartridge to print not counting paper costs. Convenience of printing a photo right this second does not out way the insane costs of printing photos for me.

I think the inkjet business is going to shrink and better technology will replace it. Not soon, but eventually. If companies need to print they use laser so inkjet has become a niche in my personal opinion.

El-Wrongo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331180)

I call bullshit. It is the reason HP makes money. I used to sell ink by the gallon for 'classic' plotters. It was not $8000 per gallon. That's what modern ink costs. Ridiculous.

They are thieves. We are too stupid to demand change.

No victims if we continue in our own ignorance.

Re:El-Wrongo (1)

littlerubberfeet (453565) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331352)

Related to that:

I use some very high end printer's inks...As in letterpress, woodblock printing, and whatnot. I've never payed more than $400/gallon equivalent. There are some specialty pigments that can seriously cost, and I've gotten those in 200 ml jars. A standard carbon black is dirt cheap, especially in bulk.

On the commercial side of things, offset litho inks can be had for less than $10/pound...Same ink that prints the world's magazines and books.

Inkjet ink is a ripoff, and yes, we are stupid.

There are some good laser printers...and some inkjet companies that tout cheap cartridges. It is time for people to smarten up.

The real explanation (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331186)

Nick van Rijn explained it this way in one of Poul Anderson's stories: "It's a seller's market, and all we can do is hope they don't use too big a reamer on us."

first post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331200)

first post?

I actually like the HP model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331208)

I hardly ever print - to me it makes much more sense to buy a subsidized printer for next to nothing and $30 of cartridges a year than it does to buy a laser printer and $150 toner cartridge that will outlast the printer.

is it.... (5, Insightful)

Brian Boitano (514508) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331222)

Is it because yachts are expensive?

Re:is it.... (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331302)

HP doesn't own any yachts, but they do have a Fleet of lear jets.. I remember the last big layoff Carly did at HP, she also authorized a half dozen new jets. Those leases have got to be coming due.

Re:is it.... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331440)

some hp executives sure have owned yachts, one even had to pay involuntary manslaughter fine in France for yacht collision.....

No, it's just HP bei (3, Informative)

Shadowhawk (30195) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331232)

Ink for my Canon Pixma is only $15 for the official ink. There are 6 different inks, but each lasts longer than my mother's HP cartridges and I print more than she does.

On the other hand, HP's model is like the razor model: give away the printers cheap and charge an arm and a leg for the ink. Mind you, the printers are cheap pieces of excrement.

Re:No, it's just HP bei (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331418)

I'm not sure how it is with Canon. But replacing the ink cart also replaces the print head on the HPs. That means nothing for consumption, but it could be part of the price..

Re:No, it's just HP bei (1)

juventasone (517959) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331476)

PIXMA cartridges do not contain a print head. When your print head starts puking, your print head is either non-replaceable, or so expensive you wouldn't pay for it.

Your mother's HP most likely contains a fresh print head with every cartridge. Additionally, she probably only needs to purchase 2 compared to your 6. She also might have the option of a larger cartridge if she printed enough to make it worthwhile.

I'm not saying either is better than the other, I'm just pointing out that calculating the total cost of ownership isn't that simple. This isn't unique to inkjets either, Brother lasers will break down the cartridge into two or three consumables: toner, drum, and sometimes waste container. Whereas HP laser cartridges appear to cost more, but include all of those components.

A quote to put it into context (1)

hubang (692671) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331234)

"You guys gotta try the pasta... it has a real nice Profit margin! BAM!" Elzar from Futurama.

Now substitute "printer ink" for pasta, and Carly Fiorina for Elzar.

Get the picture?

You mean Hurd (ex Teradata), not Fiorina. (4, Insightful)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331294)

The worse thing is that Fiorina wants to be a part of government, and multiply her failure (as well as make use of her H1-b special interests).

Acceptance (2, Funny)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331244)

I sense a disturbing lack of acceptance of Mr. Brown's statements.

Are you all so cynical?

Re:Acceptance (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331290)

I'll accept that quality ink is expensive. I'll then point out that 91% of the time, you don't really need quality ink.

Re:Acceptance (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331356)

I sense a disturbing lack of acceptance of Mr. Brown's statements.

Are you all so cynical?

Whatever gives you that idea? Can't you see /. readers are faithful believers of the Holy Book of Brown, not daring what the holy scriptures have to offer? ;)

Collusion (4, Insightful)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331254)

Brown says, adding that users concerned about cost per page can buy 'XL' ink cartridges from HP that last two to three times longer. (Competitors do the same).


The message: You get value for the money. No getting around it though: Ink is still expensive, particularly if you have to use that inkjet printer for black-and-white text pages."

...and no bullshit can explain it, even if your competitors do it.

Translation: The market doesn't work. (1, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331272)

Market competition is ideally supposed to lead to innovation, resulting in customers getting radically more for less over time. Despite the number of players in the printer market, both current and previous, this does not hold true for inkjet printing. You could literally have self-cleaning devices that take gallon jugs of ink at dirt cheap prices if that were a priority, but making an objectively better product is not the goal.

The goal is making a product that will get the easiest money available on the market. This is always the game - and virtually all efforts are driven toward this end. The greater 'market' takes this further, and makes acting in a manner that does not 'return shareholder value' a very serious offense against the market.

In the end, this is not actually the market serving itself, growing to produce more, or expand more markets - it is simply the market spinning its wheels as hard as it can to extract as much easy money as it can, eventually shaping law to extract what marketing cannot. Much like an inkjet printer, this cycle quickly gunks itself up, and falls into an inert heap - and the answer tends to be to just replace it with the same model of printer again, since it seems cheaper than spending the resources on something more reliable or cost effective.

I recommend a nice reliable laser printer (so it will at least work for those few times I want to print), and a functioning regulatory system to break up corrupt, stagnant market players - or at least allow universities to be exempt from most legal limitations ('IP', noncompete, etc.), and allow them to compete when market players will not. Universities are already the only ones doing a lot of the research that happens in the 'market' these days anyway - should demand that private companies keep up, or get left behind when they're benefiting from public research while demanding exclusive rights.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Translation: The market doesn't work. (1)

ksandom (718283) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331466)

Market competition is ideally supposed to lead to innovation, resulting in customers getting radically more for less over time.

I agree with most of what of you said. But I'd like to point out that while the use of consumables may improve with innovation, innovation does little to reduce the cost of getting the raw materials. You can't expect to double the amount of black stuff you can mine every 18 months with constant costs.

Revisionism (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331274)

You know, all that has happened is that they have responded to public demand for cheaper prices. Years ago ink was affordable. Then it became $40 to print 100 pages of color and people revolted. Many bought laser printers for black and white. it was a bigger investment but after a year on the same cartridge it ended up being the same. If they needed color they would have an inkjet, but would use it sparingly. Of course they soon realized that the ink would dry after a few months.

So what could be done. Refills, color laser printer for those that did the volume to justify the costs. Now that they are losing the market battle they drop the price and say ink was never that expensive. When I had an inkject I never paid less than $25 for black ink, and now HP is selling for under 20? Give me a break. All they are doing is lowering prices and pretending they never overcharged.

I notice HP is doing this with toner. When I bought my Phaser printer I figured an comparable HP would cost about 50% as more per page in toner. About a year after the price dropped on toner and it was about the same. Kudos to HP for changing their tendency for usury, but clearly there was a period when they were overcharging simply because they could, as well as everyone else.

Kodak Printer (4, Informative)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331278)

I hate to admit it, but I love my original Kodak 5100 mfp. The ink is cheap and lasts a long time, the actual cost per page is one of the lowest of all inkjets, and it has lasted longer and worked better than any other inkjet I have owned or used.

Re:Kodak Printer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331464)

and it has lasted longer and worked better than any other inkjet I have owned or used.

I could say the same about _every_ laser printer I've ever used.

R&D Costs (1)

damicatz (711271) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331292)

How much of that 1 billion dollars a year in R&D costs goes towards finding new and creative ways to stifle third-party ink vendors?

Re:R&D Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331456)

And don't forget the price of color handouts of all those VIP Powerpoint slideshows.

Toner = cash flow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331312)

There's several companies out there that make a pile of money by manufacturing (or remanufacturing, which is another way of saying "used") cartridges and selling them for a lower profit margin. They don't have to advertise; they just need to make it relatively cheaply.

All those kiosks you may have seen for recycling used cartridges, or the nice forms Dell and HP will send you to ship back used material at their cost? They aren't necessarily being kind to the earth - just their wallet.

They make a toner cartridge for $30,
sell it to you at $99,
get you to mail it back for $8,
refill it for $15,
and sell it again for $99.

The remanufacturing companies just do the same thing, but don't have the initial build cost. Most of the remanufactured market comes from Clover or Nukote or another one that I forget. (My former employer is among those, which is where I found how rich those margins are.)

Conspiracy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331320)

The government forces all laser printing companies to put a secret ID code into each printout, they are then allowed to charge as much as they want for ink. Gov't wins, companies win, you lose.

I'd give them R&D costs .. (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331324)

Except that I get the feeling that the damn ink evaporates before I get a chance to use it. I am not printing very much and I am always having to replace cartridges. At the moment I am doing high speed, grey scale draft printing on most things because one or of the colour inks have gone - although that is probably how I should be printing in general.

Price per page (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331342)

Disclaimer: I'm in the remanufacturing industry

HP doesn't have an excuse. They have sold efficient printers in the past. Lets look at a few comparison inkjets currently sold by HP:

HP #21 [amazon.com]
Retail Price: ~ 20.00
Pages: 190 pages at 5% page coverage

HP #88XL Black [amazon.com]
Retail Price: ~46.50
Pages: 2450 pages at 5% page coverage

You do the math. $40.00 buys you either 400 pages or 2450*. (*side note, the print head is separate from the 88 style cartridge. It is rated at about 40k pages for around $70.)

Furthermore, the 88 is more efficient price per page than some of HP's laser cartridges. Case in point:

HP CB435A [amazon.com]
Retail Price: ~74.99
Pages: 1500 pages at 5% page coverage

You do the math. And the fun part? They don't sell 88 printers any more. As soon as people in my industry reverse engineer the carts, they release a new series of printers.

Guess what kind of inkjet printer I use?

Go laser, or pigment based inks (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331370)

Screw those guys. Inkjets are a ripoff. It's not just the cost per ounce of the ink, it's how the cartridges dry up with disuse, and how the printer uses up half a cartridge during a print head clean cycle, how the printer can't get through an 8x10 without at least one row error. The cost per page is prodigious with these printers, due to supply cost and designed-in high amounts of waste.

If you must use inkjets, it's worth looking at the economics of just throwing the printer away when the demo cartridges are empty. The cost of these printers is heavily subsidized (because they make their money on the ink), and by buying a new one each time you're also getting the benefit of new technology.

Consider a color laser printer. I have been using a color laser printer for three years and my cartridges are still at 80%. The important part of that statement is that my cartridges have been in the printer for three years and have not dried out. Because powder toner doesn't dry out.

...and when I absolutely need to have some professional quality photos printed, the Kodak kiosk at the grocery store does a better job than any inkjet.

But if you must have a photo-capable printer in the house, go with pigment based inks (Kodak, Epson) instead of dye-based inks (what the article is talking about). Pigment based inks do a better job printing photographs and don't dry up as fast. You'll get better results and you'll save a fortune in ink.

Really, there is no reason to ever buy another Inkjet, ever. Never ever. Tell all your friends. It's the biggest sucker game in the computer industry today. Buy a memory stick instead, and do your printing at the nearest Fed-Ex/Kinkos. Anything. Just don't buy another inkjet.

Re:Go laser, or pigment based inks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331494)

but I just bought a couple hundred inkjet printers, only cost me $29.99 + tax on sale :D

bulk ink (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331374)

Buy a printer that has a fixed head, not one with the head built into the cart. Buy bulk ink. Refill the cartridges yourself. If your printer cartridges are chipped then buy a reset tool, build one, or, if they're available, buy "auto-reset" chips.

What a jackass (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331384)

Title says it all. At least have the decency to shut the fuck up while you're raping your customers.

Don't forget to think strategically. (1)

rakslice (90330) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331394)

The success of the razor-and-blades-type model isn't based on "lock-in" as such; they're changing up the printer product lines more often than you change your shorts, and they're still practically paying you to take one. If you don't want to waste money, estimate what you're going to use in the future, weigh all the options, and do the math.

Buy more ink please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331412)

Maybe if you guys buy enough ink, I can get a raise. I would really appreciate it since HP has turned another quarterly profit and there are no raises in sight.

How much damage done to HP image? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#32331470)

I had way more respect and trust to the "HP" brand until I and several others got ripped off by their inks. My respect to the build quality went away when I saw inside of an HP 690C , a printer which the service center joked that I should have bought another printer for a lower price instead of living hassle to get it there. Guess what? Even my 690C looks way more reliable than the current plastic money traps.

On one hand, HP is a very large computer vendor with excellent support regarding drivers, service and huge Unix servers. On the other hand, same brand tries to rip 13 year olds with $50 printer, $70 for ink childish schemes.

I recently found an old HP Scanner, from the days of old HP. It has a perfectly standard 12V input, standard parallel port and scsi connectors. Next to it, 2 HP inkjet printers both having different adapters (so they can sell replacement?) with really amazingly disturbing "drivers" which does nothing but advertise HP inks.Thank God, driver coming with Windows 7 does what it is supposed to do (print!) without any bugging.

I have also used the legendary HP 5L Laser printer under amazingly high load for months, it was connected to a Novell server and did what it is supposed to do without any tricks. I remember toner price was all fine too.

I wonder if HP would spare time to find out if this "ink jet" business hurts their company image. I'd say yes. The brand image of HP in 1990s has nothing to do with the one today...

I bought a Phaser (3, Informative)

kimvette (919543) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331472)

I bought a Xerox Phaser a few years ago when I got fed up with ink cartridges (and my old 4p crapped out) but just a couple of weeks ago I bought a couple of photosmart printers. Why? Laser printers can't print on CDs and DVDs. If I do a lot of printing on the inkjet, I'll install a continuous ink system [google.com] .

Show me the numbers! (2, Insightful)

Striek (1811980) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331482)

For an article that's supposed to "explain" why ink is so expensive, it's rather short on details, leaving the reader with the impression of reading a whole bunch of numbers - which were all meant to impress you with drops per second, nozzle sizes, pixel sizes, etc...

I can accept that they must turn a profit, and that their prices must reflect that. What I don't see is any kind of ROI analysis. Tell me what it costs to produce and market your ink and break it down per cartridge or by mL. Then, and only then, will I believe you. Until then, this is just another excuse - entirely subjective and lacking any real objective analysis.

Not my problem (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331490)

For $15 for 400 milliliters and a one-time cost of $30 for the refill cartridges, eBay supplies me with all the ink I'll ever need.

About ink-jet inks (1)

Psicopatico (1005433) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331498)

Long time ago I've read about ink-jet inks whose primary requisite was to guarantee a perfectly constant fluidity, or else they'd close the printing head holes, forcing to replace it.

I don't know if it's for real, neither if that highly reflect on manufacturing costs, but seems reasonable to me.

Besides, I'd take a laser printer any day if I'd have to choose.

I like China's solution (1)

whancock (1651145) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331500)

If you ever go to an electronics market in China (and probably in a lot of other places), you buy a printer that's been hacked with a large inkwell practically taped to the side. The ink's cheap as anything, can't comment on the quality, though the prints I saw were fine. There's also the ease of use factor. You can see right there how much of each color you have left, since the container is clear and it's on the outside, and you don't have to open the printer up or even stop printing to change the ink. Someone needs to start selling these things in the West.

The real reason ink is expensive... (1)

surfcow (169572) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331502)

Ink is expensive because they literally give away ink-jet printers for free whenever you buy a new PC. They have to off-set it somehow.

Page for page, laser-printing is cheaper. But the initial costs are higher. You pay now or later.

"Here you go kid, the first one's always free..."

Only the ignorant still using inkjets (1)

ylikone (589264) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331508)

Inkjets are a complete waste of money. Get yourself a b&w laser printer for document printing and go get any photos you want printed over to your local grocery store (via SD card or whatever) where you can get them printed for cheap. I try explaining this to some people but they don't seem to get it and would still rather waste money on ink and glossy paper.

CISS systems and bulk ink (2, Informative)

TermV (49182) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331554)

I resisted buying an inkjet for years, preferring instead to use an HP business laser printer. After looking at horrible Costco soft proofs for some photos I was going to print, I decided that instead of buying a $50 costco printer I'd buy a $50 inkjet printer and use after market inks.

Only suckers by genuine OEM ink. Get yourself a Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS). They're basically a bunch of dummy cartridges that connect to bulk ink tanks that sit outside the printer. A good CISS vendor such as Inkjetfly or inkrepublic will sell you inks that closely match your OEM ink for 1/10th the price. Reputable vendors even provide ICC profiles for their ink and common papers, although if you're serious you'll want to pick up something like a spyder 3 print sr that will generate your own profiles. That will effectively lower your printer costs to the price of the paper. The output on an inkjet is actually much better than someplace like Costco, and you have much more control over how your prints will come out. The downside is a CISS requires more maintenance than cartridges and can be difficult to set up.

Of course now I regret printing anything because trying to frame anything larger than 4x6 is practically impossible. Frames, mats, photo paper and your camera's frame all use incompatible aspect ratios. If you think printer ink is expensive, wait until you try to buy non-standard framing supplies!

This guy probably actually believes his own BS (3, Insightful)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331562)

It seems to me that more than half of the people I meed have made a choice at some point in their lives.

When faced with a difficult bit of knowledge such as, "I work for a company which rips people off," it feels bad. A certain type of person when so faced with this kind of truth will spin words cleverly so that the truth goes away and turns into a nice, calming fiction. It's easy to do this! Words are brilliantly mutable. One quickly learns that with a bit of skill in word-craft and a strong enough will to push through the desired version of the false picture of reality while squashing down all others, one can happily get through life without ever having to face any unpleasant truths. -Truths like being an narcissistic asshole.

This is a choice many people make; that they will face adversity with fictions. It removes the need for real work and the pain of ever being wrong or ever having to improve the self in meaningful ways. Why should one? With lies and denial, one is already perfect!

Whereas others, those who have chosen against this method of dealing with reality, are the ones who grow strong for real. It takes work and pain to face hard and unpleasant realities head-on. But when you do, you grow powerful. You reduce the amount of energy being bled away from you via unhealthy systems, you grow skills in actually working with reality; your mind grows sharp as you hone awareness and self-criticism. Little perks show up, like the realization that you no longer lose arguments because you're no longer trying to win; rather, you're trying to get to the bottom of things.

This HP idiot is a puff of smoke. He can spin words but likely has no real strength; because in the course of sculpting his lies to himself and others, he's needed to limit his own awareness; (you can't get along with lies very well if you see all the facts, so your eyes need to be muted.) Strength after strength is cut away, so that there is no ability to react when truths come crashing in through the web of words. When the web fails, there is only paralysis. No ability to absorb and grow from the light of knowledge.

Sometimes it takes a while for a liar to decay, and sometimes you'll meet a very strong one who is near the top of his/her strength curve, but the end result is inevitable. The decay spreads and eventually liars descend into mush while those who look reality dead-on and deal with it and fight to see ever more grow in strength and ability.

That's just how it is.


But it makes excellent prison tat ink!! (2, Interesting)

droopus (33472) | more than 2 years ago | (#32331564)

Ok, yet another prison reference. During my time in the Feds over the past few years, I got to see a lot of tattoos, some of them very, very good. The technique [rankmytattoos.com] for making the gun is pretty simple, (use this [katerno.com] for the motor) but I was surprised to find that stolen inkjet cartridges were by far the preferred ink source. The going rate for a tat was $50 in stamps or commissary, but a new, unused inkjet cartridge went for another $75. Color? Double.

And the artists insisted on printer ink. (I always wondered if it was sterile...) They must have a reason.

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