Friday, February 15, 2008


PopSci is bitching about Inkjet refills. The linked article says that ink jet ink can cost up to $8,000 a gallon. The good news is that the free market has responded by providing a cheaper alternative, in the form of prints from drugstores and other traditional photo finishing places.

I stopped buying inkjet printers a couple years ago, because what would happen is that I would buy a printer and it would be good up until the ink ran out. Then I'd drop the $40-$60 on new cartridges and the printer would still refuse to work.

Back in my school days, I got an Epson MX-80 printer. It saw me through high school and college, and in college I was printing out musical scores that literally required the thing to run for hours with most pins firing. (Dot-matrix.) I had it for about five years and you had a whole lot of slack about when to replace the ribbon.

I stopped using it when it caught on fire.

Subsequent printers have lasted for a year to a year-and-a-half at the most. A few lasted only six months. It didn't matter if I spent $40 or $180, they never survived. And they have huge operational costs.

My solution was this little baby. It's actually not that little. It's quite bulky, but it's a network printer so we just set it up in a corner of the ktichen.

I paid about $300 when it went on sale at Staples. There are a couple of key elements to this purchase. One is that the printer is a "business printer" and not a "home printer". Since the margins are so low on home products, most companies sell marginal products with no support.

Another is that it had, a one year full exchange warranty. Anything went seriously wrong that first year, they'd completely replace it. The printers had to be much more robust for that offer to work out for Oki.

Also it had 24/7 tech support. I called on a Saturday with a problem. And the tech support was in Canada.

So, what about the cost? Well, after three years, at $100 an inkjet printer, it would have paid for itself easily. But in those same three years, we've only had to replace the toner once. Now, replacement toner does cost $120 for all the cartridges, but in the same three years I would've replaced the ink jet cartridges at least six times and as much as ten times!

So, at the most pessimistic, the printer has been no more expensive than an inkjet, minus the hassle and frustration of having the inkjet break. A more realistic estimate would be that it saved me several hundreds of dollars.

The Oki is unfortunately weak under Linux. That's about the only negative. It was such a positive purchase, I was tempted by a Samsung printer I saw the other day that was very similar, also $300 purchase price--but did duplex printing.

See, that's the way technology is supposed to be: Tempting you to upgrade with new features, not being so shoddy that you're forced to upgrade and buy overpriced supplies to keep a dubious business model afloat.

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