Printer ink: You’re paying more, getting less

The Guardian:

The sky-high price of printer ink – measure for measure more expensive than vintage champagne – has been well documented. Less well-known is the fact that the amount of ink in the average cartridge has shrunk dramatically.

A decade ago, the best-selling HP cartridge had 42ml of ink and sold for about £20. Today, the standard printer cartridges made by HP may contain as little as 5ml of ink but sell for about £13.

Cut open a HP inkjet cartridge and you’ll find what is going on.

This is a European report but there’s no reason to believe it’s not the same for cartridges sold here in North America.



  • http://profiles.google.com/larry.davis Larry Davis

    It’s a good thing there is literally no reason to own a printer anymore.

    • JohnDoey

      Exactly right.

  • http://twitter.com/Moeskido Moeskido

    I’ve had reasonably good luck with third-party remanufactured cartridges. What a racket this business is.

  • JohnDoey

    This is just part of the natural end of paper publishing. Paper is even more expensive now compared to a decade ago. If you can even find a bookstore, more than half of the new books are based on blogs — essentially cheaper content — because all of the money you pay for that book goes to paper, ink, and shipping.

    The defense for the paper book is exactly the same as the defense for the CD, and just as hopeless. That is why if iPad did not exist, we would have to invent it. In the same way that we needed iPods in order to keep listening to music, we need iPads in order to keep reading books. And no, not Kindles. An iPod can play the full 16-bit 44.1kHz stereo audio from every single CD every published, but a Kindle can — at best — reproduce 40% of the bookstore. What you see in the Mac app iBooks Author and the iPad app iBooks is the beginning of true digital publishing, with enough layout, color, high-resolution, audio video, and interactivity to reproduce the entire bookstore. (Yes, the bookstore contains audio video such as a 5 DVD cooking lesson from a master chef.)

    So the right response to the high cost of ink is to stop printing archaic documents. Instead, you should be “printing” them to an iPad. Into iBooks or any one of thousands of apps that enable you to manage documents in many formats. You’ll get more use out of those documents in the same way that people listen to their music collection more now that it is in their iPod or iPhone.

  • http://twitter.com/gorskiegangsta Agarun Ilyaguyev

    Good report, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Modern inkjet printers are orders of magnitude more efficient than older ones and have droplet sizes as little as 1 picoliter and a much better ink delivery systems that prevent excess drying.

    Also, the advent of electronic publishing (e.g. PDF, epub, etc.) as well as popularization of tablets, obviated the need of excess printing. Nowadays, people mainly print school/work reports. If they need to read something, they’ll just grab their iPad.

    • kibbles

      so why does that justify charging more for less, again? w/ the increased effeciency of better heads i would simply expect my same-sized cartridges to last much longer. or perhaps shrink and cost less.

      not shrink and stay the same price.

      • http://twitter.com/gorskiegangsta Agarun Ilyaguyev

        Justifies? Hardly. It’s a well known fact that printer manufacturers subsidize the hardware in the interest of making a buttload of money on ink. Yes, you ARE paying more for less, but it isn’t as bad as the report makes it sound. The ink quality is much better nowadays and the ink delivery systems are much more efficient.

        Also, “shrink and stay the same price” is an unfortunate side effect that has been accelerated due to recession, and, sadly, is not unique to printer ink.

        If you print a lot, I recommend buying a printer model which offers decent 3rd party ink options. As an example, I own a Canon Pixma printer and can easily get a high quality 3rd party ink set for as little as $12, whereas it costs $46 from Canon. By contrast, my previous printer – an HP Photosmart – practically drank ink and had zero 3rd party options available.

    • http://www.fantastic-realities.com/ SamuraiArtGuy

      “Ink delivery Systems” is probably the exact right phase.

  • http://mangochut.net/ mangochutney

    I gave away my laser printer five years ago. I need a printer once every two months maybe. That’s when I turn to my university library or a local copy shop.

    Print is dying and printer manufacturers, inkjet manufacturers in particular, are trying to squeeze every last penny out of its corpse before its finally gone.

  • http://www.printerfillingstation.com/ Lewis @Printer Ink

    To save printing cost I always use printer refill inks. Quality of printer refill ink also good. I feel it is the best decision to avoid extra on printing.

  • http://www.fantastic-realities.com/ SamuraiArtGuy

    I have leaned toward Canon machines for the image quality and the somewhat better deal the ink was over the horrifying rip-offs of HP ink, and the general craptasticness of HP drivers on the Mac. I recently had to retire my eight year old Canon Pixma ip4000 and replace it with a – for the most part fairly capable Pixma MG6220.

    I immediately noticed a difference in the smaller and lighter, and MORE expensive ink cartridges. The new machine takes CLI-226 and a PLI-225 cart, compared to the 4000′s BCC-6 and 3e. The new carts are about 25% SMALLER and around 15% more expensive than the previous ones. The are still not the brutal squeezing that HP inflicts but they are closing the gap. But to make it more interesting the new cart have circuitry to power an LED that blinks to indicate low ink and steady on when out.

    Gee. Thanks, Canon.

    It is also not lost on me that the circuitry would make it much more difficult to market third party ink. Last they are also OPAQUE. The 6 and 3e cartridges were transparent, showing the ink within. So when they were full you could see it, and when they were empty, the same. But now, with solid housings, there could be a wee eyedropper full of ink in the frakkin’ things… They could also easily read empty whenever Canon might set the driver to say they are, since we can’t see inside them. I’m tempted to slice an empty one open. They feel DINKY.

    Yes, we ARE being had. Not that we have much of a choice, when all the major manufacturers are playing the same game of “razors and blades.” Another evil dig is that even when printing a B/w or grayscale document, and you’ve explicitly selected grayscale in the driver, the printer creates gray tones out of CMYKg, instead of just the pigment black, which would be a “true” grayscale. The pigment black (PLI-225) is ONLY used for Black Text.

    If I was not a designer, and printed mostly b/w documents, I would certainly switch to a laser printer.

    So it’s not just ME, huh?