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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Current Bait-and-Hook Printer Marketing Penalizes Power Users

The current business model for inkjet printers is classic bait-and-hook: Companies sell the printer units at a loss and then gouge their customers when selling them supplies. It's the same as, say, McDonald's restaurants, which sell everything at cost except french fries and soda, both of which have very high profit margins.

Fortunately, there are no people who go to McDonalds three times a day to subsist solely on french fries and Coke. If they did, they would more closely resemble "power users" of inkjet printers. Proprietary printer ink is more expensive than gold by weight, more expensive than exotic French perfume by volume. This hardly hurts most users—the same folks who in past years used the average 5 rolls annually of color negative film, three of them shot at a Disney theme park (long the average film consumption in America. One other roll, on average, was shot at a child's birthday party.)

No—it's power users who must pay. The more ink you use, the more disproportionately you're overpaying for the privilege of printing your own pictures. Photographers who save a few hundred dollars on a "subsidized" printer don't come out ahead when they're forced to overpay by thousands of dollars for large quanities of egregiously overpriced ink.

It can't be helped now. Nothing's going to change. But it's still a rip-off, and it's regrettable.



Blogger Dan said...

Dell is equally quirked by the rice of ink. Several months back they planed on selling their own printers (not re-branded Lexars) and inks. Their idea was by cutting out the middle man, much like what they did with computers, they could force the inkjet industry to compete and reduce the cost of inks.

They could still be working on this. I'm not sure. This was announced before news spread that their thin profit margins are causing them some financial issues.

11:44 AM  
Blogger David Emerick said...

Sometimes I am truly grateful to be employed by a college and budget I control - keeps the ink flowing in the 9600!

It has always been this way, primarily to cover the costs involved in research and development. I for one am thrilled by the advancements in inks and printers in the last 5 years. I agree it's expensive, but look at how far we have come, I don't remember photographers having Iris printers in thier homes.

There are more and more third party ink developers out there and hopefully competition will slow the pricing down some.


1:34 PM  
Blogger hotspur_1 said...

Are 3rd party inks noticeably inferior? Aren't we all corporate-conditioned into thinking the Bogeyman will get us if we try and use them?

12:41 PM  
Blogger David Emerick said...

Depends on who you talk to, what you are printing with/on, pigment or dye, etc, etc. Many professional printers think they are superior in gamut and longevity to manufacturer inks especially in the B&W printing arena. A "consumer level" review here:,aid,111767,00.asp

2:14 PM  

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