Exploiting aftermarkets – the curse of printer ink


From Fool.com 16/03/12

At today's prices, HP represents a solid value, driven in part by the value of HP's printing business. Printing is a cash cow, and according to my estimates, its milk accounts for 40% of the value of the company.

No kidding. It’s a bitch of a cow (and my udders are sore!!).

HP is No. 1 in the printing market with 42% market share, which is more than the next two competitors combined. HP uses a razor blade business model: printers are sold at low cost, encouraging frequent upgrades to a wide array of printers with non-standard ink cartridge or toner fittings. HP then generates a recurring stream of revenue from cartridge sales. The economics of HP's printing business are phenomenal. To put it in perspective, printer ink costs more than blood by volume and more than caviar by weight.

I’d far rather fill empty ink cartridges up with blood than pay the odious printer suppliers ridiculous prices. 

The cost of printer ink has always wound me up. Bring back the dot matrix, I say.

Talking of dot matrixes, weren’t they just great? My Citizen Swift 90c (bought sometime in the mid-nineties) used to work like a dream before I sold it and bought an inkjet. Ok, it used to scream like a banshee in use, but printing has never been so cheap. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed submitting GCSE coursework printed on a dot matrix (I wasn’t avant garde enough to go for an inkjet until 6th form) but it was cheap and printed in colour too.

citzen swift 90c

My first inkjet was an Epson and like most Epson products (in my experience) it was a pile of junk out of the box. It lasted 18 months before it was launched out of a 2nd floor window. The next chapter of my printing adventure came courtesy of an HP Deskjet something-or-other. The build quality was superb (read “heavy”) but it was extremely ink-thirsty and wound up throwing endless hissy fits after just 4 years of moderate use. Heck, it really was a reptile of a thing.hp deskjet

After my foray studying abroad in Sweden, I plumbed for a cheap Canon (a Pixma iP1500) in 2005 to take care of my printing needs while I finished my degree.  Little did I know at the time, I landed myself an absolute gem. Not only was it robust (ok, the build quality was a touch plasticky – but its reliability was as solid as rock), it was quiet in use, lightweight and as cheap as chips to run.

canon pixma IP1500I quickly discovered I could buy compatible ink cartridges at £1 a pop via eBay which worked like a charm and used to last for ages. Combined with Inksaver 2.0, and Tesco value paper, my LLM degree saw me printing anything and everything while still costing me next to nothing. I hate to think of the cost that fellow law students used to pay for ink supplies. Sadly, my faithful old Canon started to cease up and generally wear out in late 2010 when I made the painful decision to decommission it.

In the interim, I’d bought a Canon multifunction machine in 2008 when Amazon had an offer on and Canon were offering a voucher rebate. It ended up costing me 15 quid and I used the ink -- the cartridges are m’chipped and it won’t accept compatibles – until it ran dry and it’s been my scanner ever since. It’s still in regular use (as a scanner) today.

canon pixma mp210

In December 2010, I bought a Samsung Laser (a ML-2525W if anyone’s interested) which turned out to be a superb choice.

ML-2525WThe toner cartridge it came with lasted me almost 12 months and I’m hoping to get at least double out of the larger capacity cartridge I fitted subsequently. I’d never have another inkjet again.

Anyhoo, I you enjoyed reading about my printer odyssey, (riveting, wasn’t it?). I guess my point is that printers are cheap and I’ve been through a lot of them in my time.  It seems to be an accepted practice for manufacturers to use printers as the loss leader, stacking ‘em high and selling ‘em cheap, while they claw it all back on the lucrative aftermarket of over-priced ink supplies.

And that really gets my panties in a bunch.


  1. I hate paying heaps for ink too! It is such a rip-off!

    It got to the point when I was refilling cartridges myself but decided to go for a laser printer last year. I've probably bought 4 cartridges since I got it, most of them extra capacity purchased from a computer supply store at a relatively low price. While I miss having a colour printer, I love that I can highlight what I've printed and bcause it takes me so long to go through a cartridge I don't mind printing out everything I need for printing. I also love being one of the few people in my classes who doesn't print everything 4 pages per page!

    Of course, the $70 or so stings every time I run out of ink! I went without printing for most of this semester because I didn't want to go and buy more ink.

  2. I know... one of the nicer surprises of having a laser printer (besides the nice warm paper that pops out or that gorgeous smell that it makes) is you can highlight the text without smearing the ink 7 frickin' ways to sunday as you do with inkjets.

    I absolutely hate inkjets... anyone who hasn't jumped on the laser bandwagon is missing a trick! :-)

  3. You're absolutely right mate. This is an issue that really frustrates me but since I already have [an]all-in-one printer I don't really have the option of changing anytime soon.... When I have to print large amounts of documents I just do it at work ;)

  4. Going forward to 2018, Inkjets are filling landfills like mad, destroying the environment. Laser printers have shrunk to the size and price of inkjet printers. The only thing inkjets are good for is printing photos on photo paper, but then again it might be cheaper and easier to just have them printed at your local photo center or shipped back to you...


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