Monday, September 24, 2007

Printer Economics

My venerable HP Deskjet 500 has finally died. I have had it since the early 90's I think. It was only the second printer I ever owned after my old Epson LX-80 dot matrix printer (which would probably still work just fine, actually, but whose output was no longer acceptable - even in the bad old days of the early 90's).

By died I don't mean that there is anything major wrong with it. The thing is a tank (like all things HP used to be). By died, I mean that little things have started to go wrong and it is most likely not worth the trouble and expense to fix it. The sheet lifter doesn't always work on the first try and for some reason the ink cartridges are clogging with depressing regularity.

I have two other printers. An Epson Stylus Photo R2400, which is completely brilliant for photography, but isn't really a general purpose printer, and some generic POS from Lexmark that I got for free when I bought my last computer, which is, umm, temperamental and very slow for basic printing.

The kind of stuff that I tend to print these days is very different from when I bought my old Deskjet. I want to print google maps and web content. Things that are mixed color and black and white. I want the color bits to look reasonable and the black print to be perfect. The only kind of printer that really meets this need is a color laser printer.

So I started looking at low end color laser printers to see if I could afford them yet, and lo and behold, I can. I settled on the HP Color Laserjet 2600n, which when I ordered it had a $100 instant rebate in effect, making the total 299.99. Less than half of what I paid for my Deskjet 500 way back when.

The cartridges that come with this printer are full new cartridges (not the crippled "teaser" cartridges that some manufacturers try to slip you) that should print around 2500 pages (mixed duty) before they need to be replaced.

Now here is where it gets funny. A set of replacement cartridges costs $323.96. That's right, more than the printer. So this printer is disposable. I can't believe that I live in a world where color laser printers are disposable.

The total cost for this printer works out to about 12 cents per page, which isn't bad.

I feel really sad for the environment, though. This kind of economic model is criminally stupid. Is there anything that isn't disposable anymore?