New ink business models alleviate anxiety

Most people know the symptoms, but now the condition has a name: ink anxiety, characterized by fear of acute ink shortages at the worst possible time and high costs for printing ink. HP and Epson have now introduced new business models that are designed to make worrying about ink supplies and costs a thing of the past.

Most people know the symptoms, but now the condition has a name: ink anxiety, characterized by fear of acute ink shortages at the worst possible time and high costs for printing ink. Two printer manufacturers have now just found ways to alleviate the affliction – they have introduced new business models that are designed to make worrying about ink supplies and costs a thing of the past.

Small businesses are often caught in the middle: Those that are not quite ready for full-fledged managed print services still need to pay close attention to their printing costs and ink supplies.

Hewlett-Packard’s Instant Ink program aims at providing a solution. Best suited for small and mid-sized businesses as well as at consumers, the Instant Ink program was already introduced in 2013 as an option for some of the printers. Now, HP has launched the first series of printers that come with the ink-subscription model by default.

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The program is available on the HP Envy 4520 all-in-one, HP Envy 5540 all-in-one, HP OfficeJet 4650 all-in-one, HP OfficeJet 3830 all-in-one, HP OfficeJet 5741 and HP OfficeJet 5743. The HP Officejet 4630 series and HP Officejet Pro 8610/8620/8630series are the first SMB-focused products available for the program. With the new additions, a total of 17 HP printers are now Instant Ink ready.

The Instant Ink Program allows users to choose a plan depending on their printing needs from 50 pages a month to 300 pages a month. For small business owners who choose the 300-page plan for 9.99 USD, that averages just over three cents per page in ink. At 120 USD per year, HP calculated the savings at 600 USD over standard cartridges, which would cost 720 USD in the same time period. The plans are based on printed pages, not on amounts of ink used, which makes them especially appealing for businesses whose printouts are graphic-heavy. The plan has no annual fee and can be cancelled month-to-month.

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In addition to cost savings for ink, the plans also allow for hassle-free resupplies. Once a business or person enrolls in a subscription-like plan, the printer figures out when it is time to reorder ink and does so automatically. The ink is delivered per mail. According to HP, the service has already reached half a million users in the 20 months since it started. It also has a recycling option. The program provides prepaid envelopes to return used cartridges.

Epson has chosen a slightly different route. It has equipped its new line of EcoTank printers with large ink tanks that can be refilled. Epson says that even its cheapest EcoTank holds enough ink in its reservoirs to print 4.000 black and 6.500 color pages before it needs a refill.

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The printers are more expensive than inkjet printers with small cartridges but small businesses that produce a lot of documents, receipts and invoices might find Epson’s new printers to be decent investments. According to Epson, when comparing EcoTank to a traditional printer, the ink included with the EcoTank is equivalent to about 20 sets of ink cartridges or more, depending on the model.

According to Epson, the cost will be 12.99 USD per refill bottle, or 52 USD per set of bottles. Fewer refills also means less waste. The Epson Expression ET-2500 EcoTank, the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank, the WorkForce ET-4500 EcoTank, WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank, and the WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 EcoTank have become commercially available in September.

These two new business models show: There is momentum in the ink market and the times where printing ink costs more than a 15-year-old single-malt Scotch according to a Consumer Reports article may soon be over. It will be interesting to see what other models will emerge in the near future.