Printer Ink: The Real Black Gold

Posted on 20. May, 2006 by in Saving & Investing

printerink.jpgI often ask myself why certain things cost so much. Gas, razor blades, my favorite pens… but the top of my list is ink. We’ve all heard the explanation that manufacturers lose money on the printer itself, up to 20%, but then make it up in the sale of ink later on. Well, it appears that consumers are starting to get angry at the high price of ink – regardless of the rationalization from printer manufacturers. But I have to agree with the angry consumers (I guess that makes me one of them). reported that at $22 per quarter-ounce, a Hewlett-Packard color ink-jet cartridge is more expensive, by weight, than imported Russian caviar! If I were to fill my car with ink instead of gas, it would cost me over $168,960! And I thought gas prices were rising…

So what makes printer ink so expensive? The consumers argue that it’s simply the printer manufacturers’ high markups – up to 60%. The manufacturers claim that they are making a healthy profit, but not close to 60%. However, consumers don’t seem to be buying the fact that ink should cost so much – so they have begun taking their cartridges to third-party businesses to get their cartridges refilled. However, the printer companies have been fighting back by implanting chips into their cartridges that force consumers to buy their brand-name ink in order for the printer to work.

But there are a few people, including North Carolina Governor Mike Easley, who have been fighting for the consumers. Just recently he signed into law a bill giving North Carolina residents the right to refill any ink jet or toner cartridge. The law doesn’t directly address Lexmark’s DMCA concerns, but it bolsters buyers’ rights.

Under the North Carolina law, consumers and businesses that have contracts with service agents can refill or use third-party cartridges despite printer manufacturers’ user agreements requiring consumers to use only the vendors’ ink. Chalk one up for the little people!

I’m afraid this battle is far from over. But if printer manufacturers insist that ink costs that much to produce – I’d like to see some evidence. What makes your ink so special that it costs $88/oz. while IslandInkJet is selling ink for only a few dollars?? Answer me that HP, Lexmark, and Epson and I’ll begin to start buying your over-priced cartridges again.

4 Responses to “Printer Ink: The Real Black Gold”

  1. AJ

    20. May, 2006

    I’m all for alternatives to overpriced ink cartridges but the 3 or so times I used companies like Island Inkjet to refill the cartridges, the print quality was poor or spotty at best. I used a ton of ink just trying to clean the nozzles and what not. Perhaps it is just my printer but I’m stuck with the price gougers for now.

  2. dotbar

    21. May, 2006

    You know, I almost dreamed of finding some cheap old ink somewhere and using it to refill those cartridges! About 20 years ago, I was told that if I refilled the cartridge, my Canon would gum up. Ya right. Like it’s still going after mega refills! But not of dirt cheap ink…it has thrived on the madeforrefills special ink. I wish I knew if it had to be that darned special stuff….

  3. Jim @ Printer Reviews

    03. Dec, 2006


    Great article I’ve been harping on about printer companines to my friends for years now and how much they make.

    I’m going to print ( on my expensive ink )this article out for some of them $88/oz that’s just crazy.



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