If you’re like most of us, over the course of a year, the cost of your printer ink cartridges will be more than the cost of your printer. It’s a model that the razor blade folks came up with: sell the razor really cheap, and make your money on the consumables. In the case of the razors, it’s the blades. In the case of printers, it’s the ink cartridges. Well now the king of personal printing, Hewlett Packard, is turning that model upside down.
HP’s new Instant Ink Plan is aimed at family printing. It might also be sufficient for low volume home offices. Here’s the way it works. You go out and buy an HP Instant Ink capable printer for anywhere between about $80 and $100. You sign up for an Instant Ink plan. There are three levels, each based on the number of pages printed, not the amount of ink you use. The cheapest plan is based on 50 pages a month for about $3.00 a month, or $36 per year. The second tier is for 100 pages a month at $5/month. Or you can choose the top tier of 300 pages a month for $120 for the year. The service automatically monitors your printer and sends you new ink cartridges before you run out.
Overall it’s a pretty clever idea, and potentially very helpful to the family that has modest printing needs. HP claims the savings over traditional ink cartridge purchases are significant. For example, at the 50 page per month level, HP claims you’ll be saving $84 per year. At the top level they say the savings amounts to $600. That’s real money. The eligible printers have the same functionality you’d expect from most comparable machines: printing, copying, and scanning. One has fax capability as well. They all support wireless printing. Two of the three units in the program also support mobile device printing, and they all have SD card slots so you can go from camera to printer without worrying about the computer.
Does this make sense? For starters, it means theoretically never running out of ink. And depending on your usage, this could offer significant savings. But it’s a new program and we’ll have to see just how well HP delivers.