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Epson Printer Promises Freedom From Overpriced Ink Cartridges


Epson has a new printer that promises to finally free people from overpriced ink cartridges. That at least is the promise. To find out if that promise could possibly be true, our own Renee Montagne spoke with Wilson Rothman of The Wall Street Journal.


Rothman is the personal technology editor at The Journal. But when he decided to write about this printer, it was really personal.

WILSON ROTHMAN: It started with me trying to do a real estate deal in the middle of the night, trying to just print 15 black-and-white pages and then faxing them. And the printer just did not want me to do this. And it ran out of magenta ink, then it ran out of cyan ink, then it just told me that its Epson cartridges weren't real Epson cartridges, and I ended up at Kinko's.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter). OK, tell us about this new printer, and how does it differ in such a way that we can be freed from ink cartridges?

ROTHMAN: This thing doesn't have cartridges. Instead, it has a very large tank on the side of a printer, kind of like a big reservoir or a big shed. When you get the printer, you fill it with the four colors of ink and then for about two years you don't ever think about ink. That's kind of the idea.

MONTAGNE: What, though, is the bottom line in terms of why this way of doing it would cost less than the kind of neat, little printer cartridges?

ROTHMAN: Well, this is how the printer industry makes their money - it's the razor and blade model. They sell the printer cheap, and then they, you know, sell the cartridges at an extreme premium. So over the course of two years, you could end up spending $800 on their brand of ink. This printer only costs - only - costs $400. So they're saying, we're not going to try make money on ink refills from you. We're just going to take your money upfront.

MONTAGNE: In the end is it actually cheaper to use this printer that you will fill up rather than use cartridges?

ROTHMAN: No, actually the two years without running out of ink scenario is actually about twice what it still costs if you go to Amazon or and just buy the off-brand, cheap ink. But the question is, how much would you pay to to relieve yourself of the hassle of changing ink cartridges?

MONTAGNE: Yeah, how much is it worth it - the convenience factor?

ROTHMAN: Yeah, how much is it worth it to not think about ink again?

MONTAGNE: Me, personally? I'd pay it, for the convenience.

ROTHMAN: I'd pay it too. And you got to also remember, this is a warranty-protected machine that has some quality assurance as well.

MONTAGNE: And why would Epson be doing this at this point in time? First of all, it seems like it was doing alright the old way.

ROTHMAN: We Americans have been very happy paying for our cartridges for a long time. But around the world, that's not been the case. People also started to hack their printers to do just this - to feed ink continuously. India and China, people were just creating systems that would just bypass the cartridges altogether. And of course that meant a huge loss for these companies that make the printers.

MONTAGNE: Well, tell us about the response to your article in The Wall Street Journal because I can only imagine it unleashed an outpouring of frustration.

ROTHMAN: So I've been getting emails from all over the globe, people who just want to vent about the printers. They say, oh, I hate HP, so I switched to Epson. Oh, I hate Epson, so I switched to HP. That usually how the story goes. There's never like, oh, my God, I love this printer.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter).

ROTHMAN: It's been very amusing.

MONTAGNE: Seriously, not one person had a positive story that they notified you about?

ROTHMAN: The more upbeat folks just wanted to share tips like, here's how I get around that ink problem - buy three cartridges at once. And then I run out of one, and I've got another in the drawer. People love to hate their printers.

MONTAGNE: That is so true. Wilson Rothman is the personal tech editor for The Wall Street Journal.

Well, thank you very much for talking to us.

ROTHMAN: Oh, it's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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