The problem with printers

My editorial team has been ultra-busy this month, with the aim of bringing our readers the best Printing Guide possible (free with our next issue). What we’ve discovered in and amongst all the techie fun has been quite an eye opener, namely that printer users are indeed a funny bunch.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  March 27, 2007

|~||~||~|I’m basing this conclusion on two surprising discoveries – both of which suggest printer buyers in this region either don’t care about, or don’t understand, how to print economically. For our ‘Know This’ roundtable feature (which you can read in the Printing Guide), I quizzed several Middle East printer experts on what kit to buy and how to use it. It turns out that one essential money-saving printer feature just isn’t getting a look in with users here. I’ll explain further; a great many small business and enterprise printer models come with a feature known as a duplexing unit (or duplexer), which allows you to print on both sides of a sheet of paper. This is a cracking addition because unless you’re printing something for a client or your boss that has to look the business and be presentation-worthy (i.e. printed on one side), you can use this feature to save a ton of cash on consumables. Namely you can half your paper spend. The bigger the business, the more money that equals saved. Useful wouldn’t you think? But does anyone here use this feature, or even ask for it on their machines? Hardly any, according to some of this region’s printer manufacturers. One told me that maybe 5% of users actually buy duplexing-enabled machines. A second confirmed this to be pretty much an accurate figure, and so it went… Quite frankly, I was surprised. I appreciate there is plenty of money floating around some parts of this region, but I’m shocked that IT managers here – or in the case of smaller firms, their general managers – might be making so much cash that limiting their print costs becomes unimportant. Industry research house Gartner reckons print costs can account for up to 3% of a business’s annual revenue – surely that’s not a figure to be sniffed at? Or alternatively, maybe this chance to save is important, in which case the low usage of duplexing must be an education issue (in other words, business printer buyers either aren’t aware of this feature and the resellers or retailers they buy their kit aren’t flagging it up). The Print for Less feature our team wrote, available on www.itp.net/features, emphasises this point, but there is certainly a job for the industry players here too. Our second surprising find also relates to spending on printers, namely that buyers in this region still aren’t paying much attention to ongoing printer costs when buying their devices in the first place. A couple of vendors suggested to me that ongoing printer costs – so important over the life of a printer, particularly in the case of ink-drinking home photo products - are not really given much thought when a user buys their first printer. The next time around however, when a user has used their first printer for a while and experienced just how much it costs to run their machine at full tilt, they start caring a lot more about the potential cost per page (Canon even has the results of a study that prove this point). Whilst this finding is frustrating, in a sense, for people like myself, who spend so much time advising readers to consider these points before buying a printer, it does at the same time emphasise just why we need to keep banging the message home. So I’ll do just that by summarising the key points to consider: * Know what you print before buying: understand how many and what type of documents you print, who prints these and how often * Buy the machine to best suit this use (not the one with the highest resolution or shiniest lid). If printing photos at home for instance, more ink tanks equates to less money wasted. If buying a mono laser machine, check printers’ mono toner ISO ratings for an idea of how their yields compare. * Crucially, buy with economy in mind. If a duplex unit adds $50 dollars more to a printer’s initial cost, bite the bullet, because I guarantee you that if you use it you’ll recoup this cash in next to no time. So now you know, it's over to you spread the word! ||**||

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