Zink…

Shifting the Business Model From Cartridges To Paper… After the Break…

Zink…

We all know the story about the inkjet printer business model – The printers themselves are absurdly cheap and the ink cartridges are where the businesses wring you out to dry. Not only that but it seems as though every single printer needs it’s very own specially-designed inkjet cartridge in order to function. Do you have a Model A13 but have Model A400 at home? Their inkjet cartridges are incompatible. Certainly, not every inkjet printer is like that a mass majority of them are.

Add to that the likelihood that the ink in the inkjet cartridges eventually dries out through lack of use, that there are supposedly inkjet cartridges that “tells” the printer that it hasn’t been used lately and, thus, shuts down automatically, that 3rd-party inkjet cartridges have a mixed-reputation for working or that “refillable” inkjet cartridges have a dubious reputation at best (when not being sued by the inkjet printer makers), that inkjet printers are eventually discontinued and, by extension, so too are their mostly-unique inkjet cartridges… Well, there are a lot of reasons why people switch to printerless formats.

For a moment, I thought that Zink printers (“Zink,” as in ‘Zero INK’ – Zink, get it?) would break the logjam of dubious business practices by offering a printer that needs zero ink, thus, eliminating the inkjet cartridge cartel that a lot of people have been oppressed by.

However, after reviewing the available material about them, it looks as though their business model relies upon specially-treated paper for the printing process. Instead of placing inkjet cartridges into a printer, the paper contains the “ink,” so to speak. Also, the “paper” is in rolls (zRolls as they are called and not standard sizes of paper) and looks more ideal for pictures and labels.

The market has wide leverage to do whatever it wants and, in the case of inkjet business practices, has no qualms with bleeding the typical consumer dry with their practices. Consumers have responded by simply no longer making as many paper copies as they used to. If anything, ordinary people have now shifted their printing priorities (if they need to print anything at all) from the home to at work, where they merely bring the files that they want to print into work and print it there. Yes, that’s slightly less-than-legal but it also works and employers, typically, ignore the minute amounts of illegal printing in exchange for employee morale (are they really going to fire someone because they printed out an E-Mail-only coupon for a deal on canned soup and face the wrath of an angry Internet?).

Ultimately, the inkjet printer / cartridge industry will have to wake up to the realities of the marketplace. Yes, you can form a virtual monopoly on printing documents but reality always has a way of deflating virtual monopolies. In several third-world countries, for instance, automobiles are taxed heavily and so the populations have typically turned to motorized scooters and public transportation instead.

Zink may not be the answer to the inkjet monopoly that has burdened the populace for so long but they are a symptom of a monopoly that has existed for too long. It’s time for the inkjet cartels to re-think their business strategies because, eventually, someone is going to make a “Zink” that does threaten inkjet’s dominance over how ordinary consumers print their documents. After all, you don’t see a lot of milkmen and ice delivery trucks rolling around the streets anymore, do you?

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