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The sky-high price of printer ink – measure for measure more expensive than vintage champagne – has been well documented. Less well-known is the fact that the amount of ink in the average cartridge has shrunk dramatically. Newer cartridges contain a fraction of the ink a similar product contained a decade ago.
A decade ago, the best-selling HP cartridge had 42ml of ink and sold for about £20. Today, the standard printer cartridges made by HP may contain as little as 5ml of ink but sell for about £13. Worst value, say the experts, are the colour cartridges. All three leading players, including Canon, sell single tri-colour cartridges – cyan, magenta and yellow – often with less than 2ml of ink per colour. They're very bad value because when one of the three colours runs out the entire cartridge stops working.
The big printer manufacturers have reduced the amount of ink in a cartridge, encrypted the chip technology, and used aggressive marketing tactics to discourage refills. The printer companies dispute that they are squeezing consumers to ramp up profits.
"$10,000 per gallon of ink? OPEC, EAT YOUR HEART OUT! -- Currently, HP's Magenta ink for its Photosmart 8200 series sells for $9.99 at most stores along with the required Y, Lc, Lm, B, and C inks at the same price. However, HP only puts 3.5ml in the M cartridge, 4ml in the C, 5.5ml in the Lc and Lm, and 6ml in the Y. Do the math and the Magenta ink is $2.85/ml (compared to $1.15/ml for all colors in Canon's Chromalife #8 ink set and $1/ml for its #6 inks). Ok, HP's inks may produce prints that last longer than Canon's, but there are 3,785 ml in a gallon, making the final price for magenta ink an astronomical $10,788/gal! " I'm in the wrong business.
The ink business pulls in more profit than a high-end Cat House when a ship full of Navy boys pulls up to port.