Rejoice: Epson is getting rid of printer cartridges

No more.
No more.
Image: AP Photo/Aaron Favila
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You decided on a whim to go to a baseball game. You bought your ticket online and the game starts in just over an hour. Before heading out, you go to print your ticket. But what prints is a washed-out, mainly magenta mess of lines. You’re certain it’s only been a couple weeks since you changed out the printer cartridge, but it’s empty again. Furious, you head to the stationery store and end up missing the start of this game, cursing Epson, Brother, and both Hewlett and Packard.

This printer-ink tale repeats itself on a daily basis across the world, but a new printer line from Epson may soon unshackle us from having to buy new printer cartridges every few months. Its new printers will come with refillable ink wells, and the ink will only cost about $13.

Epson says its EcoTank printers can last about two years without needing to be refilled. The catch: The printers will be considerably more expensive upfront than most home inkjet printers on the market today. As Bloomberg points out, Epson—like all major printer companies—currently makes a large chunk of its profit from selling affordable printers and the relatively expensive ink cartridges to keep the printer printing. Some Epson printers sell for as low as $60 in the US, but the EcoTank printers will cost about $379. But ink cartridges are expensive—the cartridges for the company’s $60 printer cost only slightly less than the printer itself.

These new printers—which have been on sale in Europe for a few months now—represent a shift in Epson’s business model. The company told Bloomberg that the number of people printing things has been slipping, and it hopes to allay some of the issues consumers feel when trying print.

“That anxiety and that fear of running out of ink—it’s amazing to me that that was so prevalent,” John Lang, Epson’s North American CEO, told Bloomberg.

Anxiety is one word for that feeling.

Lang told Bloomberg that he hopes being the first printer company in the US to offer this sort of option will kickstart sales in the country. He added that Epson would’ve offered the printer sooner, but the company was convinced people would balk at the high upfront price. But considering that more people are buying expensive smartphones upfront—instead of leasing them on a monthly basis from phone companies—it seems the time is right for catridgeless printers.

Perhaps Epson’s move will spur other “razor-and-razorblades” companies to try out new business models.

But not everything has changed. Epson hasn’t confirmed whether it’ll be any easier on its new printers to actually to print wirelessly, or even print anything at all.