In my last report I predicted that just about every digital imaging product available was going to continue to drop in price over the next year—except for ink jet inks! I expect them to rise even higher based on the following observations: First: During this holiday shopping run up not a single flyer from a multitude of competitive stores mentioned a sale on inkjet ink supplies. This despite the fact that hundreds of other items were marked down for the holidays. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of a sale on name brand printer inks, even online--have you?
Second: The election is over. (Ok, I threw that one in as a humorous attempt to point out how gas prices went down rapidly in the months leading to the November election. Ever since the election they have been climbing in the other direction. If you think that’s a coincidence, then I’ve got some third party inks to sell you.)
Third: Demand for ink may be outpacing supply. According to my sources, the demand for color inks isn’t close to hitting its peak, but the raw materials for a variety of inks (especially long lasting pigment types) are in short supply. And we can blame the same country that helped raise gas prices: mainland China. Do you have any idea how much the Chinese love photography and are getting into the home printing craze? Ask HP, the company that’s selling the most printers in China and just happens to be rolling in the dim sum.
In addition to a price rise, could China’s increased demand cause an ink shortage? Perhaps, and that might be what it takes before consumers become aware of just how ridiculously high the price of ink jet inks for their printer have become. For example: HP recently broke the $10,000 per gallon mark with some of its color inks and I didn’t hear anyone complain—despite it being for a popular consumer line of photo printers. 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!
If ink jet inks continue to climb in price or if there’s a shortage, at least I and most consumers have a viable and affordable alternative in the form of minilab and online print services (where the price per print is already much lower than from a home printer.) But for now, those of us who are addicted to making prints that technically blow away minilab and online quality, plus last five to ten times longer on display, will still be willing to pay our dealers the going rate. After all, we can quit any time we want to, can’t we?