You are at the store and in front of you is a sea of different ink cartridges.  Different manufacturers, different cartridge numbers, and different yields….and you ask yourself, which one do I need? So you finally identify the cartridge family that fits your printer, but then you are faced with another difficult decision – is the purchase price more important or the yield and cost per page?

And so we have the tale of two inks…

While cost per page has become increasingly important over the past few years and consumers are savvier than ever on the jargon of the ink industry, it remains a mystery of whether or not people are more interested in the suggested number of pages a cartridge may yield and CPP or the actual purchase price.

Our first subject offers the customer a higher price tag, but boasts a low cost per page.  The most basic way to determine the cost per page of an ink cartridge is to take the purchase price and divide it by the published yield.  Customers are then faced with an approximate price for how much each page, sans the paper, will cost to print.  This seems extremely reasonable and useful, but along with this measurement comes a great deal of confusion.  Consumers continue to wonder who is counting the number of pages that an ink cartridge can produce and how reliable is it.  Additionally, what if you print more photos or more documents?  Do all of the printer companies use the same ink yield testing methods? How can a consumer reliably compare yields?

Well in a perfect world, all ink manufacturers would use the exact same testing AND reporting methods to determine ink yield.  But in the actual world we live in, it is difficult to determine what is being reported.  Technically, the majority of major ink manufacturers test their ink cartridges according to ISO standards.  The International Organization on Standards provides both testing guidelines and test print pages so all cartridges can be judged on the same playing field.  This seems like a perfect solution.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you ask, there is no ISO police and the “rules” are simply guidelines.

The variations of yield reporting can vary due to reporting methods.  Is the company reporting on a consistent standard (ISO 24711 vs. 19752)?  Are supplemental yields taken into account?  And just how easy, or hard, is it to find the yield for a particular ink cartridge? All of these questions cause confusion amongst everyday consumers.

So who really cares about yield testing and how similar the tests are? Well, the number of audiences is on the rise.  While printer manufacturers were for a long time the primary audience paying attention to yields and testing standards, consumers are learning more about how to determine the value of an ink cartridge.  Understanding yields and the ability to compare apples with apples…or oranges with oranges…is increasingly important.

So the answer must be that yields are more important, right?

Not exactly – this is the tale of TWO inks…the second ink in the story boasts a low purchase price.  The yield may not be the highest on the shelf or even relative to other members of its ink family…but this is not to suggest that the low price option is bad.

Many consumers and random folks on the internet have voiced some, okay, an enormous amount of dismay toward the high cost of ink.  With that, the general messages do not often include cost per page scenarios…they include cost per gallon, which is slightly ridiculous because who is using a gallon of ink?  But back to my point…the complaints are generally about purchase price.

So, we know there is concern about purchase price, but who is mostly looking at the actual price? Generally speaking, it is not businesses, but cost-conscious consumers.  An entire industry has been created based on the concern over ink prices, an industry that haunts the dreams of ink companies everywhere…the remanufactured and refill industry.  If there was no immediate concern with the simple price tag of ink, then this industry would not thrive the way it does.

So, now of course you are going to say that price impacts cost per page, and yes it does, but it is all in the perception.  Each month I go collect pricing at retail stores and time and time again I hear very attentive OfficeMax employees tell customers how a high capacity ink has a lower cost per page and often times this works to get the retailer a higher receipt value.  Some customers however look at the sales person as if they have three eyes and say, “You want me to pay what for that ink? I could buy a whole new printer!”

So who wins? Manufacturers that market their low ink prices or the ones that offer high yields and lower cost per pages? Guess what, it is a draw…surprised?  There is an argument and a place for both pricing scenarios.  In fact, this very detail is the reason that the number of ink cartridge choices is so vast.

The availability of high capacity inks has increased slightly over the past year.  In February 2010, approximately 9 percent of available ink supplies in the retail channel were high yield.  One year later in February 2011, that number increased to 12 percent.  Although slight, the jump demonstrates the growing demand for high yield cartridges.  With high yield cartridges, there must be a standard yield cartridge to accompany it – as of course high yield is relative.  Without small, how can we have big? The relative increase in high yield availability further shows the importance of both price and cost per page.

Take Epson, which currently offers a multitude of printers that use varying yields from the now four capacity options.  Or Kodak, which offers a high capacity ink cartridge because of the demand from some consumers for lower CPP.  How about HP, which has begun offering a high capacity version on the majority of ink cartridges that have been released during the past several years.  All of these scenarios are a demonstration of the different types of demand and ink cartridge manufacturers’ extreme desire to please them all!!!

So, whatever your story or need is, there is an ink to suit it!