First of all, I should make it clear that I hate just about all printers on the planet. Most are poorly manufactured, the drivers are buggy, and they end up being money pits (as they were intentionally designed, no doubt). But here’s a way that owning one of these pieces of clunky and largely obsolete technology could be slightly less horrible:
When you set up your printer, you should be prompted to optionally enter your Amazon credentials. If I choose to provide them, when I start to get low on ink, I should be able to order the correct cartridges with the press of a button, and have them arrive at my door within two days. The advantages of such a partnership are probably pretty obvious, but I’ll spell them out anyway:
- Printer manufacturers: you will sell more ink at a faster rate. When I currently start to run out of ink, I put off the purchase of new cartridges for as long as possible. Not only is it inconvenient to have to go out to the store, but looking through a book or searching online for the right package of ink is just not how humanity should be spending its time in the year 2011.
- Amazon: you can probably put the final nail in the coffin of Office Depot and Staples. Could these companies still exist if they lost 80% of their printer cartridge sales? What else do people buy there?
- Customers: Owning and operating a printer would suck just a little less. Although ink is still way overpriced, and printers are almost as big of a racket as cable TV and mobile phone plans, at least getting ripped off would be considerably more convenient.
Of course, Amazon isn’t the only option here. Staples and Office Depot could try to negotiate such agreements, as well, or the printer manufacturers could try to sell directly to consumers and cut retailers out entirely. However, because of Amazon’s brand recognition, generally good reputation with consumers, and extremely robust retail infrastructure, I think they are best positioned to pull something like this off.
PS: If you love printers as much as I do, you might enjoy The Oatmeal’s Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell.