Saturday, September 11, 2010

Don't own a scanner, printer, or fax machine

One piece of furniture a lot of people tend to invest in unnecessarily is the home scanner or printer. It is often cheaper and more cost effective to jaunt down to the local print shop and have your materials printed or scanned there. As a rule, these places have higher quality printers and scanners than you could ever afford at home. Many have batch feeders that can handle hundreds of documents per hour as you digitalize your life.

A hidden cost of owning a home printer is the cost of ink. Replacing ink in a home printer can often cost more than the printer was worth. This is a form of loss-leader marketing.

Another problem with home printers and scanners is portability. I have yet to see a decent, portable home printer or scanner. Meanwhile, such tools may come on the market in the near future. However, the cellphone has already made the portable scanner obsolete.

The built-in cellphone camera can already replace the scanner. Presumably, a photograph of a document taken with a powerful-enough cellphone camera equipped with flash could replace the home scanner, in addition to not having to be lugged around as it's inbuilt into the phone.

When the need comes to print something - and you should be printing as little as possible anyway in order to save money - just go somewhere that has a printer. Save the documents onto your USB stick, or the flash memory on your cellphone.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Do you feel home printers or scanners are cost effective? Why or why not?
  2. Are you aware of any decent portable scanners or printers?
  3. Can you recommend a cellphone with a flash-equipped camera that is powerful enough to replace the portable scanner?


  1. I have this printer/scanner from HP. It's a printer with a scanner on top. That way you can scan documents onto your PC or you can copy them. If you want to fax anything you can scan it and fax it through your computer.

    I would say noone really needs a fax because your computer with a modem can do the same thing.

  2. Well said, I agree that a separate fax machine is not necessary. The printer/scanner combination is good, it performs the functions of three to four machines in one, including the photocopier, as you mentioned. However, if mobility is one's goal, in that case I think that the same money could be better applied towards a cell phone that can replicate the same ability - obviously with the exception of printing out. The printing itself, I think, could be handled cheaply and well at a local print shop. Or, there's always pen and paper ;)