I'd like to pose a question to other zine publishers out there:
Have photocopy prices become insane where you live?
After finishing layout on SYNDICATE PRODUCT 13 (contributors will receive their copies soon), I called around to a few big office stores to price 100, 125, and 150 sets of 8 double-sided sheets. It's only been 18 months since the last issue, but I was completely floored by the high copy prices. The big office stores are now wise to charging "per impression" instead of giving a price break on double-sided copies, as they used to. The number of copies required for a price break has also increased exponentially - 1000 copies as opposed to 100 or 500. The self-serve machines now use auto-generated receipts so it is impossible to fudge on copy count. The local Staples even switched to a pre-paid card system for the self-serve machines.
The prices Staples and Office Depot quoted me were just around $1 a copy for SP13, which (in my opinion) is way too expensive for 8 double-sided copies. Only five or so years ago, I was able to do 60-page zines (15 double-sided sheets) for well under $1 a copy because the big office stores gave customers a price break on double-sided copies.
Some publishers may offer the usual workaround suggestions for this situation:
- Use a small "mom and pop" copy shop.
- Do it at work.
- Try an online copy service.
- If I could FIND a small "mom and pop" copy shop, yes, I would have called them. However, since they deal in lower volumes, I doubt they'd be able to offer a lower price either.
- Perhaps it's my age showing, but in the current economy my job (and especially health insurance) is too important to risk in exchange for large amounts of photocopies. Plus, the office manager watches the photocopies relentlessly. Oh, and besides that, the machines in the office pretty much suck, quality wise. And I'd feel guilty.
- For the number of copies I needed and the shipping costs, there really wasn't much of a price difference.
Now, granted, printing off 125 copies of the zine on a small laser printer that doesn't have a double-sided printing feature was a huge, time-sucking pain in the ass. However, right now I have more time than money, and worked on other computer maintenance projects while stuck near the printer. I also printed 15 or 20 issue batches over the course of a week to give myself (and the printer) a break.
Thankfully, I had read this article - Take that stupid printer! The Brother HL-2040 will not print pages AT ALL if the low toner light is on. On HP printers for example, you can print and print until the toner is completely dead. The trick of placing black electrical tape over the sensor on the Brother toner cartridge does work, and I was able to get about 400 or so more impressions out of the "starter" toner cartridge before I had to switch it out. Using "Toner Save" mode also helped, with no loss in quality.
- Toner cost per side: $0.021 ($52.80 for toner with 20% discount divided by 2500 pages, the listed yield; is actually probably even less since the "starter" toner was used up first)
- Paper cost per sheet: $0.013 (Ream of extra bright, 22lb HP paper $6.40 with 20% discount, divided by 500 sheets)
- Total cost per double sided sheet: $0.055
- Cost of 1 issue (8 double sided pages): $0.44
- Cost of 125 issues self-printed: $55.00
Cost quoted at Staples for 125 issues: $130.00
In zine publishing, $63-$75 is a HUGE savings. Granted, I'm not sure how much electrical power I used printing so many pages, but I'm pretty sure it didn't cost more that what it would be for gas (and wear on the truck) driving back and forth to the big box store. I also don't know if any long-term damage has been done to the printer itself, but the "Maximum Monthly Duty Cycle" is listed as 10,000 pages a month, although the range is listed as "250 to 2000 pages per month". However, this model is heavily discounted, and usually costs about $60 after many rebates, which is the price I paid 18 months ago. If it dies in the next few months, it won't be tragic.
With every zine I finish, I always say that it's going to be "the LAST one". That's just been an idle, empty threat for the past three years, but given the current high prices of photocopying, I am thinking of going PDF entirely. With PDF , you still get the design aesthetic, but the cost is on the reader if they want to print it out. I'd offer it free of charge, but post a "tip jar" on the site.
As a zine reader for more than twenty years, and a zine publisher for ten, going completely digital is painful to contemplate. Unfortunately, it just might be the best solution "in a world that's becoming increasingly hostile toward paper". (To be said in "that movie trailer" voice.)
* A tip of the hat (and punny apologies to the real Xerography Debt, a zine review zine struggling with the same print-or-digital questions.)