Let’s talk clichés: the horse has left the barn, the ship has sailed. That’s how I felt when I heard the news that Epson was going to solve “the most annoying problem with inkjet printers,” the cost of buying inkjet cartridges. I had been doing this since they were invented, an Epson customer so loyal that I was probably a line item on the company’s annual report. Then over the years I found that I was printing less, and replacing the cartridges more; apparently they dry up when you don't use them regularly. I complained to Epson, and they even replaced a printer once, but this was the beginning of the end of a beautiful friendship.

Like so many other people, I print a lot less than I used to. I became fond of PDFs and digital signatures and iPhone boarding passes. Evernote became my filing cabinet. I only own one now because I needed a new scanner and I could get a Samsung combo with a laser printer for less than the cost of a scanner alone.

My kids don’t think printers are any more relevant than fax machines. When they need an occasional printout, they get it from me or the coffee shop up the street. (They need them perhaps twice a year.)

Epson and all the other printer companies abused their customers for years, following the Gillette razor blade model of giving away the printers and making their money on the ink, selling it for more money per gram than gold. But beards still grow, while the need for printouts does not. So now Epson announces that it suddenly has new tech that allows customers to buy it by the gallon for cheap. Bloomberg reports:

After decades of selling cheap printers that require a steady stream of expensive ink cartridges, the company is smashing its business model to bits. In September the Tokyo-based tech giant will offer a new line of consumer printers in the U.S., each with enough ink to print at least 4,000 documents. When the well finally runs dry, customers will be able to refill it with a bottle, just like a baby.

Clearly whoever wrote that never had a baby. (I was father of two, and this not my idea of convenience. Now my printer will whine at me at all hours saying FEED ME MAGENTA INK NOW!!! But that is another story. Back to Epson.)

I don’t believe for a second that this will make a difference. Printers have been a scam for so long that they are radioactive — nobody wants one if they can possibly avoid it. The alternatives to printing get easier and more convenient every day. And to top it all off, the company has a lot of nerve calling this printer the EcoTank when the most eco thing is not to print at all.

Epson has just realized that (yes! more clichés!) they killed the goose that laid the golden egg; Aesop called this one 2,500 years ago. And to add yet another, (I am on a roll here) you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. Or the ink. The printer is toast.

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Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.

Tanks for the memories: Epson eliminates printer cartridges
The new EcoTank printer replaces cartridges with bottled ink, and the world yawns.