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Once upon a time, printing was done on giant printing presses. These printers worked by pressing ink onto a piece of cloth or paper, and applying enough pressure to transfer the ink. About 3600 pages per day could be printed on a printing press, which was an extremely significant increase over traditional hand printing (about 40 pages per day). Even still, using a printing press was not easy work, and required tedious placement of letters prior to printing.

Printers have come a long way since the days of Gutenberg, though. These days, there are printers small enough to fit in a backpack and carry with you. High-end laser printers can produce up to 1000 pages per minute (ppm), and everything from photographs to stickers and decals can be printed at home with a printer. And printer technology is improving all the time. For instance, when home photo printers first hit the market, the quality was not very good. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between a photo printed off a mid-range photo printer and a professionally printed photograph.

Printers these days are also quite inexpensive, especially the lower-end ink jet models. You can pick up a printer for as little as $20. However, be aware that you may end up spending more on ink than the printer cost in the first place. Consumables is where most printer companies actually make their money these days, especially when it comes to the cheaper ink jet printers. Laser printers are more expensive to buy, but the cost per page is much lower than that of ink jet printers.

When looking to buy a printer, consider your needs and your budget for replacing ink or toner cartridges before buying. While the low price tag might look appealing at first glance, when you take a minute to look at the cost of replacement ink cartridges it’ll be easy to see why the price is so low for the printer itself. Investing a little more money up front for a quality printer with lower priced replacement cartridges will be the better option in the long run. If you aren’t going to be doing a lot of full-page, full-color, or photo printing, then consider a laser printer. If an inkjet printer might better suit your needs, do some comparison shopping before buying and figure out which one has the lowest cost per page – which takes into account the cost of the printer itself, as well as consumables and how often they’ll need to be replaced.

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