Do you have any consumable product in your home, outside of prescription drugs of course, that cost more than an ink cartridge? Considering the size of those print cartridges how much actual ink can they hold? Printer ink must be some really super special product. Surely that plastic cartridge can be produced for just a few cents so it must be the ink that keeps the prices so high.

If you ever have a night when you just can't get to sleep do a little Google search for the ingredients of printer ink. You will be quickly reminded of your high school or college chemistry classes. Terms such as, carbon black, pigments, dioxides, additives, waxes, lubricants, surfactants, drying agents and other technical stuff will quickly cure your insomnia.

Impressive terms to be sure but none of these compounds are on an endangered list or very difficult to acquire or overly hazardous to handle. So what is it that makes an ink cartridge The HP 96/97 Ink Cartridge in Retail Packagings, Combo PackCredit: Amazonso expensive?

If you hang around any manufactures website for long such as Hewlett Packard, you will find that the machines that use these inks are rather advanced devices. HP will explain in detail that the modern ink jet printer has some 3,900 nozzles and delivers 122 million drops of ink per second to the paper. Wow! This is impressive stuff. Those printers must cost a fortune.

Wait a minute. I just did a search on Amazon and found a number of printers for less than $60.00. In fact the last Printer I purchased only set me back $34.00. These are not bHP Deskjet 3000 PrinterCredit: Amazonudget busting prices. Something does not add up.

2 + 2 Does Not Always Equal Four In Business

Speaking of adding up there once was a car dealer in the Detroit, Mi, area who's sales pitch may shed some light on this situation. He advertised for years that he sold every car at a loss but made it up on volume. How would you like to be his accountant? But before you write this guy off as just a product of the public school system I am sure you recognize this as just a sales pitch.

No one can survive in business selling products at a loss, right? Wrong! The car dealer had the right idea but the wrong product. It does not take much search engine work to find information that will convince you that many printer manufacturers do lose money on every machine. As much as $30.00 or more. So how do they survive?

There was a well used slogan that was popular during a presidential election not so many years ago that went like this, "It's the Economy Stupid". In the case of ink cartridges and printers it might sound like this, "It's the Printer Stupid".

Yes many manufacturers lose money on each printer they sell but they learned something that the car dealer did not know. Produce a consumable product, such as an ink cartridge, that is necessary to keep the machine running and you can make a fortune. The cars the dealer was supposedly selling at a loss needed gas to run but he was not selling the gas. The printer companies on the other hand do very well, thank you, selling their own brand of ink cartridge.

A little more time spent on the internet after you recover from the chemistry lesson about ink, will convince you that it costs only about $3.00 to produce the standard ink cartridge. Then why do they sell the print cartridges for such a high price? Because they can could be an easy answer.

They are facing competition however. In the last few years a number of products have emerged in an effort to compete by offering lower prices. Refillable ink cartridges, remanufactured ink cartridges and ink refill kits have all appeared with various amounts of customer acceptance.

I am in no way trying to gain compassion for the printer makers but they are only one of many companies that make their profit on consumables. Razor and vacuum companies have profited for years on the back end sales of consumables. However their consumables are not found locked up behind glass cabinets in the stores as the ink cartridge usually is.

I am sure that printer companies spend a considerable amount of that profit on research. Technology advances so fast today that a profitable product today may disappear tomorrow. Would you like your income to be supported by carbon paper or that "whiteout" correction stuff that was found next to every typewriter not so many years ago.

Let Me Think Where Did I Put My Kodak Camera?Kodak HERO 7.1 Wireless Color Printer with Scanner & CopierCredit: Amazon

Kodak has recently entered the fray with their version of printer and makes claims that theirs is much less expensive to operate but more expensive for the original purchase. It will be a while yet before the industry decides whether Kodak has a winning product that will last long enough to show a profit. Speaking of Kodak and disappearing products, how many rolls of film have you purchased lately?

Rest assured that in the not too distant future the ink cartridge will join the typewriter in the museum of human technological advancement and we who labor daily over computer keyboards  and hate to think too long about the ink cartridge will surely have a new product to love or hate.