I used to really like printers. I remember having a black and white laser printer many years ago. It seems like you would go through about ten reams of paper before needing the change the $60 cartridge. It was super easy to use and I didn't think much of it.
They would require drivers that turned out to need to advertise. The cartridges became freakishly expensive. My current printer is a color printer and the cartridges are $125 each and I think there are four of them. It seems like you can print about 200 sheets and then you need to drop $500 in cartridges. So the cost is about $2.50 per page and then there is the whole mess of getting the right cartridge and getting into the damn contraption - nobody wants to do it. I especially don't want to do it.
Jocelyn thinks we get almost 500 sheets before the ink runs out. So only $1 per page.
I've gone about five years without printing a single page. I do confess that jocelyn has printed a half dozen pages on my behalf.
I agree with the following documentary on how a printer functions:
And then there are people here that NEED a printer. "just for a couple pages" "real quick".
We came out one day to find all the paper gone and it had been just recently filled. We took the power cord away and the next day saw where somebody tried to use the laminator as a printer.
I thought about putting something next to the printer that says "ink fund - $1 per page". Only I know what will happen. Good people will put in $1 per page, and others will put in zero. Or, as happened with "can I borrow your truck?" "sure, if you bring it back with a full tank .... that's only a quarter of a tank, why didn't you fill it?" "Oh, well, i put in about as much gas as I think i used." "That wasn't the deal" "Well, I didn't know it would be THAT empty!" "I suspected it was that empty - I want a full tank to cover the perpetual repair costs for a vehicle I never drive." And then they fill the tank with empty promises.
I suspect that somebody printing might choose to not notice the $1-per-page-jar. And others might think "I think a nickel a page is fair - so that is what I will put in the jar."
So, for this sort of honor system, people with honor are, effectively, punished. And people that are a-bit-shy-on-honor are effectively rewarded. A violation of my standards.
At a community eight years ago there was no washing machine. I bought a really good one and put a can on the washer that said $5 per load. I found that somebody put in $5 for every four people that put in zero. People would watch me to see when I was not in the house, and then they would run oodles of laundry while I was out. Some people didn't care if I was around or not. I finally tracked a guy down and said "where's the five bucks?" and he said "I don't have it on me right now, I'll pay it later."
At the same time, I would much rather see 20 people use one printer rarely, than somehow a dozen printers get purchased.
People just need to print stuff sometimes. There needs to be a central printer to fill this need.
If I say "this printer is for everybody" then i cannot help but think that a few people will turn it into a printing press which ends up costing me thousands per year.
One thought is to have a human being monitor the use and charge people the proper amount. And if anybody says "$1 per page is too high" then the monitor can say "then don't use this printer." But the $1 per page covers just the cost of ink (I still think it is closer to $2.50 per page) and does not cover the pay of "the monitor". Plus, I don't think anybody would want that job. It does make things fair, but then the price of printer use is ridiculous.
The printer needs to serve residents, gappers, students and teachers.
It would be great to have a coin-op printer. Is there such a thing?
There ought to be -- but probably isn't -- some combination of printer-driver plugins and financial services such that upon submitting a print job to the spool, the driver sends back "this print job will cost $4.95. To pay and enable printing, just text AGREE to [number], or click here to open a PayPal checkout window."
Not the coin-op solution you are looking for but I think this is a vast improvement to the current situation
Printer has Access permissions such that only certain logged on users can print.
Print log records number of pages printed by each user.
Your decision whether people pre pay or whether you chase them down and bill them.
Name and/or description of printer can include cost per page so there is no quibbling.
Once you've got people set up with usernames you can leverage this with other services - internet access etc.
Incidentally I bought an Epson colour printer for around $50 over 6 year ago. Cartridges from china via ebay work fine and cost less than a dollar each delivered when bought 20 at a time. Not ideal for printing 1000 pages at a time but then I don't think that's what you need. It's still going strong after average use and several moves.
However this PrinterOn outfit appears to exist by selling their software to enterprises and it's the usual "if you want to buy it please contact our sales force" enterprise software BS on their webpage, so their product is likely not cheap enough for low volume cost-capturing that isn't itself a profit center with a ton of scale. So it's proof-of-concept, but not a practical solution for your specific problem.
I don't have the development chops but this might be an entrepreneurial opportunity for someone willing to provide free software to end-users, process the transactions, and survive off a reasonable percentage taken out of the middle.
So, drive down your cost to print, keep the honor jar and the dollar per page price,the community gets what it needs and so do you.
Cheaters still get off easy, but now are stealing pennies on the dollar...
A nice low tech solution to making people pay is to have a web cam monitoring the transactions.
Only enable printing from an adjacent dedicated computer, and put a key logger or something on that computer.
No need to ever look at the "tapes" unless things come up short.
If that happens the culprit gets a fine and the boot, for wasting someone's time by being a dick.
I do some light printing here, but there are tons of government agencies that have separate yearly budgets for printing costs, I suggest people use them. Like Career Center's, which use to be called Unemployment Center's, they will fax, and print stuff for free. They will even let you print off stuff that is non-job related, but most help-agencies are like that...they just want to help, what is a little ink to them and a few extra pages of paper? They got a budget for that!
I would just nix the printer and go to a Career Center or Staples on the few things I needed to print if I had such printer troubles. I understand that it is the fault of other's, but at some point doing something that circumvents anticipated human behavior, is better than whining about it.
If you had a gate that led to the back forty and it never got shut when people used it, all the whining, yelling, screaming, and profanity is not going to change anything. In that case a person would just install a self-closing gate to make their stress levels go down. It is the same thing with the printer. Force their hand. Don't keep getting upset at bad people, change the environment. A owner can do that.