In the latest PC Magazine, dated October 2, 2007, there's a great feature by David Stone with the same name as that in my subject line, "The True Cost of Printer Ink". Stone reports on PC Mag's findings concerning the new ISO and IEC standards for supplies yields based on document printing. (Photo printing standards are still in the works.)
While the inkjet supplies market, both OEM and third-party, often battle it out in the marketplace over price at the point-of-purchase, the real measure of cost of course is the cost of the cartridges divided by the number of pages printed. And with so much variability in pages, the results are highly variable. Vendors' claims have been suspect in the past, but PC's findings on yields (pages per cartridge) are heartening from a manufacturer credibility standpoint. The models checked -- Canon Pixma MP600 Photo All-In-One, the HP Officejet J5780 All-in-One, the HP (NYSE HPQ) Officejet Pro K5400dtn Color Printer, the Kodak EasyShare 5300 All-In-One, and the Lexmark (NYSE LXK) X3550 -- were included because their claimed yields were based on the ISO/IEC standard. And in all cases the magazine's results were within the margin of error of the claims. Congratulations industry for taking the high road!
And kudos to David Stone and PC Magazine for providing this insight. See the piece for the details and much more, including that depending on usage levels, the price of the printer DOES matter!