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Photocopy Machines---Viable for Personal Ownership?

In The Match, Fred Woodworth strongly advises against buying, or even relying on photocopiers to print zines. In an old self-published book I read in early 80's the author said pretty much the same thing, advising mimeograph for self-printing.

I have a ditto machine I do short zines on now and then, and a mimegraph I hope to try out and get working decently, but supplies for both these machines are dwindling. When I have more time I hope to experiment with other low tech printing technologies. Problem is, except for offset, none of the more primitive ones can reproduce photos easily, like photocopiers can.

I've bought a couple of old photocopy machines. One for $10 that seems like it dates back to at least the early 70's and is so primitive it's almost certain I'll ever get anything out of it. (It comes with some sort of lead power you sprinkle somewhere). Another, more recently, I think I shelled out 50, maybe a 100 for photocopier at a church yard sale. It's a tabletop Canon PC-6RE. Here are some alphanumberical strings on it for what they're worth: 01214707, F121302, No. CPY 46860, FS5-8328. Again, the few times I tried only turned out a bunch of streaks. Does it need toner? Ink? Are either even still available?

I used to occassionally borrow somebody's Dell personal copier (which was also a printer). That was the most aggravating machine I've ever used. You could have rode a mule to Timbuktu and made a thousand copies, before even one of those printed. It grabbed the paper with a sudden jerk, and if it didn't jam it by doing that, it would come out all crooked and wrinkled----90% of the time. So I wonder if these inexpensive personal copiers are a practical option for printing.

I've tried running off a catalogue of about 6 pages, only 20 copies, and it grabbed more than one sheet and totally messed up the pagination. Even one mistake like this can do that. So I'm not sure if printing zines, composed on Word or scanned, is a practical idea.

This leaves "commerical" photocopiers. I understand these cost about 2, maybe 3,000 dollars new. Do they sell used ones? For how much? Or is it impossible or very difficult to get supplies for older models, even from the 90's. I believe toner is in the $150 to 200 range. Am I right? Are ink and toner two different things? How long do they last? All costs factored in, what would you say the "price per page" would be, buying a commerical photocopier and doing zines on it? Would there be a significant longterm savings? Staples is up to about 8 or 9 cents a side now.

What about maintainance and breakdowns. How hard would it be for a technical imbecile (like me) to deal with this aspect? What is the LIFE of a photocopier---considering not only it's physical durability, but the changing technology that might outdate it's supplies?

Has anybody SEEN or TRIED a digital duplicator (which are essentially "high tech" mimeographs? How do their copies compare to photocopies---including image reproduction? How do they compare with photocopiers in all other aspects? How many are sold? Are they available used? Are there any horror stories about them?

I've TRIED to track down this info on the net, but as I've admitted elsewhere, I'm lousy at net research.

Any pointers, links, answers, etc. would be appreciated. I'd like to move toward as much printing self-sufficiency as possible.

JND

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Fred from the Match is tied into and loves old technology, I'm not sure I'd look for advice from him. I work for a large university library system. Typically a commercial public use copier contract lasts 4 years, then the machines are put to pasture. These days they still have a lot of life in them since photocopying in libraries is way down, most are in perfect condition. If they are owned by the university, they end up in the couple times a year surplus auction and go for very cheap. If they are owned by a vendor (Xerox, Cannon, or some local company that leases and offers service contracts on the machines), then they likely resell them cheaply. I'd did around, but I'd be looking for an early 2000s model rather than something older. And check the counter, I know we've surplussed machines from smaller libraries that were averaging less than 10,000 copies a year. If you can get a newer Cannon or Xerox machine with less than 50,000 copies on it, you likely won't face problems with needing to replace the drum. We have busy machines that have about 80-90,000 copies a year and can still make it through a 4 year contract without a drum replacement.
I'm curious as to what reasons were given for not using a photocopier, as I've never heard of that before?
Emma Jane Falconer said:
I'm curious as to what reasons were given for not using a photocopier, as I've never heard of that before?

Fred is anti-computers (anti-tech too?), he also doesn't use email, the web, tv or I think phones. He's old school DIY, he's published The Match by himself since 1969, it's mimeographed and he sometimes powers the printing by solar.
We have a desktop copier by Brother that's been reliable, even when transported for workshops and exhibits.

Toner is what'll get ya if you do zines with large areas of black graphics. We get the high volume cartridges, for what it's worth.

I've been satisfied with it because of reliability and options (duplex, enlarge/reduce, all that).

This one cost about $500 new, and we were lucky to get that covered by a donation. The toner cartridges are about $100, but we usually save about $25 using store coupons.

The biggest plus is the convenience because we have multiple zines and flyers, plus personal zines that get copied on it, and we don't have to go to a copy shop and fuss around.

I'm sure this isn't a real cost effective path for individuals with low zine production, but it's reliable and portable - two biggies for us.

Cheers,
Margarat - Grrrl ZInes-A-Go-Go
For my last two issues, I actually printed ALL of the issues on a cheap Brother laser printer. Time consuming, yes. But incredibly cost efficient.

Here's the post I wrote about it, which breaks down all the per-page costs and such. It's easier just to read this than to reprint it all here:

Xerography Debt, Indeed! (Producing Syndicate Product 13)

So, maybe it's more economical to buy a laser printer than a copier?
Michel, yes, I agree. It's cheaper to go laser printer at this point, although old copiers have their charms. I think the biggest problem with using a copier is that fixing it and maintaining it is really expensive.

Aj Michel said:
For my last two issues, I actually printed ALL of the issues on a cheap Brother laser printer. Time consuming, yes. But incredibly cost efficient.

Here's the post I wrote about it, which breaks down all the per-page costs and such. It's easier just to read this than to reprint it all here:

Xerography Debt, Indeed! (Producing Syndicate Product 13)

So, maybe it's more economical to buy a laser printer than a copier?
Dan 10things said:
Fred is anti-computers (anti-tech too?), he also doesn't use email, the web, tv or I think phones. He's old school DIY, he's published The Match by himself since 1969, it's mimeographed and he sometimes powers the printing by solar.

Heh, that's not necessarily anti-tech, just bad tech. Fancy using as a power source something that's not available half the time, and the other half of the time mightn't be accessible anyway. (Clouds!) Kinda charming, though. It's interesting how people who dislike technology often have a contradictory nostalgia for the tech trends of the past.

Very interested in this thread. These days if you have a scanner I'd imagine they can do much the same work as a photocopier. My Dad has one but judging from the crapness of the colour printing he's able to do, I won't do any zines on their computer anytime soon!
I used to own a Risograph _ think mimeograph _ and it was great. Un/fortunately it was rather cumbersome as it was only economical to print in runs of 75+, so I kept printing 80-100 copies of Zines and ended up with a great number of unsold zines in the distro. I would print and then table every event for years and still have copies lying around! Awesome motivation to keep getting out there, though.

However, I did give the machine to a local NGO after moving 3 times in as many years.. when the distro was not up and running anymore. I just was wondering why I was dragging this 400 pound machine with me when the distro was semi-permanently mothballed. Now, however, I'm kicking myself.

I want to someday own a mimeograph and a photocopier and a scanner! That would be super-awesome! I totally believe in owning the means to run your project, and I am very low-tech in my approach. I love the cut and paste asthetic, I'd just be using the scanner to make PDFs of my stuff so that it would be easier to diseminate.

I love high tech mimeographs, and am looking that way for my next one, depending on the environmental footprint.

Basically the copier is a direct transfer technology, so veggie based inks are the way it works. It scans then cuts a master copy that it lays on a drum. Then the master is covered in an ink and the drum revolves. As the paper is pulled thru the machine, the drum rolls across it, transfering the ink to the paper. As such, there is no chemical, heat or light involved. It's wonderfully low-electricity and low-chemical.

Because the cost is largely invested in the master + paper, the economics really work well if you're making large numbers of copies... 100 or more is lower end, 1000 is a nicer number. The damn things are super fast, too... Mine had a happy place between 65-75 pages per minute, any higher than 85 pages per minute would start it jamming. I could have 100 copies of a ten page zine printed in about 20 minutes, then I'd have to sort (paginate) and fold them. That would take time!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risograph
miromi said:
I think the biggest problem with using a copier is that fixing it and maintaining it is really expensive.

Yeah, I think that's true, especially if you're buying a used copier. Seems likely that the cost of repairs for a photocopier might well be equal to one or more replacement laser printers...

As Aj said, printing on a laser printer is a lot more hands-on work but at the same time I think there are fewer things that can go wrong (so figuring out the fix might be easier).
i want a mimeograph machine.
AJ: I read your link. Excellent savings. I'm assuming you scanned physically cut-n-paste masters? But did you have any misfeeds on your laser printer? Have you ever? Do you think inkjet printers are more prone to misfeeds? Or I am doing something wrong? To repeat my statement above, one misfeed can completely ruin the pagination---it's happened to me often, which is why I've avoided doing zines on an inkjet. But maybe a good laser printer would eliminate that problem, or radically reduce the risk.

I bought a lemon of a 3-in-1 (printer/copier/scanner) which could never get to work, so I'm a little bit hesitant about trying another, but it may be my next step toward printing independence. I hope to see what I can do, but it'll be a slow process for me. I'm not good at these things and half dread the confusion, frustration and disappointment.
James: I made a PDF from the desktop publishing program I used to design my zines and printed from that. What I had to do is first print the odd pages, then load them back into the printer tray and print the even pages. I usually did about 5 sets at a time, but I did let the paper "rest" overnight after printing on one side to let some natural moisture back into it.

I had a few screwups where I loaded the pages wrong, or forgot to click "collate" when printing out 5 sets. But after I forced myself to pay attention better (instead of surfing the net while things printed),

So, I guess my advice to do a print run using a laser printer that doesn't have duplex capabilities would be: print in small batches (max 5 sets), let the printed paper "rest" before printing the second side, and pay attention.

I've had pretty good luck with laser printers - not a lot of misfeeds, but I can see how it can happen with inkjets more often because they have the tendency (I think) to grab more than one sheet of paper at times.

James N. Dawson said:
AJ: I read your link. Excellent savings. I'm assuming you scanned physically cut-n-paste masters? But did you have any misfeeds on your laser printer? Have you ever? Do you think inkjet printers are more prone to misfeeds? Or I am doing something wrong? To repeat my statement above, one misfeed can completely ruin the pagination---it's happened to me often, which is why I've avoided doing zines on an inkjet. But maybe a good laser printer would eliminate that problem, or radically reduce the risk.

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