This is more of a confession than a presentation of alternatives: I have a lasting and entirely reasonable hatred of printers.

You know how some people don’t work well with technology? That’s me and printers. And it’s nothing to do with me: it’s all about those dratted printerevilmachines. I used them at work with only minor mishaps. I even fixed them from time to time. But owning one is something I hope never to do again.

Partly, this hatred is about cost. Printers generally cost upwards of $50, unless you’re willing to risk buying a used one. But the costs don’t stop there. Paper isn’t terribly expensive, but ink – oh, ink, bane of my existence. I haven’t seen ink for under $15/cartridge for years, and often it’s just as expensive as the printer was. Color printers and their endless demand for new ink cartridges, even when you KNOW you’ve never used the blue cartridge… I cannot stand the constant demands that come with owning a printer.

Another part of my hatred for printers is that there are SO many simple ways to take care of business online these days; printing is nearly obsolete. I recently sold a house located in a different state and only had to print things out to sign on one single occasion — the real estate agent I worked with used a service called dotloop that let me e-sign almost everything. Why own a printer that’s supposed to make things simpler for you, when it really makes everything more complicated?

Getting documents from their physical form to online takes nothing more than a smartphone; the camera doubles as a decent-quality scanner.

There are still those few documents that people insist need to be printed out. Easy solution: email documents to local copy shops (like Collective Copies in Amherst, MA), or email documents to when I’m home in Medina.

So far, in my printer-free life, I’ve printed out tax documents, proof of car insurance, and photos to give as gifts at Staples. I just email them the files, go to the store with my confirmation number, and a few minutes and a few dollars later, I have my documents in hand. printeronfireI spent under $20 on all the Important Documents and photos I had printed in 2015, but best of all? I’ll never need to buy ink, or paper, worry about paper jams, or replace printers when they inevitably go belly-up. Ever. Again.

Printers, like lawnmowers, are a great example of a tool that we really don’t all need to own. I’d love to live in a neighborhood where we kept things like that where everyone could use them when we needed them. Some online groups are starting to get people together to timeshare tools, so we don’t all have to own the same stuff and use it for the hour or two a month we actually need it. Some businesses do the same (at a hefty profit). For now, I don’t need to print things often enough to look for another alternative — but if you need to print out a manuscript every so often, it might be worth scouring the internet for a more innovative, crowd-sourced approach.

Do you have another solution to printing the few documents that still need to be in physical form? Is there an online printing service you know of that prints your documents and mails them to you? (That would be even better than Staples!) Or — have you managed to go completely digital?