I’ve got a crappy little inkjet printer. It does a darn decent job at printing a page or two in black and white, but anything beyond that is just too much for it. Stuff usually prints, but not always. Sometimes it’s a bit smudged. Other times the paper jams up. Sometimes the cats run off with or otherwise mangle the printed page before I can get to it. The darn thing seems to take a lot of union breaks.
A few weeks ago I was doing research on a paper for my computer organization class. I did much of my research at the University of Maryland’s awesome Engineering and Physical Sciences library, taking notes, xeroxing some pages, and checking out a book. There was also a weath of information available to me at the ACM Digital Library. I ended up downloading 150 or so pages of papers and articles from the vast ACM library.
As much as I love technology, I’m just not able to skim text and read for long periods of time on a computer screen. I decided to print out the 150 or so pages, but had absolutely no desire to do that on my crappy little inkjet printer.
I’ve wanted to give Mimeo a try ever since I learned about them a few years ago. They allow you to upload documents to their servers, preview them online, and then they print ia try. I stumbled upon them a few years ago and ship it to you. It’s a very cool idea, but it was Saturday and my paper was due Wednesday.
Enter Fedex Kinkos. They have a similar service called File, Print Fedex Kinkos. After you download their software (win32 only, sorry), it creates a printer driver and integrates itself with Office. They offer the option of shipping your order to you, but more importantly they allow you to pick it up at your local Fedex Kinkos location.
I spent a bit of time seperating the various articles I wanted to print with bibliographic information and eventually combined them all in to one big PDF file using Adobe Acrobat. I sent the job off to the File, Print Fedex Kinkos printer and chose options for my order. Since I was going to be flipping through all of the pages, I decided to go with double sided printing on the cheapest possible paper with three holes already punched. The el-cheapo worked out to somewhere around 6-8 cents or so (I forget) per printed page. I flipped through the preview and entered my billing information. It took a few minutes to upload the document to their servers, but after that was done I got a receipt to print and an email in my inbox. About an hour and a half later I got another email saying that the order was ready to be picked up.
FedEx Kinkos is doing a very smart thing with this service. They’re taking advantage of the fact that they’ve got locations all over the US for pickup. They can also call on the FedEx infrastructure for shipped documents. They’re also making it easier for users to send them orders, reducing employee time spent on taking in orders. They are also probably keeping printers busy that might have otherwise been idle.