The present’s so bright…

One of the odd and largely unheralded developments in technology over the past few years is paper. To wit, inexpensive paper for printers, especially inkjet printers and cases where you might be using either a laser or an inkjet printer.

I was reminded of this just now. I finished up a ream of “boring old paper” that I’d purchased when we picked up a (cheap at the time, probably $300) HP ThinkJet for my wife’s computer, probably four or five years ago. She never used the computer much (she’s a full-time systems analyst who taught computer programming when she was in college, so it’s not a lack of computer skills: she has better things to do at home). So I had this ream of Champion InkJet paper, which probably cost at least $7 back then. “Specially designed finish for ink jet printing” and “Bright for crisp contrast.” Also labeled as “High bright.” But there’s also the number: 87 brightness.

Five years (seven years?) ago, 87 brightness probably was “high bright” and came at a premium.

Today? I think the CostCo copier paper we use at work (in copiers and lasers alike) is 87 brightness and the same 20 pounds. It sure doesn’t cost any $7 a ream.

At home, I checked the other paper I’ll be moving to.

  • There’s Office Depot Multipurpose Paper, “ideal for use in copiers, printers and fax machines.” Acid free (which isn’t specified one way or the other on the Champion ream), I think around $2.50 a ream.
  • Or the HP Printing Paper I’ve had for a while (there was a good deal, five 600-count super-reams for $15 or so, which comes out to about $2.50 a ream). Also acid-free, it’s a 22lb. paper (almost uniquely), 92 brightness. According to the chart on the pack (at least a year old already), HP doesn’t sell paper with brightness below 87, which is what their recycled copier paper measures.
  • Or Office Depot’s Premium Inkjet Paper, which I got free when buying TurboTax (it costs $3.25 a ream otherwise, when it’s not on sale): 24lb., 104 brightness, 35% post-consumer content–and, of course, acid free. No chlorine used in the production.
  • Or if I wanted to get fancy, there’s the $3.50-ream (on sale) Office Depot Color Inkjet Paper, 24lb. 99+ brightness, acid free. (That’s been around a while; at the time, I think “99%” was the maximum brightness rating you could use.)

Back in the day, when I was producing camera-ready copy for books on my laser printer (the first and second of which cost 15 times what my current Epson multipurpose device cost, ignoring inflation), I had to seek out paper of the right opacity, brightness, and finish. It wasn’t cheap.

I miss those days not at all. I’m delighted that companies can get paper with substantial recycled content very white without using chlorine.

Of course, “inkjet specificity” has largely gone away, except for special cases such as transparencies. I print leftover “laserjet labels” on my inkjet without difficulty. A little more daring, but so far uneventful: strips of 12-up pin-feed labels (one label wide), perforated as part of a continuous feed, obviously purchased for the dot matrix printer I had what, 15 years ago? Yep, they print just fine–the joy of a straight-through paper path. (I would never put those labels in an HP or any other printer with a U-path!)

8 Responses to “The present’s so bright…”

  1. David C. Fox says:

    Pardon my….. but I can’t help but wonder why paper is cheaper. Where is it being made? Under what conditions did the producers labor? And I’m not sure about today, but paper used to be made white by not easily disposed of chemicals like dioxin. Pay now or pay later.

  2. walt says:

    All good questions, ones that a researcher or librarian might wish to pursue. I’m describing the situation: Today’s printer paper is higher quality in several respects and significantly cheaper than it was five or ten years ago (and uses a whole lot more recycled materials, since you would never have seen 35% post-consumer waste in a quality PC printer paper back then).

    I believe the primary reasons are competition (more and different players) and distribution systems, and certainly improvement in processing as well. If you have evidence that all of this means a higher environmental toll than in the old days, feel free to post it.

  3. walt says:

    A little follow-up.

    All of the papers mentioned are made in the U.S.

    So, presumably, the workers make U.S. wages and work under U.S. labor conditions (and are quite possibly unionized).

    I still don’t understand “Pay now or pay later.” Without some evidentiary backing, it seems like a hollow assertion that better good for less money must automatically imply something bad. I don’t believe that to be true. (Heck, I’ve been following personal computing and electronics for more than two decades. I know that’s not true on a general basis.)

  4. N J Swartz says:

    I can no longer purchase Champion ink jet paper at Office Depot. Where can it now be purchased? My supply is running low.

  5. walt says:

    I approvedN J Swartz’ comment because it’s not spam–but I certainly don’t have an answer, other than “Why do you need Champion ink jet paper?”

    Office Depot and its competitors (I assume, but without ready access to them) have several brands of quality ink jet paper at very good prices, some of them prepared without bleaching and with high percentages of recycled materials. I’ve been happy with several of them, including “multipurpose” and even copier papers.

    I’m not sure Champion is even in the regular inkjet paper business any more. The post above refers to a ream that I purchased in the year 2000 or before!

  6. walt says:

    OK, now I see why N J Swartz’ comment might have shown up here: On Google (and only on Google, AFAICT), this post appears as the second result for “Champion inkjet paper” (with or without a space between “ink” and “jet”).


  7. N J Swartz says:

    Thanks for the reply Walt. I will be checking out the “multipurpose” paper at first opportunity. “Champion” spells ink jet with a space on their ream wrapper.

  8. Daniel says:

    On paper technology, the brighter white point is a result of florescent whiteners (brightening agents) that are used to give the paper a bluer apearance under uv light. without that, it would likely be much closer to the 87. Brightening agents are also found in fabrics and detergents. Paper, like any other commodity fluctuates in price due to supply and demand. There is also a great deal of difference in the quality of what is out there and how close the basis weight is to actual weight of the product. IMO the average offering has declined along with the price. The Champion, which I have used, was a good sheet, IMHO. There are other good sheets.

    Recycled content (which is how I found this site) is great…I wish there was a greater availability of high quality papers with good inkjet coatings with recycled content.