Copy costs vary across campus

I recently discovered that one of my classes this semester had 691 pages of readings waiting for me in the library.

As one who does not like the black hole atmosphere of the Business/School of Public and Environmental Affairs library, I make a lot of copies in the library so that I can enjoy the literature in my living room. This convenience comes to me at six cents a page.

At about the same time I realized the amount of copying facing me, a friend pointed out to me that photocopies cost different amounts at different places. Assuming you’re using your campus ID to make the copies, it’s six cents a page in the Business/SPEA library, then jumps to 7.5 cents a page in the dorms. By the time you climb the stairs to the photocopier in Woodburn Hall, the price has climbed even higher — nine cents a page.

The political science copier is not going to carry the “most expensive price known at IU” title for long. By the end of February, photocopiers in the dorms will climb to 10 cents a page. The variance in the price of making a copy on campus is staggering. I wanted to find out why.

I called Therese Owens, the assistant director of Duplicating Services and she simply stated, “As volume decreases, prices go up.”

To say the least, I was taken aback by her answer. Basically, she said that because students in the Business/SPEA library make so many copies, they are able to keep the price of copies down to six cents a page. Meanwhile, residents of the dorms are making less copies each year: 105,000 fewer copies in the 1997-98 school year than in the 1996-97 school year.

In essence, the conservative business types and the tree huggers are being rewarded for making lots of copies on campus, while people in the dorms are punished for not making enough copies.

As Owens explained to me, photocopiers have a large fixed cost associated with the equipment, plus the cost of the paper that goes into the machines. When students make a lot of copies, the cost per copy for the equipment drops, but when the students don’t make a lot of copies, the cost per copy for the equipment jumps.

In fact, across campus, students are making 11 percent fewer copies per year, meaning the cost per copy for the equipment will continue to increase. Why are students making fewer copies in the dorms, and, in general, around campus?

For one, students are now using the computer clusters to print out journal articles off of the World Wide Web for free as well as make copies off campus.

That said, Owens convinced me when she told me that Duplicating Services doesn’t “want to charge the students more than we have to” for the photocopying that remains unprintable.

Owens said that one of the ways Duplicating Services is hoping to reduce copy costs is by eliminating the coin-operating attachments to each copier. One-third of the cost of the equipment comes from the coin-op mechanisms.

In the end, though, a lot of it is a question of convenience and competition. Sure I can make copies for six cents a page in the Business/SPEA library. I can also make them for a nickel a page or less at any number of the copy shops around campus.

And that is precisely what my classmates and I did for our readings. We got the 691 pages from the library and headed off campus. Collectively, we saved both time and money. So if the prices go up next fall in the Business/SPEA library, you have my friends and me to blame.


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