Eastman Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy in January 2012, has announced a further 200 job losses and an end to consumer inkjet sales as of early 2013. The company which gave the world the Brownie camera and made amateur photography affordable for millions has struggled to compete in the digital age. Sales of consumer film suffered as the rise of digital photography meant that fewer and fewer photos were printed.
Slow to react to the change, Kodak found itself playing catch-up with its more tech-savvy rivals and, as a consequence, is now in the midst of a painful restructuring process. The company has already sold off many of its business, including Kodak Gallery and Kodak Kiosk, in an effort to reduce costs and generate cash.
Prior to filing for bankruptcy, Kodak had already begun to reorganise as it closed factories and photo labs, laid off employees and announced that it would stop making digital cameras, video cameras and photo frames. Kodak had planned to sell off 1,000 of its patents to raise funds but has postponed the sale indefinitely and may set up a new company which will license the technology to generate revenue.
The decision to pull out of the consumer inkjet market comes in the wake of Lexmark's decision to close its inkjet business and is symptomatic of an ongoing change in this sector. The simple fact is that, while we're taking and sharing more photos than ever before, most of them never get printed.
Photo sharing applications like Instagram are quick, easy to use, allow you to share your pictures with all your friends and family instantly and, above all, they're free. One of the biggest complaints about consumer inkjet printers is the cost of the ink – we often hear phrases like "a set of inks costs more than the printer" or "by volume, printer ink is more expensive than vintage champagne".
There are good reasons for this but the fact remains that people just don't want to pay to see their photos, especially when there's a free alternative. It seems that the need to hold a photo in your hand isn’t as powerful as the need to see it and share it instantly, however much Kodak has tried to convince itself, and us, otherwise.
Like Lexmark, Kodak has had to admit defeat in the consumer imaging market so it can concentrate on the commercial sectors of its business and it probably won’t be the last to do so. What this means for consumer choice in the future is still unclear but Kodak will continue to supply ink for its legacy inkjet customers. Printware will, of course, continue to stock the full range of Kodak inks.
by Anthony Morgan