Ask LH: What’s The Cheapest Way To Print 1000 Research Papers?

Ask LH: What’s The Cheapest Way To Print 1000 Research Papers?

Dear Lifehacker, I am a postgraduate student working on a research project. And that means insane amounts of journal articles. My brain is incapable of processing any of the information unless I print them out to touch and highlight them. I have over one thousand research papers I need to read. What is the cheapest possible way to print these, ideally at around five cents per page?

I have looked at printing business but their high volume printing is only for one item 1000 times, not 1000 items one time. I do have a printer at home, but it is not capable of printing this volume cheaply or quickly. HALP! Thanks, Maddie

Printing image from Shutterstock

Dear Maddie,

The good news is that black-and-white prints are much cheaper than colour. The bad news is that the standard industry price is around double your budget, at 10 cents per page.

This is what you can expect to pay at Office Works and Harvey Norman Print Shop. It’s also what most universities charge their own students, as you’re doubtlessly aware. With that said, some companies do offer personal quotes for larger jobs that can work out substantially cheaper.

Your first step is to contact a few printing services such as Snap with a detailed print request. Explain that you only require black-and-white text on standard, non-glossy paper. You can then compare quotes and go with whichever is cheapest.

Most printing services provide a choice of bound booklets, binders or loose sheets. To save money, go for the latter and invest in a hole puncher. (If you can wrangle some friends together to help you assemble your own binders, all the better.)

Printing costs per page will depend on how much you are printing, so it makes sense to print all the research papers in one go rather than as you need them. While the initial cost will be higher, you’ll save more money in the long run.

If possible, you should also merge the papers into PDF files — the less work the company has to do, the less it will charge in processing fees. With the aforementioned Snap, you can get 25,000 double-sided pages printed for $2000, which works out to around four cents per page.

Obviously, it’s more cost-effective to use a facility you can physically pick up your prints from. Otherwise, you’ll need to factor in posting and handling fees which can become quite high for huge tomes of paper. (Plus, picking them up in store means you’ll get your research papers faster.)

If any readers have additional tips or recommendations to share, let Maddie know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • That’s a ridiculous number of papers. Do yourself a favour and have a critical look at each one online. I discovered the vast majority of papers worthless. In this day and age of publish or perish, quality has sadly departed for quantity and I think you will find the number of papers that hold value to be far lower in number. Print those. The rest just get the one piece of info you need and write a short paragraph in a doc and the citation underneath straight away.

    • AS rollz says 1000 articles is too many, If you are printing and planning to read 1000 articles you haven’t done your job properly. You should be evaluating the probability of a good article before you spend a buck printing it out. Read the abstract and decide before you waste your money.

  • Why not “print” all the articles to one single PDF file (appending each new article to the end of the PDF), and then print one copy of the PDF on paper? I know PDF software can do this, although I don’t know what the limit is so maybe the articles would be too long to append…

  • If you feel the need to touch and highlight, consider a tablet. It’s way under your budget and you can still run your fingers over the words and highlight through touch. It’s a different texture, but may work for you.

    And as stated by rolls, 1000 is way too many. I’d seriously doubt that you’d get up to 100 papers that need serious reading. I think I managed less than half that for my thesis, with the others just getting a quick once-over to see that they’re not really relevant or just not of sufficient quality.

  • I get the requirement for paper…
    Check out wirecutter’s best cheap printer. They recommend a Brother laser (US$90) with a print cost of US2.7c per page. This is easily less than 10c per page, and you get a newer faster printer to use for future projects.
    Learn the best way to print multiple documents in a batch. e.g. in Windows Explorer, you can highlight multiple docs > right-click > Print. Try it with 2 or 3 to make sure your options work. Then play with how many your computer can do in one go. (i.e. don’t try all 1000 at once)
    Assuming 10 pages per doc, you’re looking at around 8-ish hours of non-stop printing, so plan to do printing across a week or 2 in free moments. You should easily be printing quicker than you can read. And this should be cheaper.
    …Then how are you going to store/file them?

    • so US 2.7c is about AUD 3.5c at the moment. Add 0.5c for the paper itself (double sided), and the AUD $120 printer works out to 1.2c/page assuming the same 10 pages per doc. that brings it to 5.2c + power costs which isn’t too shabby. It’s fairly labor intensive but at the end of it you have a probably-working printer.

      At the office our costs are about 2-3c/copy for black and white, odds are even at scale you couldn’t push it below that. In your position I’d probably try to find a friend who has access to a bigger printer and is okay with using it if you bring the paper and pay a little over costs.

      As a sidenote: There’s software out there that lets you join multiple pdf files into one big one. You’d end up with a monster of a pdf at the end but it might be easier than submitting a thousand separate files to a printers website.

  • Check with your Guild’s computer club or similar – they guys know things that could help (e.g. where to “hack” free printing on campus).

  • I’m a teacher – my school charges about 3.4c per page (I think the same price even applies to A3). Can you get them printed in China say and shipped for free?
    Find a company that prints heaps – they will have a deal with the photocopy companies. They can probably sell you credit on their machines for a slight profit and you both win.

  • For a start, check the citation hit rate of the papers: low citation hit rate will not always indicate low quality/disregard, but its a good start.
    When printing, halve your volume by printing two pages per sheet.

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