A Middle-Schooler’s Idea To Save The Federal Government $136 Million, Ctd

Suvir Mirchandani suggested the government cut ink-use by changing the font on printed documents. Typographer Thomas Phinney runs through various problems with the 14-year-old’s plan. A big one:

Many of the documents that account for a substantial percentage of the government’s overall printing costs are printed on a printing press, using offset lithography. For offset printing, the percentage of the cost of that is associated with ink is in fact much smaller than for laser or inkjet printing. But it isn’t a fixed percentage, either, due to the large proportion of the cost that is associated with setup. It will be a higher percentage for short runs, and lower for long runs. Additionally, because of the huge cost of owning printing presses, many or most offset litho jobs will be printed out of house, using third-​​party printers.

So, for in-​​house printing-​​press printing, the savings will be a much smaller proportion than the quoted 26%. For outside printers, they will not charge based on minor variations in ink usage; they just check things like whether it’s a page of text vs graphics. Either way the savings will be less.

David Graham adds that the government has already made solid progress eliminating its printing costs:

Take the annual federal budget. In the 1980s, GPO says it was printing around 130,000 copies every year. This year, that number was down to 25,000 copies. At 250-plus pages apiece, that adds up quickly. Meanwhile, getting access to the document is easier than ever. The budget gets about 500,000 views online every year, and there’s a mobile version, too. Officials have made similar reductions in the print run for other documents, such as the Congressional Record and Federal Register, and they have started using more recycled paper.