Being out of your house and in need of a printer can be a stressful experience — where do you go when you need to print documents? Whether you need a copy of your lease, a fresh contract, or just a character sheet for your favorite tabletop RPG, you have a number of options for printing away from home.
You just need to know where to look.
Thanks to mobile and cloud technologies, the best “out of house” printing solutions are just a click away. There are also some public services you may not always think of.
Office Supply Stores
You might not need to buy office supplies at these stories anymore, but if you need something printed, and you need it fast, office supply stores are a great place to go. Staples Cloud Printing and Office Depot / OfficeMax Printing Services both offer on-the-spot printing and copying in the United States, and both Staples and Office Depot are also present in the UK.
Prices are generally good at these stores: at Office Depot, a single-sided black-and-white page is $0.10, and color is $0.59 (Staples advertises $0.17 and $0.60). You can also get volume discounts if you’re printing hundreds of pages, which could save a lot of money if you need conference handouts or one extremely large document, like a dissertation.
Printing documents at office supply stores also affords you a wide variety of options, like stapling, hole punching, collating, perforation, lamination, binding, and other features, making office supply stores some of the best places to print documents. Plus you can print anything you want—from simple documents to large posters, and business cards to brochures.
You might not think of companies that provide shipping services as good places to print documents, but they often offer printing and copying as well as their more standard offerings. Both UPS Professional Printing Services and Fedex Copying and Printing Services print and make copies, and UPS even lets you print from the HP ePrint app so you can get prints super fast on the go.
FedEx Office even lets you print documents from your Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box accounts. So, it’s always best to copy and sync your document to the cloud. That’s one advantage of using cloud productivity tools like Office Online or Google Drive.
The UPS Store offers prices that beat Office Depot, at $0.09 per black-and-white page, and $0.49 per color page. Just upload your documents online or bring them into the store, and you’re set to print whatever you need.
Though FedEx’s pricing is a little hard to find, it looks like they charge $0.13 and $0.70 for black-and-white and color, respectively (you also need to use Flash to access FedEx’s printing services, which is a security risk).
As with office supply stores, UPS and Fedex also offer stapling, hole punching, binding, collating, lamination, and anything else you could need to get your document ready. Different paper sizes and media are also available: business cards, pamphlets, brochures, banners, envelopes, magnets, presentations . . . you can print anything you need with no hassle.
Copy / Print Shops
Depending on where you live, copy and print shops may be more or less common; where I live now, I haven’t noticed any at all. But when I lived in the UK, they were pretty easy to find. Regardless, copy and print shops exist solely to help you print documents, so they’re a great bet for any kind of printing you need.
Many of the print shops you’ll come across aren’t chain operations, but locally owned, which is great if you try to support local business. Because there’s so much variation, though, predicting the prices at these establishments can be difficult.
To find a copy or print shop near you, just put “copy print shop [your zip code]” into a search engine, and you should be able to find one (if there is indeed one available).
Public / University Libraries
If you can’t find an office supply store or a shipping provider when you need a document printed right away, you might be able to use a printer at a public library. While it’s hard to generalize what their prices will be like, my own local library charges $0.10 for black-and-white pages, and a $0.50 for color pages, which is actually really good.
Many public libraries also offer cloud printing services, and they’re sometimes integrated with Google Cloud Print (you can see an example here at the Stratford public library). To find out how to print at your local library, it’s best to go to their website and look for a “Services” or “Technology” page.
University libraries may or may not allow non-students to use their computers and printers. I’ve been at universities where it’s easy to pay for printing as a non-student and I’ve been at universities where it’s rather difficult. With all of the other great options, this is probably best left as a last resort for when you really need to print a couple pages, and not when you need anything complicated or a huge volume.
Online Printing Options
Everyone knows that you can print photos cheap online, but did you know that you can also print documents and have them sent to you? If you know where to look, you can get good deals on anything from black-and-white documents to full-color self-published magazines with online printers (as long as you don’t need them immediately).
Best Value Copy offers black-and-white copies from $0.025 and color from $0.09, beating every other option on price by a long shot. Of course, you still have to pay for shipping. On my test order, shipping was over $15, significantly skewing the value of ordering online. If you need a very large order, though, the shipping costs could be worth it.
Other online providers will only be worth it for larger orders.
With PrintDog, for example, a 10-page black-and-white document costs $10.64, over a dollar a page. A 100-page document will run you $16.40, bringing the per-page cost down to $0.16, which is getting more into the realm of an okay deal.
Uprinting.com is reputed to have good prices, but you’ll need to be ordering at least 100 copies.
If you have a lot of time to spend looking for a way to print documents online, you’ll probably be able to find a good deal, but you may need to go through the ordering process a number of times before pulling the trigger.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for online coupons, either — Best Value Copy has coupons for 200 free black-and-white copies and 50 free color copies right on their homepage.
One quick tip: when you’re searching online, search for “copies” or “copying” instead of “printing,” as the latter will often send you to sites that only do brochures, business cards, posters, and other more complicated projects.
Other Document-Printing Options?
If you ever find yourself without a printer and in need of some printed documents, these options will help you find a place to get what you need fast. They don’t cover 3D printing, so have a look at the best cheap 3D printers if you want to buy one.
And if you don’t have your own printer yet, check out the best home printers with cheap ink and take a look at our tutorial for setting up and using a printer on Mac, if that’s your computer of choice.
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