BERG's Little Printer looks lovely. I haven't held or used it yet but it looks as if a gigantic amount of work has gone into it, and much into the invisible network/services bit - they are trying to build many layers at once. Rev Dan Catt gets at why it's interesting: "Placing a small, cute, whimsical, standalone modern printer into a living room or kitchen will change behaviour (slightly) and invite new uses." And Matt Webb: "We wanted to create a beautiful product that has a different place in your life than "printing." Something able to do work for you, and to bring unexpected delight. The response on the internet has been interestingly polarised - love/hate is generally a good thing.
Some haven't liked its price. I think that reaction may have a few roots:
- People may be accustomed to think of print and paper (and to a certain extent printers) as discardable ephemera, which affects perceived value.
- People may be accustomed to think of printing as performing a very utilitarian role, and from that perspective LP might seem like a poorly-featured utility.
- People may expect that something positioned as fun, small and contenty should be cheap - ie the LP object and its price are signalling confusingly different things.
- We discount the value of new products until they're in our hands and we see the surprising uses they're put to. Particularly so the value of their intangible, networked, third-party capabilities. During the pre-order period much of that value isn't yet sufficiently shelf-demonstrable - such is the pain of bootstrapping.
(A tangent relating to pricing. Last year I priced up a hardware product that's much simpler than LP for a small manufacturing run of a few hundred. We learned that mistakes are expensive, that the legal/regulatory environment is very complex, that warranties, replacements, support are difficult, and that to drive the price down you need to commit capital to achieve large production runs - the impact of truly mass manufacture on cost/price is an amazing thing: we'd have needed to sell at about £300+ just to break even. Hardware is really difficult and really expensive. Anyway, we didn't proceed! (Not that this is an apology for any particular pricing point: customers should care only about the value they hope to get from your product, rather than how much effort you put into making it.))
Looking at the Little Printer, I feel a little bit like I do about the cats and Ada's toys - I want to pick it up and give it a cuddle. I do not feel that way about our Samsung MNL-2855ND laser printer in the office. A different thing, in a different place, used differently. I hope BERG will do a Little Eye sibling.
Immediately I think of making publications. Small surprises and hellos to Ada. A daily ticket that says REMEMBER YOU WILL DIE to help keep me focused. A story about receipts.
I hope to enjoy the Little Printer as a beloved resource.