Free printing offered by student start-up

By Benjamin Pokross

A new U of C start-up, Freenters, is bringing free printing to students, from students.

Launched on October 1 by third-years Hye-Sung Kim and Rho Kook, Freenters currently permits users to print up to 100 pages a month for free. To fund the printing, Freenters places banner advertisements in the bottom margin of each page, similar to banners that appear on Web sites.

So far 435 students have registered to use the service and over 6,400 pages have been printed.

Users are required to enter their name, year in the College, gender, and major in order to use the service from their personal computers or at the printing stations. According to Kim, Freenters then uses that information to target ads at specific students.

Advertisers currently include businesses in Hyde Park such as Edwardo’s Natural Pizza and Cedars as well as other companies looking to target a college audience, such as insurance company Country Financial and wig-maker NYhairmall.

Kim said that free printing not only provides an important service to students, but could also be a way to build community, informing students about campus events and businesses in Hyde Park.

“Our business plan helps the campus to be tied in more,” Kim said.

Kim added that he doesn’t believe that having ads on printers will encroach on academia.

“People have choice,” he said. “If people think that it’s distracting to academics, they can go use the library printing.”

There are currently four Freenters stations at locations throughout campus: the fourth floor of the BSLC, Kent Chemical Laboratory, the student lounge in the basement of Swift Hall, and Eckhart 131.

The printers are meant to be easily accessible from anywhere on campus, but some locations are not as convenient as Kim had hoped—the student lounge in Swift is technically for Divinity School students only.

The University limited where Freenters could install their stations, preventing them from using space in the Regenstein Library or any of the residence halls. “We’re not allowed to place printers in certain areas where there are already library printers,” said fourth-year Paul Park, marketing chair for Freenters.

Although they resolved an initial rash of problems that occurred during the launch, printing times continue to lag at all four machines, an issue Freenters is trying to resolve, according to Kim.

In addition, on Thursday afternoon at the BSLC station several people couldn’t get the printer to work, including first-year Dominic Chiu. However, he remained positive about the company. “It’s good if it’s efficient,” he said. “The problem I had the first time was that it was slow.”

Third-year Ritu Prasad has not yet used the service, but  doest not mind the banner ads. “I’m used to my printer messing up,” she said.