Freenters 2.0 coming soon, but at a cost

Printing service is closing its kiosks, revamping business model.

By Ben Andrew

Freenters, a printing service founded at the University of Chicago, has permanently closed all of its kiosks around campus with the goal of implementing a new business model.

Soon, students will be able to print at any printer they have access to—personal or public—using a special piece of software developed by Freenters, but not necessarily for free. The new software is part of what Freenters calls “Freenters 2.0,” and it will be available on November 20, according to the company’s website. Previously, Freenters required students to use one of its dedicated kiosks around campus to print for free.

As part of the transition to Freenters 2.0, Freenters is also changing its advertising and reimbursement model. Previously, ink and toner were provided entirely free of charge at dedicated printing kiosks. After the transition, students will have to cover the costs of printing themselves, but they will be credited 50 cents for every five pages printed. Currently, the University of Chicago charges 13 cents per single-sided page to print in black and white and 18 cents per single side page to print in color, so students will not be reimbursed for the entirety of printing costs. Freenters is considering using PayPal as its platform for subsiding printing.

Another difference between Freenters 2.0 and the old Freenters model is the size and position of advertisements. Under the previous business model, advertisements looked similar to Internet banner ads and appeared in the margins of each page. In Freenters 2.0, a full-page advertisement will be printed every five pages.

According to second-year Stephen Huh, chief technology officer at Freenters, “the transition [to Freenters 2.0] is because of three things: capital expenditure was too high, the operating expenditures were too high, and the pipeline between us as a party and the school as a party was too slow,” when trying to establish new kiosks. Though the company is focusing on college students right now, it hopes to expand into the home market, Huh added.

Despite a previous hacking scandal involving the UChicago Electronic Army (UEA), the old model was very popular on campus. Over 3,000 users at the University of Chicago printed over 200,000 pages during the three years that the service has been active.

Northwestern University currently houses the largest Freenters user base in the country and will also make the change to Freenters 2.0. However, Northwestern’s administration agreed to pay the service a fee to keep kiosks open during the transitional period.