Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No, changing fonts to Garamond will not save the government $400 million per year

A 14-year-old from Pittsburgh, Suvir Mirchandani, calculated that with a simple change of fonts, the federal government could save as much as $136 million per year. Following up on a middle-school science project, Mirchandani calculated that changing government documents from Times New Roman to Garamond—a narrower, lighter font—would slash the amount of ink required by a vast amount. And as he pointed out, laser-printer ink is far dearer than, say Chanel No. 5. ... Extrapolating his findings to state and local governments, Mirchandani found that the total savings for all governments in the U.S. could be as much as $394 million ...

Mirchandani's estimates of what the federal government spends on ink are on the high end:
A Government Services Administration study (6) had estimated the cost of ink (toner) to be 25.86% of the total cost of ownership of a printer (Footnote 2). Assuming this percentage, the estimated 2014 ink cost by the federal government is $467 million. A savings of 29.24% by switching to Garamond translates into an equivalent dollar amount of more than $136 million at the federal government level.
Mirchandani notes that feds are projected to spend about $1.8 billion on printing in 2014. The GPO [Government Printing Office] accounts for a little more than a third of that ($680 million), but in 2013 it spent only $750,000 on ink. Even if that number could be zeroed out, a logical impossibility, the savings north of $100 million look pretty unlikely.
--David Graham, The Atlantic, on a sad piece of mythbusting