Where to Print Documents When You Don’t Have a Printer
Tech gurus and prophets have been predicting the death of the printed page for as long as I’ve been alive. Everything will be done online, or everyone will have a “paperless office”, or everything is going to be done in the cloud. There’s no denying that there are a lot fewer printers than there used to be. The rise of networks and ubiquitous Internet access has reduced the need for printed documents, or at least, have reduced the need for people to have a printer all their own. Many processes and procedures still rely on words printed on actual physical paper, but what has changed is that a lot of people no longer own their own inkjet or laser printer. For one thing, a lot of people do their computing on tablets and smartphones now, and don’t have a desktop machine at home or at work with its own standalone printer.
It isn’t just businesses that have moved away from using paper documents. Students at colleges and universities, high schools, and even middle schools around the country have moved to digital learning, using laptops and tablets in class to replace printed documents and handouts and handing in papers and other homework assignments electronically by turning in documents through email or class-wide dropboxes. This is good for teachers as it is students, since it allows for instructors to automatically check for plagiarism, poor grammar and spelling, and more. The move to electronic files seemingly has few downsides, except for one: the all-electronic document world is great until the worst-case scenario occurs: you’re asked to print out a document and you’re left stranded without a printer. Whether you’re rushing to print out important financial documents, printouts for an emergency meeting at work, or the paper you pulled an all-nighter for, realizing you need to print without a printer—or being away from home when the realization hits you—can really mess with your day.
Luckily, you don’t need to stress out. There are printers everywhere, and finding one that you can use is often as simple as doing a quick Google search. In this article, I will provide you with a plethora of print-on-demand options that you can access just about anywhere you go.
Libraries aren’t just for books! Libraries are open to the public, and are the perfect resource for anyone looking for an easy way to print documents when away from home. While most people think of libraries simply as places to rent books and possibly DVDs depending on your local selection, the truth is far more complicated. Libraries offer all sorts of services depending on where you live, and one of those services typically offered is printing and computer access, usually for free. If it isn’t free, it’s usually cheap.
If you’re unsure whether your local library carries printing services, use this Google search to find your closest library, then visit their webpage. Look for a subsection or category for services or computer access. Typically, libraries offer some kind of computer access for those of us who can’t print or use computers at home. Computer access is generally free, and some libraries don’t even require a library card to use them (this, of course, varies between libraries and library systems; check your local library website for more information).
Some libraries have free printing, while others typically charge between 10 and 25 cents per page for black and white prints and 30 to 50 cents for color printing per page. Obviously, these costs can add up quickly, but for a five-page black and white document, you’ll likely pay less than a dollar. Check with the library to see if you have to use one of their computers, or if they support wireless printing from your phone or laptop.
Many libraries also offer scanning and faxing services, again at no or nominal charge. Some libraries even have 3D printers available for rental, although these are usually part of “maker” programs and require you to take classes and show proficiency with the technology before they will give you access to their expensive machines.
If you’re a student at a college or university, check out the library on your campus to print documents whenever you need an essay or physical copy of a reading while on the go. Typically, your tuition comes with a printing quota that you can use towards printing documents while on campus. College campuses don’t place restrictions on what you can print, so whether you’re printing a paper for school or a shipping label to return that shirt you bought on Amazon that didn’t quite fit right, you’ll be good to go. If you aren’t a student at the school, you may still be able to use the library resources for a small cost.
Copy and Print Stores
Though a dying breed, there are still dedicated stores around that are solely for providing copy and print services, in addition to offering supplies related to paper and other documents. These are typically mom-and-pop stores, locally owned in major and minor cities and occasionally throughout the suburbs in the United States; there are also national chains. You’ll want to search Google for copy and print stores nearby, though it may also bring up some of the other stores on our list. Copy and print shops offer the advantage that they are set up precisely to meet the needs of people who need something printed, and the disadvantage that they charge premium prices for their services.
Apartments and Hotels
Hotels and apartment complexes often have business service centers that offer copying, printing, scan and fax services to their residents or guests. Ordinarily these services are reserved for the people who live there. However, the staff (at hotels in particular) are often perfectly happy to let someone come in off the street with a quick print job, in response to a polite request. If you live in an apartment complex, even if your complex doesn’t have a standalone business center, the rental office staff may be willing to print out the occasional document for a resident. It never hurts to ask!
It’s also worth noting that, while we don’t recommend it, many hotel business centers simply sit open and anyone who walks in looking like they know what they’re doing can sit down at a computer and print out a quick document without asking.
Have you ever dropped a package off at UPS or FedEx? This may surprise you, but those stores aren’t just dedicated to taking in your Amazon returns and Christmas gifts you’re sending home—they also provide all sorts of office services that may appeal to anyone trying to get a print of a specific document before heading into work or school. Shipping stores almost always have a print center.
The UPS Store, for example, has more than 5,000 locations across the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada, and most of them offer copy and print services. According to their website, UPS Stores that offer printing can copy documents, print in black and white and color, print single-sided or double-sided, offer multiple sizes of paper, and can even finish your document with all sorts of final touches, including lamination and binding. UPS allows you to upload your documents online, and gives you a printing estimate based on your document.
Once you’ve submitted your file, you’ll be given an estimated time (for basic documents, this seems to be pretty short), and you can go pick it up from the store when you’re ready. In our testing, the prices were pretty competitive, giving us a color print for around 40 cents per page and a black and white document for 15 cents per page. There are plenty of document file types supported for printing through UPS, including PDF, .doc, .jpeg, and even Photoshop and Illustrator documents.
FedEx offers similar services with their FedEx Office stores, formerly known as Kinko’s, which compete directly with the UPS Store locations near you. There are fewer FedEx Office locations in the world, with FedEx’s own website saying there’s about 1900 locations throughout the United States and abroad. Nevertheless, if you happen to live near a FedEx Office, they offer similar print and copying services to their close competition, which makes sense considering Kinko’s legacy. Documents can be picked up or shipped to your location, though shipping a document adds an additional cost.
Uploading documents to FedEx is easy, with support for multiple file types and even the option to upload straight from a cloud document service like Google Drive or Dropbox. If there’s one downside to using their service, it’s the price. Our test document was pretty small, containing a one-page document in black and white, but it cost nearly 70 cents, a hefty increase over the 15 cents UPS was going to charge us. Still, it’s not too expensive depending on how many pages you’re looking to print, and if there’s a FedEx near you but not a UPS, the decision is basically made for you anyway.
Those are the two big-name stores, but you’ll still want to look around to see if you can find a locally-owned shipping company that may also offer a printing and copying service. Look around in your area to see if there are any additional shipping companies nearby that may offer lower prices or faster printing and copying than the big-name shipping companies.
Office Supply Stores
Like UPS and FedEx, office supply stores also offer pretty standard printing services that may be just what you’re looking for when out and on the run for a printing solution. Though stores like Office Depot, OfficeMax (which is owned by Office Depot), and Staples exist to sell paper, printers, and other similar printing materials, they offer all sorts of printing options for you to use at your disposal. Office Depot, for example, offers same-day printing pickup for most basic documents as long as you place an order prior to 2 PM local time on their business days, and since they also offer mobile uploading through their iOS and Android apps, you don’t have to be on your computer to upload a document.
Prices through Office Depot and OfficeMax are pretty cheap, all things considered. A double-sided page in black and white gave us an estimated price of just 9 cents, beating even the library in our area, and even full-color pages were just 42 cents each double-sided. OfficeMax and Office Depot have a combined 1,400 stores around the United States, which means it’s pretty easy to find a location near you. If you can’t, however, you can always choose to have the product shipped to you for an additional cost. And while we’re focusing on document printing for the sake of this article, you can print out numerous types of projects using Office Depot’s own printing software online.
Staples, like Office Depot and OfficeMax, also has online document-uploading for easy pickup or shipments, offered at around 10 cents a page for black and white prints and about 50 cents per page for color prints, putting it on pace for similar pricing as both libraries and their direct competition in Office Depot. The Staples mobile app, as best as we can tell, doesn’t allow for the ability to upload documents while on the go to pick up in the store, an unfortunate disadvantage considering that the Office Depot app does allow for mobile uploading and printing. Still, the web app on your desktop for uploading documents to Staples’ own servers is pretty easy to use, and you can pick up your documents typically within a couple hours of submission.
Online Print Stores
If you aren’t in a rush to pick up your prints, online printing stores can be quite cheap, and often easier than driving out to a dedicated store if you have the time and the money to wait for your prints. We’ve already mentioned that several of the companies on this list, including Office Depot and FedEx, will ship you your documents if you’re not near a physical location or don’t have the drive to go pick them up on your own, but it’s also worth mentioning that online print stores may have lower-priced or free shipping compared to those companies.
There’s no shortage of easy to use online print companies you can find through Google, though the one you end up using will be up to your own personal discretion. The one thing to note, however, is that most online print stores are designed for big projects that can’t be handled by office supply stores or your local library. If you need 500 copies of a specific document, purchasing through an online print shop might be the way to go. You’ll end up paying real dollars, but each copy will only cost you a couple cents because you’re purchasing in bulk. If you’re looking to purchase a single copy of something, however, you might not want to purchase through an online offering.
Pharmacies and Drug Stores
While it’s no secret that pharmacies and drug stores around the country offer a wide selection of 1-hour photo solutions for printing and receiving copies of your personal photos, what you might not know is that those same stores have started to offer document printing for any time you may need a document printed while running to work or to class. If you’re looking for a place to quickly print your documents, you might want to check out your local pharmacy to see if they have printing solutions for you.
If you don’t live near a mom-and-pop or locally-owned pharmacy, the national pharmacies haven’t totally left you out in the cold. One of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States is CVS, and they now offer document printing in 3,400 of its stores. This isn’t a nation-wide rollout yet, but it’s a solid start to what could be a convenient location depending on where you live.
To copy or print your documents at CVS, head to your local store and look for the Kodak kiosk. You’ll need to make sure you bring a USB drive with you that contains your document. Simply connect the flash drive to the Kodak kiosk, select document printing, and input your color choice and whether you want single or double-sided prints. Unlike with some locations, you handle the printing entirely on your own, which means your documents won’t be seen by anyone but you, and since everything is done in-store, you don’t have to concern yourself with picking up your documents at the right time.
This comes with some disadvantages, of course. First, CVS doesn’t have a way to tell if a store has just photo printing or photo and document printing, so we recommend calling your local CVS to make sure you’re ready to print your documents at the right place. Second, you’ll need to have a flash drive handy to print your files, which may not be accessible to everyone. Finally, the prices at CVS are a bit steep compared to the competition; you’ll be looking at 19 cents per single-sided page for black and white copies and 38 cents per page for double-sided black and white copies. The color prices are higher than anything on this list, charging 99 cents for a single-sided color print and $1.98 for double-sided color prints. It’s expensive, but if you need something printed quickly and you live down the street from a CVS that supports document printing, it might be your closest and fastest option.
The Post Office
This one may come as a surprise to some readers, but the United States Postal Service has a form of printing service. No, you can’t walk into your local post office and ask them to print off your report or memo (though some post offices do have coin-operated photocopiers in the lobby). Rather, the post office partners with several services that let you upload a document (anything from a simple postcard to a 56-page color booklet) and an address list, and your document will be automatically printed out and mailed to the addressees. Although the service is intended for, and marketed towards, direct mailers, you can use it for any purpose you wish. Want to print and mail your Christmas cards with literally the touch of a button? It’s not a problem.
There are a few different services, each affiliated with the Post Office and each with their own specialty, but all of them will print documents and mail them for you. AmazingMail focuses on brochures and letters, AmplifiedMail seems to be concentrating on direct mail marketing, while Click2Mail has a huge library of available products.
PrintSpots Online Directory
Of particular use to travelers, the PrintSpots directory of public printing spots is a useful site to bookmark. Although the listings tend to run heavily towards hotels and libraries, the site is nonetheless very helpful if you aren’t familiar with an area or don’t have time to call around to a bunch of hotels asking whether they have printing services; the information is all there in one page.
The Workforce Center
Workforce centers (also called job centers or career centers) are offices usually run by county or state governments that provide a place for job-seekers to look up job postings, create their resumes, fill out applications, and get help from trained staff with the entire job search process. What’s a major part of looking for a job? Printing out resumes and applications, of course. For that reason, most workforce centers have printers that are available to people using their services.
Workforce centers do usually require you to register to use them, but registration is quick, easy and free. Theoretically, you can only use the printers there to do work-related printing, such as your resume or a job application…but if you just are printing a page or two of something else, it’s not likely anyone is going to notice or care. Just be careful and considerate; this is not the place to print out your screenplay (unless you need to submit a copy of your screenplay as part of a job application).
Not every idea on this list is going to work for everyone. If you don’t have a nearby office supply store or your local pharmacy doesn’t offer document printing, then you might be out of luck when it comes to those options. Likewise, online print stores can be slow to deliver, and if you need something same-day, that basically cancels out the idea. If you need your document personally and right now, rather than mailed to someone else in a few days, then the Post Office isn’t any help.
In the long run, of course, one or two options on this list not being available widely doesn’t mean you can’t easily gain access to one of the others. Our favorite solution happens to be using your local library, where prices are typically fair and printing can be done quickly and in real time. Even more so, most libraries have access to printers for their town’s residents, which means you’re never going to be in a situation where printing isn’t an option. If you’re in a suburban or metropolitan area, of course, you might not be near a library with immediate access, so finding a shipping store like UPS, an office supplies store like Office Depot, or even a pharmacy or drug store like CVS will make it easy to print your document on time.
So the next time you leave the house and realize you forgot to print your latest essay for class or the financial reports for your boss, don’t panic. In 2019, there are more options than ever for getting a printout of your electronic documents, and it’s easy to do so just within your lunch hour alone.
Have you used one of these services? Let us know in the comments which printing service you’ll use next!