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Your printer orders ink for you with new HP Instant Ink service

Never run out of ink again with HP's new Instant Ink service, ending emergency dashes to Staples -- and saving you money.

Never run out of ink with HP Instant Ink. HP

We've all been there: you dust off your printer to print out that important map, form or cover letter you need right now -- and the cartridge is dryer than a hosepipe ban. Thankfully, the panicked emergency dash to Staples could become a thing of the past with HP Instant Ink, because your printer buys the ink for you.

Already available in the US and launching now in Europe, the Instant Ink service takes the inconvenience out of ink, for a monthly fee.

Sign up to Instant Ink and connect your Wi-Fi-enabled printer to the Internet, and it will monitor your ink levels, telling HP when you're running low. Before you run out of ink, a new ink cartridge magically arrives.

Ink we're alone now

That costs you a small monthly fee instead of paying for cartridges whenever you need them. The trade-off is that the fee comes with a cap on how many pages you can print. That sounds a bit weird, at first blush -- when you've parted with your hard-earned for a gadget, you want it to be able to use it as much as you like.

But if you can get your head around the page limit, the upside is the cost: HP reckons Instant Ink works out as much as 70 percent cheaper than buying your own ink. There are three price plans: £1.99 per month for 50 pages, £3.49 for 100 pages, or £7.99 for 300 pages.

If you go over your allowance, you can pay £1 for an extra 15 prints, 20 or 25 prints. Alternatively if you don't use all your pages, you can roll over unused print credits to the next month, and change to a different plan at any time.

King of wishful inking

Instant Ink printers use single cartridges containing different coloured inks, so you don't have to worry about the level of individual inks. And the cartridges are bigger than previous cartridges, so they last longer.

The downside of the new cartridges is that they don't fit into current models, so if you like the sound of Instant Ink you have to fork out for a new printer. There are five compatible models: the HP Envy 4500, Envy 5530, Officejet 4630, Officejet Pro 8610 and Officejet Pro 8620.

The UK is the first country in Europe to enjoy Instant Ink, with Instant Ink cards on sale now in John Lewis and PC World.