Printing at the Combini: Cheaper than Kinko’s and Easier to Find

Greg Lane

The 7 Eleven Super Copier

Sometimes, when you’re about to go into a meeting you might find yourself needing to print out a big pile of documents – or perhaps you’re like me and you’ve decided not to have a home inkjet printer and get caught up in the ink cartridge scam that values printer ink at 20 times the price of Dom Perignon champagne.  In either case you might be familiar with places like Kinko’s or Japan variants like Accea – where you can pay to use the computers or have the staff print or scan documents for you.

I used to think these places were quite cheap albeit a little inconvenient as there were none within a 10 minute walk of my home or office.  But then I discovered the super copier/scanner/fax/printers they have at 7-Eleven and Lawson. These machines are awesome – you can print any PDF file straight from a USB memory stick, scan documents to PDF or JPG or send faxes using the same machine.

Despite the lack of a New Zealand English option, I managed to get by.
Despite the lack of a New Zealand English option, I managed to get by. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Unlike 7-Eleven, the interface of the Lawson machine speaks 8 languages vs. the monolingual 7-Eleven machine. You may notice an English option on the start screen, but unfortunately, if you choose this, most of the cool functionality disappears and the machine will become a normal copier.  If you can’t read Japanese, the toughest part of the 7-Eleven machine is probably the start screen.  Once you’ve selected ‘文書プリント’ (document print – the pink button) the next steps shouldn’t be too hard to work out.  The prices for printing are about the same as Kinko’s or Accea, but the convenience and not having to pay to use a computer is a big bonus. The hardest part about using the Lawson machine is trying not to get it to crash and expose the Microsoft Windows horribleness lurking within.

This seems to come up every second time I use the Lawson machine.
This seems to come up every second time I use the Lawson machine. | Photo by Gregory Lane

As shown above, if your printing job is REALLY important, don’t bet everything on either the Lawson or the 7-Eleven machine working.  I’ve had issues with Mac formatted USB memory sticks not being recognised – even using a Windows file system format like FAT.  I reformatted the USB memory using the disk utility in Ubuntu and it worked fine. It’s probably designed to be used with Windows so if you formatted the USB memory stick in Windows – or you haven’t fiddled around with it since you bought it, then you should be OK.  Another option on the 7-Eleven machine is ‘ネットプリント’  (net print) – uploading your files to their website and printing them from the machine at the convenience store. I haven’t had a lot of luck with Net Print, but you can find a detailed guide to the 7-Eleven system on Surviving in Japan.

After selecting your file, choose the paper type. You confirm the colours and details on the following screen.
After selecting your file, choose the paper type. You confirm the colours and details on the following screen (Lawson).

As of this update, I’m not aware of equivalent machines at other convenience stores, but it’s only a matter of time before Family Mart, Daily Yamazaki and the others catch up.

This post was originally published April, 2012 and is regularly updated. Last update: October, 2014.
Written by:
Filed under: Business
Tags: 7-Eleven, Bootstrapping, Business, Lawson, Printing
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10 Responses to “Printing at the Combini: Cheaper than Kinko’s and Easier to Find”

  1. mrkirkland

    I second that about 7-Eleven being better than other convenience stores. Recently tried to fax a document from Sunkus, but had to abort mission due to issues with using an SD-card for fax so went to 7-Eleven instead!

  2. Avatar
    CheapoGreg April 12, 2012

    Well if the Sunkus machines can print from media then they’re better than the Family Mart machines.  They’re extremely basic.

  3. Avatar

    I actually like and prefer the net print option – the interface is fine (I did a tutorial on it). The price difference is minimal. Other than that though, I agree about the services at 7-11 being really useful (and extensive). I think Circle K is pretty nice too, although it’s across the street from where we live so I use it more often. 🙂

  4. Avatar
    CheapoGreg May 22, 2012

    Hi Ashley, maybe I should give give the net net print option another chance.  It was very clunky web 1.0 when I looked at it at a while ago.  I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for a Cricle K – they’re a little rare in central Tokyo!
    By the way, just edited the post to remove a reference to being able to print word documents – which as I discovered recently is incorrect.

  5. Avatar
    Dr DudeChick February 21, 2013

    I love the NetPrint option that I mastered thanks to Ashley’s tutorial. I don’t read Japanese, but once I learned what button to press where, I am a master of this 7-11 system, while I was always scared to use the USB option, due to my non-Japanese ability. I am suprised that the USB is cheaper, what is the price difference at the current moment? I often have to print 20 pages or longer documents, so I would like to know if it is worth my while to figure the USB then?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 23, 2013

      To be honest, I’m not sure if my original info about the net print option costing more is true since I didn’t end up using it. However, for reference sake, a single black & white A4 page costs 10yen, while 1 colour page costs 50yen. For large amounts of colour printing, Kinko’s might end up a bit cheaper but I can’t confirm that.

  6. Avatar
    zoomtokyo April 11, 2013

    Great info! What about Word Files? I’ve only seen dedicated PDF and photo functions.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 12, 2013

      Unfortunately, you can’t print Word files. You can just print to PDF from Word and then take it along in PDF format though.

      • Avatar
        zoomtokyo April 18, 2013

        Thanks for the reply. What a drag, eh?

        • Avatar
          CheapoGreg April 18, 2013

          It’s only a small inconvenience. I’m just waiting for either 7 eleven or Lawson to enable Airprint, so you could copy a doc to your Dropbox and then print straight from your phone using the app at the store. The technology has been around for ages, I don’t know why they don’t just implement it.

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