Kinko's is a full-service copy and print shop, with sidelines of other related services.

Kinko's was founded in 1970 by Paul Orfalea (known to friends as "Kinko" because of his curly orange hair, hence the orange lettering in the original Kinko's logo). He rented a tiny storefront (100 square feet) and offered press, copying and film services to his fellow citizens in Santa Barbara, CA. Since then Kinko's has grown to over 1000 locations. It has always been privately held, but in early 2004 was purchased by FedEx and is now officially known as FedEx Kinko's, with an RGB-colored asterisk as the new logo.

Most all Kinko's have at least the following:

  • Full-service and self-service copiers, both color and black-and-white
  • Various machines for gluing and plastic or tape binding
  • Rental computers, both basic (office software and Internet access) and digital-design configurations (basic workstations with the addition of scanners and design software like Photoshop and Acrobat)
  • Basic office supplies for customer use and purchase
  • White, colored, and resume-style papers and cardstocks for use in full-service and self-service jobs, or for customer purchase

Depending on the logistical and business decisions of the regional offices, you may also find any or all of the following offerings:

Often even if a Kinko's doesn't themselves offer a service you need, they can either have it produced by another store or by another company they have an outsourcing relationship with. In particular anything requiring offset press work or Pantone color matching will almost certainly be outsourced, as will anything involving paperback or hardback bookbinding, or large quantities of things a store would ordinarily do itself in smaller quantities.

Efficiency and customer demand mean that much of what goes on in even a small Kinko's today is digitally-driven. You can still bring hard-copy originals, but digital files (particularly Adobe PDF) are actually preferred because the print quality is higher and they're easier to manipulate (shuffling, resizing, rotating, etc.) Even if you do bring hard-copy, depending on what you want done with it, it may be scanned into the production workstation anyway. (One side benefit of this is that branches can now digitally send customer files back and forth to coordinate on difficult or large jobs.) In fact, customers can now order and pay for jobs online, through ordinary e-mail, the Kinko's website, or the new File, Print FedEx Kinko's service which is implemented as a pseudo-printer on your Windows 2000 or XP computer. If you get free delivery you never even have to set foot in the store.

One thing Kinko's is not is an old-fashioned service bureau. If they do offset printing jobs at all, they'll be outsourced, as noted above: these kinds of jobs require skill and equipment that the average Kinko's branch can't afford to pay for, and are far beyond what most customers actually need. You can count on green being green, but don't get attached to that one particular shade of green from your Pantone swatch book, because the printers your job will come out on are, for the most part, your basic CMYK process-color copiers and Pantone color mixing just isn't in the cards.

Recently Kinko's has been feeling the pressure from budget-copying services offered by stores like Staples. Often the money these stores save on cost-per-copy comes from lack of self-service equipment maintenance (then again, few Kinko's are perfect on this score either) or lack of full-service offerings. Still, Kinko's has been making efforts to differentiate itself from the competition, through such things as free enhancements to customer jobs and advertising its efforts to renew the resources it consumes through use of recycled materials, recycling its waste, and replanting forests.

More info:

Kinko's corporate website


Kinko's International (Australia) Pty. Ltd. "Kinko's history."

FedEx Kinko's. "Custom Printing."

My own experiences as a Kinko's employee from November 2002 to March 2004.

I do not speak for Kinko's in any way, nor am I employed by them in any capacity at this writing.

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