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Printing company Freenters to keep kiosk service at Northwestern

Peter Kotecki, Reporter

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Freenters, a company that provides printing to college students, will keep its kiosk service at Northwestern despite recently announcing a nationwide transition to a new software model.

Started by two University of Chicago students in September 2013, Freenters allows NU students to access its services by creating an account with a university email address. Users can then print documents for free in exchange for advertisements on pages.

Freenters originally announced NU would close all kiosks this fall, but the company decided to keep the stations on campus after several students and administrators said it would be inconvenient to abruptly switch to the software model, said Stephen Huh, chief technology officer at Freenters and an undergraduate third year at the University of Chicago. Of the 24 campuses using Freenters, NU is the only one not switching to the software model this year, he added.

About 3,500 NU students — the highest number of Freenters users on a college campus — have printed more than 170,000 pages since the company opened kiosks at the University, Huh said.

Students using the kiosks will be able to upload documents to Freenters’ cloud and will receive an advertisement banner in the bottom margin of each printed page, said Rho Kook Song, co-founder of Freenters and a second-year graduate student at UChicago.

Huh said NU students will have access to their Freenters accounts via a new domain, nu.freenters.com, which will be available by the beginning of Fall Quarter.

Previously, kiosks were located at Norris University Center, Foster-Walker Complex, Bobb-McCulloch Hall, Allison Hall, Kemper Hall and Engelhart Hall, said Jim Roberts, senior director of Student Affairs Information Technology at NU. The Norris station will close this year due to low popularity but the remaining kiosks will stay open, he said.

Roberts said the University made an arrangement with Freenters, allowing students to continue using the kiosks for free while NU pays Freenters a monthly fee to cover part of the supply and maintenance costs.

“Previously, that was all provided by Freenters and it was just subsidized by the advertising,” he said.

Huh said the kiosks will remain on campus for at least half a year as Freenters raises awareness for the software model. The majority of Freenters users at NU created their accounts in the last year and will likely benefit from the company’s decision, he added.

“Our goal is to make the transition smooth for Northwestern students,” Huh said. “We didn’t want to abruptly pull out the stations and then have (students) never be able to resort to Freenters at all in this transition period that we have.”

Roberts said NU students now have the option to either use the kiosks or the new software.

Freenters’ software model lets students download free, ad-subsidized print software onto their computers and choose where to send documents for printing. Users receive one full-page printed ad for every five printed pages and 50 cents of credit for each printed ad. Credit obtained through this service can be cashed in for gift cards.

Email: peterkotecki2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @peterkotecki

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