Paula and I have discussed this and you are absolutely right. To increase our Azo business we should give away samples. A few problems do arise, however. Three or four sheets are just not enough. someone would need at least ten of each, and for that amount we would have to charge for the paper, plus for the time to sort it out. We were selling those few 25-sheet packages for $35 (Grade 2) and $45 (Grade 3) so that our time was covered. I thought that anyone who would pay that much was crazy and should get the 100-sheet box for little more than twice as much and I tried to talk those few who wanted to buy a 25-sheet package out of it, but they insisted.
But to get back to the point of this. As I said, Paula and I discussed this and you are absolutely right. To increase our Azo business we should give away samples. And yes, we would like to sell as much Azo as possible--but not to make money. We would like to sell as much Azo as possible so we can keep the paper in production.
However, unlike Fred Picker with Zone VI, and unlike camera stores, selling paper is not our business. We make so little from it each year and it already takes valuable time away from our real work--making photographs. We make our living by selling our photographs, not by selling paper. Paula and I discussed it and decided that, although it may be good business, we simply do not have the time to do this--nor does our assistant have the time. We can easily keep him busy 24 hours a day as it is.
So, if those who do not want to commit to buy the paper in 100-sheet boxes because they are afraid they won't like it, do not buy it, they do not buy it. I can't help that. Photography is not an inexpensive venture. I am aware that the cost of a couple of hundred sheets of paper can loom as an overwhelming expense for someone. I've been there, and much worse. But somehow, if I heard that something might be better, somehow I always came up with the money to buy it. Usually that meant taking on more debt. I do not expect others to do that, but if people really want something they will find a way to get it.
I would think that there have been enough comments about Azo floating around since I first wrote about it in View Camera back in 1996, to convince anyone who desires to make excellent silver contact prints to try it. If my comments and those of others are not convincing, that's okay, no one has to use Azo.
But it is a good idea, and if Paula and I were in the paper-selling business, we would do what has been suggested.
We have thought of selling the inexpensive Azo print, a la Picker. But a few years later, we have not yet had the time and peace of mind to even pick out which prints we would use, let alone make them. One of these days we hope to get to it.