What a lively discussion! A lot of valid points being made, and I'm happy to help provide some insight.
First, I want to go over history, as I want to correct some misconceptions and provide some context. We started our business in late 2009, and began doing ink samples in early 2010. We only had J. Herbin, Pelikan, and Diamine at the time, as I recall. At the time, there was only one other competitor offering ink samples - Pear Tree Pens (who are sadly no longer in business today). They were offering 1ml samples in a glass vial, as a set of 4 for $5. They were popular, and we wanted to differentiate ourselves. We located plastic vials that you could fit a pen into, and because the plastic cost less than the glass vials, we were able to offer a little more ink for the same price. We standardized on 2ml because we felt it was an appropriate amount to get a good test of the ink before committing to a bottle, the price was going to be economical, and it was easy to standardize with the pipettes we were using at the time. Keep in mind it was just me and Brian at this time, and we were doing all the samples ourselves. We started Ink Drop in late 2010, and were doing all that ourselves too. While we had to raise our international price a year in, we've been absorbing increased domestic shipping costs over the last four years to keep the cost at $10. Ink Drop is a beast to do at the size we're at, but it's an incredible labor of love, too. I am so forever grateful for the team we have now to help us out. There's no way Brian and I could have sustained it on our own.
We were also one of the first to do color-accurate swabs of all the inks we carried. After offering all the ink samples, we realized we needed a way to display the colors. We started by uploading swabs onto the product pages for the samples and bottles, but as the color range grew it was difficult to compare them. So we launched the Swab Shop in mid-2010 as well, which was an incredible labor of love (and is still a beast to keep updated), as a value-add tool to help folks find their ideal color in addition to the samples. There is no cost to use this tool, so we consider it built into our overhead as we calculate fair prices.
They might correct me if my dates are wrong, but I believe iSellPens and the Andersons started offering their ink samples in the last year, possibly two years. iSellPens came first, offering 3ml samples for the same price as our 2ml samples. The Andersons followed suit. I know their companies are much smaller than ours, and I'm glad that they've been able to make the economics work to offer the prices they do. I can't say what will happen as they grow, if they want to, but that's up to them to make the math work.
Here's the bottom line. If you are looking for the cheapest price, we won't always be it. And that's okay. It's a losing battle to always be the cheapest, because someone else can always do it for less. We have a lot of overhead to support, as we've grown in size, and we offer a ton of value-add services that need to be considered in the price of our products. Our swabs, photography, and online tools (Swab Shop, Nib Nook, Pen Plaza) are some of those things, then add the customer service aspects, the quality of our packing, the educational videos and blog, our engagement on social media with our customers.... these are things that are no additional fee, just part of the overall cost that we have to consider.
I just wanted an opportunity to provide some context and explain more of our philosophy on pricing.