A sure sign that the Internet has officially changed every aspect of the economy is the U.S. Postal Service, that great bastion of regulations and conservatism, has agreed to sell postage online and allow you to print it out.
OK, its actually selling it to contractors, who then resell it to you, but its still letting you print it on your computer. This is the first new form of postage since the advent of the postage meter 80 years ago. Two providers were approved, Stamps.com and E-Stamp.com.
Heres how it works for Stamps.com:
- Download the software from the site.
- Print your postage.
The service costs between $1.99 and $19.99 per month, depending on how much postage you use. The cost of the postage itself is not included. Users purchase a minimum of $10 in postage to place in their account via credit card. Postage can be printed at any time using an Internet connection. (E-Stamp uses a small device attached to your PC instead of an Internet connection to keep track of postage used.)
Postage can be printed for first class, priority and express mail.
The digital revolution will change the postage industry forever, says John Payne, CEO of Stamps.com. By using the Internet to deliver postage, we have transformed a centuries-old product requiring proprietary machines into a simple service, available 24 hours a day from any PC.
Business customers pay 10 percent of total postage used as the monthly fee, with a maximum fee of $19.99, regardless of usage. You are only charged the convenience fee when you actually use the postage in your account. There are no contracts, so service can be cancelled at any time.
The program is set up to work in conjunction with various word processing, office suites and address book programs, so mass mailings can be addressed and stamped in one step. The site also features automatic address correction and the addition of ZIP+4 codes to each letter.
Todd Shryock (firstname.lastname@example.org) is SBNs special reports editor.