California Bar Journal
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For direct mail, ELetter delivers
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Dana ShultzIf you send direct mail, you need to know about ELetter ( ELetter is a Web-based service that prints and mails letters, post-cards and booklets. Its beauty is one-stop shopping at an attractive price. You provide electronic input; ELetter sends final copy, with postage, to the U.S. Postal Service.


As publisher of a two-color technology newsletter, I often wonder why I cannot go directly from electronic original to printed final. Experts tell me this is impossible, at least on the scale that I operate (600 copies). In the background, they take my electronic original to make photographic negatives, which the printer uses to create the newsletter.

With ELetter, I have achieved the impossible. Rather than experimenting on my newsletter, however, I decided to start with a 5x8 postcard.

ELetter accepts source documents in many common formats, such as Microsoft Word (.doc), Rich Text Format (.rtf) and Adobe Acrobat (.pdf). Detailed layout specifications (such as margins and where the recipient's name and address will be printed) are provided.

The user uploads the source document to the ELetter site. After a minute or two of processing, a full-color image of each document page is displayed. The user can zoom to get a closer view and can drag a rectangular border to change where the printed image will appear on the page.

If you wish, ELetter will print and mail you a sample copy of the document for review and approval. My sample came out fine, so I moved ahead.

Address lists

ELetter accepts tabular (row-and-column) address lists in several formats, including comma-delimited text (.csv) and Microsoft Excel (.xls). ELetter examines every address and proposes a variety of corrections. For example, ZIP codes are expanded to ZIP+4, and nonstandard abbreviations are normalized. The user can review the changes and undo any of them.

Once ELetter has analyzed the source document and the address list, it displays detailed pricing. Document cost components include ink, paper, printing and mail merge (the user can have the recipient's name, for example, merged into the document text). U.S. and foreign postage charges are added in, and ELetter displays the total. The user pays by credit card.

Competitive pricing

I was delighted to learn that my postcards, which had a moderate amount of color, would cost less than 50 cents each - including postage! Of course, that cost does not include selecting graphics, laying out text and the like, but one must incur those costs in any event.

ELetter immediately sent me an e-mail message acknowledging my order. A week afterwards, a follow-up message said that ELetter had printed and mailed the order. I had included myself in the address list; my copy of the postcard arrived two days later.

To obtain a better idea of ELetter's cost-effectiveness, I submitted an electronic version of my newsletter for pricing. ELetter would charge less than half of what I have been paying!

ELetter does have some limitations. For example, ELetter does not carry the glossy stock I use and cannot print four pages on a single sheet of 11x17 paper.

Nevertheless, ELetter provides good service at an attractive price. Perhaps even more important, ELetter now allows me to work directly with a print house, eliminating the cost and delay involved in using an intermediary.

ELetter is an excellent example of how the Web can bring people and technology together for everyone's benefit.

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He may be reached by e-mail at and on the Web at