Online Letter Service Rolling Out

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SuperLetter is starting a new service that allows consumer and business mailers to send e-mails and have them delivered as paper-based letters internationally and domestically.


The service, also called SuperLetter, allows users to send one-to-one letters -- such as those sent to friends -- and one-to-few letters, through which businesses send hundreds of thousands of financial statements to customers around the world. For now, the company is focusing on the international market.


Subscribers to the service enter a letter recipient's name and postal address at SuperLetter's Web site, www.superletter.com. They then type a letter at the Web site and press send. The letter is transmitted via the Internet to an international Web server, where it is routed to the appropriate SuperLetter terminal in whichever country and city the user wishes to send the letter. Terminals are located at printers and post offices. The letter is printed out by the printer or post, stuffed into an envelope, affixed with postage and entered into the local postal system, where the subscriber can choose same-day or regular delivery.


"We have eliminated the physical handling of mail around the world," said Chris Schultheiss, founder/CEO of SuperLetter. "Right now, if you wanted to do this, you would have to write letters in the U.S., print them up, ship them by plane by the U.S. Postal Service or by a private carrier and then have a remailer enter them into the mail in the destination countries. The time, convenience and expense are the enemies there."


SuperLetter is trying to establish printers and postal partners around the world. It is conducting tests with the Portuguese Post, Canada Post and Austria Post. It also has a relationship with a printer manufacturer in the United Kingdom that will provide the service to its printer partners around the world. SuperLetter also is meeting with the USPS about the program.


By the end of this month, it hopes to have a system running in the United Kingdom and, by the end of the summer, to add six countries in Europe and six in Asia.


"As we expand the network, we want to be able to mine right into the city so we get the fastest possible delivery," Schultheiss said.


To use SuperLetter, customers pay the postal rates at the addressee's location, along with other fees such as paper costs. Schultheiss said a consumer could send a letter with up to four pages anywhere in the world for 50 cents to $2.


SuperLetter also is in discussion with Postanywhere, a similar electronic postal service that allows Internet users to send letters and documents internationally through conventional postal services at inexpensive rates. Postanywhere specializes in large-volume mail.


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