Is E-mail Always Better than Snail Mail?
For many of us, turning on the computer and checking for e-mail messages has become as much a part of our daily routine as a trip to the mailbox. The growing popularity of e-mail makes us wonder how we ever survived without it. E-mail has many advantages over regular mail, including speed, low cost, and convenience. In our enthusiasm for e-mail, however, we would be unwise to abandon the post office altogether. For some purposes, e-mail is a poor substitute for "snail mail," both in our personal lives and in the business world.
There is no denying that e-mail has many advantages over regular mail. The most obvious advantage is speed. We can send e-mail around the world in a matter of minutes with no more effort than it takes to press a few keys on the computer. It is this speed that has led to our calling regular mail "snail mail."
E-mail also has the advantage of being less expensive, for most people, than regular mail. Many people have access to e-mail for free through their work or school. And while some people may pay for e-mail through an online service, there is no increase in cost relative to the number of messages sent. It is the same price to send one message to one person as it is to send messages back and forth all day or to a hundred people. Finally, if we consider the costs saved in long-distance phone bills in addition to the costs saved in postage, most e-mail users surely come out ahead.
There is no question that e-mail is convenient. It allows us to send the same message to many people at the same time with little more effort than it takes to send a message to one person. When sending multiple copies of a message, we avoid the trouble of photocopying the letter, printing out additional copies, addressing envelopes, and posting the mail. E-mail is also convenient because it lends itself to an informal style that makes composing a message relatively easy; in addition, readers of e-mail tolerate more mistakes than readers of conventional mail, and their tolerance saves us time.
Despite the many benefits that e-mail provides, it is not always appropriate. Before dashing off another piece of e-mail--in our private lives...