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Pros & cons of e-mail

November 25, 2001

Will e-mail become the norm? There are arguments to be made on either side of the tradition versus technology debate. Here's a look at some of them: On the side of technology: - Click-and-send is the mantra of convenience repeated by technology types, and it usually takes seconds, not days or weeks, for a message to appear in the in-box of a recipient. - Receiving a message doesn't require a physical location -- most e-mail providers allow multiple platforms, and if the e-mail can be checked from the Web, it can be checked from anywhere with a computer and a phone line. - Advances in technology have taken this further -- cell phones and personal digital assistants have connected people on the go, a staple for many tech-savvy commuters. On the side of tradition: - E-mail doesn't take into account human error. When a message is sent and the computer can't find the intended recipient because the address was typed incorrectly, the sender gets a notice. By contrast, a letter lost in the paper mail gets sent through a host of checks, verifications and placement methods before it finally arrives in an office dedicated to sorting ''lost'' mail -- assuming there is no return address. - No advance in technology will allow e-mail to overnight a pair of glasses left behind while packing for a trip. - No amount of talk on security and encryption will erase some people's concerns over confidentiality. Similar security concerns work in favor of a preference for hard copies of important documents, from birth certificates to mortgage papers. - For advertisers and nonprofit groups that rely on mail -- and who make up a substantial portion of the mail's customer base -- paper is still the way to go. People are more likely to take at least a cursory glance at junk mail than junk e-mail. - Computer-generated Christmas cards and mass holiday greetings sent to e-mail ''friends'' don't have the personal touch of cards and letters sent the old-fashioned way.


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