Web-Based Print Shops Deliver the Job Fast

SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - You need copies of an important report--now.

You've sweated the content, but you don't have a cover or a snazzy binding to boost the look. No time to schlep to a copy shop. Where to turn? Custom Internet printing to the rescue!

I tested a pair of Web-based services, Mimeo.com Inc. and NowDocs.com Inc., that let you arrange high-quality digital print jobs and blazing delivery, directly from your computer. Mimeo requires installation of special software on your PC; NowDocs is browser-based.

I sent each service a six-page Microsoft Word document bloated with uncompressed graphics files, and ordered six copies with binding and covers.

Mimeo handled the job with ease. After loading its software, I hit File*Print for my document and selected Mimeo from the choices its software put in my dropdown printer list. The software compressed the Word file, opened my browser, and sent the file --all in about 13 minutes.

My NowDocs experience was bumpier. Once you reach its Web site, NowDocs asks you to locate your document on your PC and then upload it. That's simple, but it took me five tries to transmit my test file; in fairness, a poor network connection on such a large document could have interfered. The upload took about 18 minutes.

Both services let you Print Preview your document; their interfaces step you through options for covers, binding, paper quality, number of copies, costs, and delivery specs, tabulating expenses as you go. Option selections, plus payment and tracking, are done on screen. It took me less than 5 minutes to enter each order. Both sites offer 24-hour toll-free phone-in customer service seven days a week. As a test, I called to request an option (an extra blank sheet) unavailable on screen. Mimeo delivered. NowDocs didn't.

Delivery service from both sources was impressive. My orders arrived handsomely printed, nicely packaged, and earlier than I paid for. NowDocs currently offers 2-hour service in 15 major U.S., Canadian, and British markets. Mimeo promises next-day delivery if the order reaches it by 10 p.m. Eastern time. Costs at both are comparable to most copy shops', including shipping. My price per copy with shipping was US$15.76 at Mimeo; $16.75 at NowDocs. If convenience is a priority, Internet printing is the way to go.

--Anne B. McDonald

Mimeo.com

PRO: Just-as-ordered printing.

CON: Smooth sailing in my test.

VALUE: Great option for harried professionals or understaffed small businesses.

Price: Depends on order size.

www.mimeo.com

800/466-4636

NowDocs.com

PRO: Delivery service is fantastic.

CON: Slight slip-ups in processing and customer service.

VALUE: Good, but not completely reliable in my test.

Price: Depends on order size.

www.nowdocs.com

877/669-3627

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