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(Pocket-lint) - They were pioneered and introduced in America four years ago, but the digital stamp has now been released by Royal Mail for Britain.

The principle is the same as the US version; stamps are paid for online, and then sent electronically. The user can then print them out using their own inkjet printer, and stuck on to the envelopes.

The default design will contain the same Queen's head as ordinary stamps. However going digital can allow much greater freedom for designing your own. Ardent republicans will be pleased at the news. To make your own digital stamps after designing them in your photographic package of choice, Royal Mail will charge £4.99 a month or £49.99 annually.

Small businesses are targeted as natural early adopters, bringing in another revenue stream to help Royal Mail's business fortunes amid increased post-strike competition, but the creative aspect should subsequently attract the general public and anyone sick of licking the old-fashioned tearoff stamps.

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Writing by Andy Lynn.