December 10, 2010
Holiday card senders consider electronic etiquette
Tradition giving way to technology as more and more people send electronic cards
Cindy DeLaney knows her customers are tempted to send electronic greeting cards instead of mailing paper cards, to save money.
A physical card by Hallmark or American Greetings can cost a few bucks, plus the cost of the stamp to mail it.
An electronic card can be downloaded on a computer and sent via e-mail for free or through joining a service such as JacquieLawson.com, which sells animated cards.
The Greeting Card Association, which tracks sales in the U.S., said 7 billion paper cards are purchased every year, with annual sales of $7.5 billion.
Electronic cards are becoming more accepted, the association added, but did not provide statistics.
But DeLaney, owner of Jodi’s Hallmark gift store in downtown Cortland, said her business will not change anytime soon because enough people still believe in choosing traditional cards in a store and writing a message before mailing them.
“Maybe it’s because I own a card store,” she said, “but to me, it’s about the time put into it. Anybody can sit down with a computer for three minutes. I think it’s about time and feelings. People who have grown up with cards sent through the mail won’t value an e-card.”
Jodi’s Hallmark sells holiday items and other home decorations. It sells hundreds of greeting cards, which fill shelves in almost half of the store.
And yet DeLaney admits times could be changing, as a generation raised with e-mail, text messaging and Facebook birthday greetings might have different customs.
Mike Hughes-Chamberlain, part of the team that designs and animates British artist Jacquie Lawson’s cards, said he thinks there is room for both digital and paper cards.
“My feeling is the two types of greeting cards can peacefully co-exist,” he said via e-mail. “I’m sure it’s true that for many people, a Christmas e-card doesn’t have the same value as a traditional paper card, although that may be less to do with the ease with which e-cards can be sent, and more to do with the fact that the recipient doesn’t get something to put on the mantelpiece.”
Even though he is part of Lawson’s five-person team, and a co-founder of her company, Hughes-Chamberlain said he likes placing his family’s Christmas cards on his mantelpiece.
The average household buys 30 cards per year between birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, with women accounting for 80 percent of the sales, according to the Greeting Card Association.
Cards that contain the technology for playing music or flashing lights have been growing in popularity, the association said.
At the same time, handmade cards are popular too.
Paper cards have increasingly been made with recycled paper or using another green practice, the association said.
DeLaney thinks electronic holiday cards are fine for people whom the sender is not close to, such as neighbors, co-workers or friends. She thinks relatives deserve paper cards, and special occasions such as weddings must have paper invitations.
She also points out that at holiday time, paper cards can carry money while e-cards cannot.
Hughes-Chamberlain said many digital cards are painted by hand first, then animated and combined with music to make an effect far more visually impressive than a paper card. He doubts that e-cards will ever replace paper cards totally.
“Etiquette changes all the time, and for every person who disapproves of e-cards because they’re too easy or impermanent, there’s probably someone else who loves them for their immediacy and originality, for the artistry and technology that’s gone into making them — and of course for their environmental benefits.”
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