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Trends are cyclical and will the Greeting Card and the printed book revert back to the glory days? Andrea Boekel thinks so…
Many people would have observed that they received less greeting cards last year during the festive season.  This is not a reflection of their dwindling popularity – rather the effect of ‘cycles’ in trends. Certainly, the greeting card industry is struggling to stay relevant in the digital age.  A marked lack of pavement hawkers with their makeshift card racks set up around Colombo and suburbs is evidence of this.

Epic transformations are underway in the greeting card business. Personal expressions are facing something akin to a climate change shift, where things aren’t going to go back to the golden age that they were in the ‘80s. Social media has leapt up as the faster, cheaper, often preferred means of communication.

But there is no doubt that Facebook and E-cards are a poor substitute for a personal, hand-written card.  Some stationers in Colombo state that card sales have actually held steady in recent years. But cards are nowhere near as profitable as they used to be. And although companies have flooded the market with personalised digital greetings and delivery systems, most haven’t found a way to squeeze much profit from them.

Even while there may be room for growth in the stationery business, everyone agrees that it just has to be done in a different way and what that different way is yet to be figured out. Many greeting card lovers hope that as society digests social media, people will turn back to more tangible means of expression – something you can hold in your hand. But it’s unlikely the greeting card industry will get propelled into its stellar status enjoyed some years back soon.

Facebook has brought over 1.35 billion people closer together. But sending an online greeting when a printed card is called for can drive a wedge between friends. No doubt people lead very busy lives with the demands on their time; and companies have leveraged technology so people can give greeting cards. Several occasions though, call for a personal, signed card and that is the reality

Kindle vs. the printed book
In 2007, Amazon revolutionized the way people read by launching the E-reader Kindle. Amazon Kindle devices enable users to browse, buy, download and read E-books, newspapers, magazines and other digital media via wireless networking to the Kindle Store. It sold out in five and a half hours. The device remained out of stock for five months until late April 2008.
Yet, diehard book lovers are emphatic that an electronic device can never replace the comforting feel and even the smell of books.  Then, there’s the appeal of a hard copy.  Many people – from teenagers to those of a certain age – prefer print when reading both for pleasure and for school or work. Much of what students liked about reading print involved their minds. They said, “it’s easier to focus,” “my spatial memory works best,” and “feel like the content sticks in my head more easily.” Some also acknowledged they took more time with printed text and read more carefully – not really a surprise, since digital screens encourage scrolling and hasten us along to grab the next website or tweet.

But the real nail in the coffin for one-size-fits-all electronic reading is concentration. Most people agree that they concentrate best when reading a hard copy. The explanation is hardly rocket science. When a digital device has an Internet connection, it’s hard to resist the temptation to jump ship: respond to that text, check the headlines or do some online shopping. Readers are human. If distractions are dangled in front of us it is easy to take the bait.

It’s no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007. Most arguments have been about the sentimental versus the practical, between people who prefer how paper pages feel in their hands and people who argue for the practicality of e-readers. But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books.

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