The Stationers Guild

Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

Some of my best friends use stationery

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

I was recently at a cocktail party exchanging the usual banalities when a young woman (early thirties) asked me what I did? I told her that my wife and I owned a stationery store in Greenwich. Perhaps feeling sorry for me, she enthusiastically responded that “some of best friends use stationery.” Helping her to feel more comfortable with her obvious embarrassment, I explained that I had arthritic thumbs and couldn’t text all that well and found that the occasional handwritten note on engraved stationery was a good way to stay in touch with friends.

Proving that all good samaritans now have an iPhone, my enthusiastic new “friend” promptly explained that “the iPhone has this new app (read application) which allows you to speak into the phone and it will automatically post your Tweet.  No need to struggle with your disability.  Doesn’t Apple think of everything?”   

Not one to miss out on continuing this informative conversation with Generation Y, I explained I had heard of Twitter, but “was looking for a more meaningful form of communication than 140 characters.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” she responded. “It’s not what you say, but how often you say it.  It’s all about being connected with your friends.  Sending a note is cute and sentimental and all that . . . but imagine being able to chat with all your friends  instantaneously.”

Feigning ignorance, I remarked “I had never thought of it quite that way.  I suppose none of my friends really care to be that – oh, how shall I phrase it:  ”intimate?”  Doesn’t it bother you to be on call 24/7 and what about privacy?

Not one to be deterred, “Twitter_Lady” quickly picked up on the privacy issue.  “It used to bother me until I learned how to create circles of friends and small groups on Twitter to share my thoughts.  I mean you don’t have to share everything with everybody, it is really pretty cool how you can be as open or as private as you need to be.”

“I find the subject very interesting. Perhaps I could drop you a note and you could let me know what I need to do to get connected on Twitter,”  I suggested.

“Oh, it’s not that difficult, just go to and set up an account,” she said.   Once you’ve got your Twitter name, just send me an email Tweet @jtpapertiger and I’ll add you to my followers.

To paraphrase the eighth Century poet Han-shan

“There was an old woman who lived east of me
She laughed at me for falling behind
I laughed at her for getting ahead
We laughed as though we would never stop
She from the East and I from the West.” 

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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Online Stationery: Don’t get dressed up!

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The news clip below highlights one of the major advantages of shopping online for stationery and custom invitations:  No need to get dressed up for the big occasion.

Shopping at Dollar Palace

In fact, if you are shopping online, you can do so in your pajamas, nightgown or – for that matter – buck naked.  Just make sure your have your credit card handy, but perhaps you are using Google Checkout or Paypal to facilitate the sale.

As more shoppers embrace the convenience of shopping online,  even fewer consider the limitations of the online shopping experience.  It is one thing to download a book on Kindle or buy an iPhone, but quite another to buy “fresh” vegetables or “fine” stationery.  In the case of the Kindle or an iPhone, it is a narrowly defined “gadget” or “device” which may be available in several different colors or memory capacity, but all of those characteristics are narrowly determined by the seller.

Buying “fresh” vegetables or “fine” stationery is quite another matter altogether.   You can’t see “fresh” on the Internet; nor can you see or feel ”fine” stationery.  Paper is as much a tactile experience as a visual experience and, frankly, digital limitations of the Internet do not allow one to capture the color and design subtleties of “real” stationery or custom invitations. 

Where extensive customization is involved it is best to get dressed up and visit your local stationer to see what “real” paper looks like.  Many online dealers spend thousands of dollars in promotional online advertising to con you into thinking you are getting a “beautiful”  wedding invitation or “stunning” stationery.   If it sounds to good to be true, it probably isn’t.  Trust your senses: all five of them!  A dose of common sense also has been known to help.

The Internet is great for purchasing products with defined characteristics.  Once you begin to introduce customization into the purchasing decision or are faced with choices that require a value judgment or cause the forgotten senses (smell and feel) to be engaged, it is wise to consider shopping the old-fashioned way.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Paper or Digital Greeting Cards?

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

I recently was engaged in an  interesting discussion on LinkedIn within the “Greeting Card, Stationery & Gift Industry Gurus” Group.   Without going into a lot of detail, the discussion focused on the future of paper greeting cards and how best to create the next generation of eGreetings to connect with a new generation of “tech savvy” users.   While I do not question the impact of the digital revolution on paper greeting cards, I could not see an economic rationale to create a sustainable and successful eGreeting business.  Found below are brief excerpts of some of the comments I made during this discussion. 

 There is no question that digital greetings and invitations are rapidly eating into the “paper” market. While I don’t happen to think of paper as a “device”  since color reproduction and print quality on paper remains far superior and authentic to anything on the web (band-width restrictions), the whole point of the discussion is how to make money with digital greeting cards.

Personally, I think it is a losing proposition because I don’t believe any company will be able to create designs or unique delivery capabilities to compete on a sustained basis with the many (and growing) “free” alternatives on the internet. I have yet to hear how someone will be able to create “brand awareness” around something so mercurial as a greeting card and convince a critical mass of “subscribers” or “buyers” to pay for something that is pretty much free.

To draw from just one example. Take Blue Mountain Greeting Cards which was one of the first digital greeting cards to make a splash in electronic greeting cards. They are now owned by American Greeting Cards (AG), because they wouldn’t have been able to survive as a stand alone venture. Is AG any better off? I think not. Their sales are down 25% since 2002, they lost over $200 million in 2009 and they may break even this year.

Why Paper? A well-designed greeting card with a personalized message printed on quality paper is often worth “saving.” On the other hand, a digital greeting card or image maybe worth “storing” (there is a huge difference between mechanically deciding to save a physical object as compared to storing it on your computer). While you may eventually want to print the stored image, what will you print it on?: 20lb copy paper stock. There is a reason why people go to art museums: they want to see the real thing, not some digitally reproduced image formatted for a digital transmission. The same is true for greeting cards for memorable occasions.

There is a difference between building an iPhone application that plays “Happy Birthday” and sends a cute text message to your contact list on their birthday as opposed to building a business providing “unique” designs over a technology platform that gives the business provider a sustainable competitive advantage. Most novice tech users can already embed videos and pictures in their emails and many have already created their “free” Wordpress or Blogger websites. While I don’t doubt that technology providers can “sell” services to users interested in creating or selling their own greeting cards, I have yet to see how one can build a sustainable eGreeting business around the many “cool” apps that appear each day. Competing against “free” communication alternatives doesn’t seem to be a market that offers much promise.

Just did a Google search: there are 14.5 million web pages offering “free greeting cards.” Do you think it will be less competitive when the iPad hits the market in a few weeks? Again, if someone shows me a sustainable business model for eGreetings I will eat the digital printout of the business plan. Better yet, if you have figured it out, go for it! (I would love to be a shareholder).

I remain unconvinced that one can make money on a sustained basis with electronic greeting cards. Twitter and Facebook have essentially eliminated the need for them since the lives of its members are pretty much an open book.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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