businesscardsBack in January, I blogged on my personal journal about how “even in the information age, nothing beats getting carded.” I observed at the time that even in this age of digital bits freely flowing back and forth, when so many other paper forms of communication are beginning to be endangered by e-quivalents, and ten years after the Palm’s infrared beaming was supposed to supersede it, the humble business card continues to be extremely useful.

Now the Washington Post has taken notice of the phenomenon, with an in-depth look at how business cards are still being used today. Over the last three years, Staples reports, business card demand has seen double-digit growth. People are still using business cards, now more than ever. Nobody’s yet come up with anything that can replace them.

"There is something incredibly genius about the business card performing a single function very well," said Ted Striphas, author of "The Late Age of Print" and a communications professor at Indiana University. "It works right every time."

In a way it makes sense: any solution that relies on technology would require both people in the transaction to have the same technology. This was one of the things that relegated the Palm’s much-vaunted “beaming” little more than a fad, silly TV commercials notwithstanding.

The Post also points out that business cards can serve the purpose of “self-branding”—adding that extra little touch that makes you memorable to the person you gave it to. Even if people end up using a scanner or camera to transfer the information from the card into their contacts files, the card itself still carries the information in a much more portable and timely manner than having to write it down.

Even if the e-book makes paper books obsolete, I suspect that business cards are going to be with us for a very long time.


  1. You know, almost ever japanese phone has the ability to transfer data over IR. I don’t think that’s as standard a feature on phones in the west, but we have other ways to transfer data (bluetooth, the internets, etc).

    these japanese phones can easily transfer your “profile” (vcard, or whatever it is) to another person. I thought that was the most useful thing ever when I first saw it. I really don’t understand why that kind of thing isn’t more commonly used in the US. That said, almost every japanese person I’ve met has had some sort of business card.

  2. The advantage to paper cards is, the format is universal, so long as the language on them is common to both parties. With PDAs, both parties need the same app or possibly even the same device to exchange info quickly.

    Speed and convenience win every time, so long as price isn’t an issue. If an when digital formats become more uniform, then cards might decline, but it’s going to be a long time. There is no current economic incentive for manufacturers to standardize.

  3. Contact Details are being passed electronically in a big way, but only about 3rd parties. My experience is that when I or my colleagues have attended business people meet at gatherings and networking and business meetings, any time there is discussion of a business person who is not there at that moment, it is very common to ask for and pass their details by texting their contact file across.

  4. Paper also allows you to politely accept and then get rid of contact information you may not really want. Where as getting it beamed in assuming you are both on the same platform, takes up space in your PDA and deleting it is another admittedly trivial but extra step.

    Any creative or design service also uses their business card as sort of a mini example of their style of work. So digital loose that as well. When you are in a giant contact list there is no way to trigger that “ahh what’s this? Oh yeah!” that can occur with a well designed card.

    That is until some one clever figures out a way to make them like mini epostcards and display that way and put the app on itunes.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail