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Twitter storm over send books not cards idea

Support for artists as GCA ceo replies to Caitlin Moran’s Times column pitching scrap greetings plan


Caitlin Moran and artist Grayson Perry’s wife Philippa sparked a Twitter storm over the weekend with the idea of scrapping birthday cards and posting a book with a hand-written message inside instead.

The Times had printed Caitlin’s column on Saturday (February 26) in which the author and journalist supported  an original tweet from a Twitter user called Andrew Mackey: “Funny how we can happily pay £3.50 for a folded piece of paper containing just two words (Happy Birthday), yet think twice about paying £7.99 for a book with 80,000 words in it.”

Philippa Perry, the wife of contemporary artist Grayson who pitches herself as a writer, therapist, newspaper agony aunt and artist, then posted a photo of the page on Twitter with the comment: “This is behind a paywall so I’ve done you all a favour because @caitlinmoran has a brilliant idea that we all, well me anyway, need.”

Publisher Wendy Jones-Blackett was among the 5,500-plus retweets, adding the line: “So a book and a card is surely the perfect solution!”

Above: Wendy Jones-Blackett’s response to the original tweet
Above: Wendy Jones-Blackett’s response to the original tweet

And she wasn’t the only one, with at least a third of the 350-plus replies to Philippa’s tweet in support of greeting cards, artists making money from designing cards, knocking the idea that people want to receive a mystery book, or pointing out that a book and postage is significantly more expensive than a card – even more were appalled at the idea of defacing a book by writing inside it.

Interestingly, Philippa was dismissive of the idea that artists can make money from their work being used as cards, she responded: “Speaking as an artist and as an artist’s wife, there are more worthwhile causes,” to Joanna @jojobubbles150’s comment: “It is a good idea, but also we should bear in mind that artists make some of their money from designing greetings cards.”

Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA, said: “Greeting cards are responsible for the livelihoods of many thousands of people in the UK. We send more cards per person than any other nation, and we love receiving them!

“Receiving a greeting card from someone you care about creates a powerful connection – they have taken the time and effort to choose, or make, a card that is right for you – and illustrates the relationship you share.

“Whether it’s sharing humour, a gorgeous illustration, joining in a celebration, expressing empathy, accompanying a present or just to say ‘thinking of you’, cards show that you care. With 18 to 34-year-olds sending more cards than a generation ago, greeting cards will continue to connect people in a very special way.”

And Amanda has personally passed on these sentiments to the editor of The Times in a letter from the GCA in response to Caitlin’s column sharing childhood memories which “illustrates the joy of connection that a simple card can bring between sender and recipient. Books and cards can live quite happily together each doing what they do best.”

Above: Greetings from GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson to the editor of The Times
Above: Greetings from GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson to the editor of The Times

Neither Caitlin nor Philippa mentioned the fact that envelopes thicker than 5mm incur extra postage costs, while the columnist admitted that she, and probably every other author on Twitter, had immediately retweeted Andrew Mackey’s post, and her whole column revolved around the idea, saying: “Andrew’s tweet did, over the next 20 minutes, make me entirely rethink my attitude to greetings cards, which is about as seismic a thing as is likely to happen on a Wednesday morning.”

Catlin pointed out she and her six siblings had always made their own insulting cards because they had very little money growing up and the tradition continues as adults – but, she said, she will now send Birthday Books instead.

She wrote: “As every book nut knows, there are thousands and thousands of books whose cover art is easily the equal of any greetings card. A row of Birthday Books on the mantelpiece would look beautiful.

“Indeed, there’s a whole range of greetings cards that are reproductions of classic cover art anyway. It seems kind of nuts that people are willing to spend £2.99 on a card mocked up to look like the Penguin Classic edition of Brighton Rock when you can buy actual Brighton Rock for £8.99.

“And of course, if buying a new book is financially impossible, every charity shop in the country has shelves and shelves of slim paperbacks for 25p, or 50p, that would fit in a normal envelope.”

Above: Just some of the supportive tweets – plus Philippa’s dismissal of the idea artists can earn from greeting cards
Above: Just some of the supportive tweets – plus Philippa’s dismissal of the idea artists can earn from greeting cards

In the Twitter thread, there was some comment about the cheapness of cards from Card Factory, as well as Philippa breaking The Times’ paywall to tweet the article, thus losing income for the writers and newspaper, and other tweets included:

HelenRussellCreation @He1enRusse11: “Why do we always have to be all or nothing at the expense of one idea over another? The book idea is great but so is sending a well worded/illustrated card. Both are transactional, both support the creative industries, it doesn’t have to be one or the other @Justacard1.”

Kate Brazier@KateBrazierArt: “This did not end how I was expecting… I thought it was gonna be a ‘big up’ for all the indie artists who get by on selling #justacard PS. I love a book too!”

Common of Houses @CommonofHouses: “A huge number of smaller gift shops, galleries and the artists that supply them only survive on greeting card sales. The @Justacard1 is a good source for info on this. Don’t buy them from the big supermarkets or giant chain stores. Support small, support local.”

Alix almond art@alixalmond: “This is lovely – but I’d also wave a hand in the air and say support independent artists by purchasing their handmade cards to go alongside your birthday books – supports two creatives at once. Cards can be a lifesaving trickle of income for an artist at times #SupportArtists.”

Ruth Murran @ruth_murran: “I love that it works for some people but I would absolutely hate the idea of my friends sending me books that I hadn’t had the chance to choose. I love that a card can be enjoyed and recycled and has no lasting impact on my living space. I suspect I may be in a minority!”

Above: More tweets from the send a book not a card thread
Above: More tweets from the send a book not a card thread

Debi Johnson @DebiPJohnson: “I love Philippa and Caitlin, but this? Just No. I have never spent £3.50 on a card. £2 max. Can’t afford it. Therefore £8 would quadruple my b’day greeting costs. Can’t afford it. The postage would be a lot more for a book. Can’t afford it. A book is the gift, not the card.”

Joanna Tilley @JoannaTilley: “Great idea if it wasn’t for the fact that it is scientifically impossible to predict what kind of book another person would like. doesn’t happen. Don’t burden me with books you like – send me an abusive card that showed you remembered.”

Gavin Peters @Gavster71: “This has just raised my anxiety to 11 as as much as I love picking ‘the right card’ for someone, picking a book is tricky, even people I know well have massively different reading tastes. Done this a couple of times and the book was never mentioned, so I think I missed the mark.”

Dial @DialMforMurdo: “I can’t see Big Card standing for this. Hallmark and Moonpig are no doubt, as I type, surreptitiously plotting over blueprints and discussing friendly fire options on charity bookshops throughout these cursed islands.”

Patricia Lacey @Patrici57847240: “Not everyone have a husbands to support them and gain some sort of fame because of them. Many art students earned their own incomes working for the craft and global card makers. You can make your own and use Kindle store 99p. Sorely Lancashire lass should know this.”

Lorraine Pullen @Lorraines_Veg: “If someone cant afford £3.99 from card how can they buy an £8.99 book?”

Richard Berry@richardberry83: “You get 10 birthday cards for £1 at Card Factory. Or splurge 59p on a fancy one. Then buy a book too as a present.

Wendy Hall – Many Moons Art @agiddyaunt: “No can’t agree with this. I make greeting cards for a start! Only on-off handmade originals are £3.50 or above. I don’t have room for more books, I want to choose my own e-books. Maybe make cards for people yourself, put a book token in them. And for some the difference between £3.50 and £7.99 is still a significant amount!”

Jacqueline @jacquilinlin: “I’m a card maker and recently started making them out of books. Old ones, that are falling apart, I didn’t enjoy and are taking up space on the shelf. At the moment it’s ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’. Sorry Fournier.”

Loulabellatron @Loulabellatron: “I’ve been bought books before & I’ve been disappointed, I want to read the books I choose. (Just because it’s a classic, doesn’t mean it isn’t boring) Also many small independent artists make a living from selling cards.”

Bookmarks and Stages @Lou_Bookmarks: “It is not an idea I support fully. I will always send cards. I love receiving and decorating a shelf with cards. I love buying cards too. I sometimes buy books as a present. I have cards from other places in the world that are lovely. I love choosing cards for people too.”

Barbara Read @BarbaraRead60: “I love getting a birthday card that makes me laugh. Like many others on this thread, I prefer to choose the books I want to read.”

Amy @AmyxJean:  “I go to Card Factory where you can get 4 cards for £1 (realise that’s not the point here but just in case anyone ever needs that info).”

Top: Philippa Perry (left) with husband Grayson in her Twitter profile, and Caitlin Moran’s Times article

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