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Hall of Honor -- Responsible and Ethical Ecard Sites
Should I not send e-cards at all? I have a friend whose entire family shies away from e-cards and sends only original web pages for fear of opt-in by deceit. Just as no one in real life would expect you to make your own greeting cards, no one should ask you to forswear one of the net's more enjoyable social rituals.
There are still plenty of enjoyable, low advertising, ethical e-card providers out there. Note: most of these providers will give you only an image. You will have to get back into the habit of writing your own message. Opt-in by deceit thrives on laziness on many levels. Light correspondence that accompanies a blank e-card (They even sell blank greeting cards in real life as well as stationary) is not that difficult.
I send a lot of e-cards as part of support work and I have a list of stock phrases, but those are OK. Telling someone you are there for them, you are sorry, you share their pain, you hope they have a nice day, you really appreciate them etc... does not have to be fancy, elegant, or original. The image on the card will help convey the extra message your words leave out. Also blank e-cards tend to include really excellent artwork that does not need animation or other gimmicks.
If you really want poetry in an e-card, take a trip to your library or used book store and obtain a poetry anthology such as Best Loved Poems of the American People or The Home Book of Verse. My favorite poetry anthology is World Poetry edited by Washburn and published by Norton of New York in 1998. I am thinking of buying my own copy if I can lay my hands on a used one reasonably priced. I am not sure what the law is, but if you give the author's name and where you found the poem (This is called full attribution) I doubt you will get in any trouble for sending the poem in an e-card to a friend or even group of friends.
So Let's Look at Some Responsible E-card Sites
If you must have messages and/or animation, there is really not that much selection. A lot of big name formerly free e-card sites want you to pay or are beginning to engage in unethical conduct. That is a shame. Yahoo features cards from American Greetings. Some have messages and many are animated. The selection of free ones is a bit thin, but they are large, reputable, and safe. Blue Mountain now includes one prechecked square on its send form. So too does Hallmark. I won't list them here.
If you want to send blank e-cards, you have other choices. Choices in orange squares are here with reservations. They may have one checked off box or they may present a spam trap AFTER you send a card. Both these card sites have significant advantages and large choices of images. Unfettered Soul Postcards have a spam preventive disclaimer.
The Minneapolis Art Institute is another large image base but it's ecard section is divided by topic and invites browsing as well as searching. The images are art images and you won't find fluffy bunnies for Easter or cute Teddy Bears. The pick up letter is ad free and no subscription is required. I like their Asian and African art sections and the Foot in the Door exhibit is a wonderful introduction to contemporary art.
For more art cards, stop by Art Cards. They have a database that you can search on many fields, or visit their exhibit of the month. All the images in their gallery can become postcards. This site requires no subscription and has no ads in the pick up letter. Before you send your card, you are asked if you would like to stay in touch with the artist and given an opportunity to send him/her a message. I have gotten thankyou letters and personal mail from the artists whose work I have sent. I think this is the antithesis of the unwanted email from tell a friend forms, but if you don't want to be on some artist's email list, this may not be the site for you.
The classiest pick up letter around comes with e-cards from the MOMA MOMA stands for Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Their selection is not as vast as the Minneapolis Art Institute's but there are paintings by famous modern artists. Another similar site is E-cards from the Guggenheim. You can search, choose on impulse, or browse. No subscription is required and the pick up letters are refreshingly ad-free. The Guggenheim even includes a spell checker.
Mypostcards.com is a classic site that is really a collection of roll your own mills, much like those at All Yours.net except that Mypostcards.com's mills each have their own unique photos and do not share a common pool. Choose cards by holiday, category, or search for a specific image. Some cards come with advertising links on the actual card, but the pick up letter and send form are clean.
E-cards crop up in unexpected places. Some other favorites include Synagogue Post Cards which are just what they sound like, pictures of old and elegant synagogues and a bit on each building's history. Note: the send form for these cards includes a checked off box to the Museum of Jewish History's newsletter. The newsletter is seldom published and a newsletter from a museum is far less obnoxious than an ad for the latest patent medicine. I've probably fallen into this newsletter, yet never actually seen the newsletter in my mailbox. In short, I don't think the newsletter really exists.
My alma mater, Cornell University even offers e-cards. Actually being Cornell, of course, they have to have two sets of post cards. This is the second postcard mill. It is mostly historical images. If you have any friends who are Cornellian, Cornell e-cards will absolutely make their day.
If you like food, there is Arbor Food postcards. Each of these thirty-six cards comes complete with a recipe and some very nice original artwork. For those who love flowers, especially bulbs, stop by Bulbmeister for some gorgeous blooms. It helps to know a bit about bulbs or some Botanical names for your favorite plants. You can also choose a card on impulse rather than browsing. Finally, there is my latest find, Barbara Mendes.org Ms. Mendes has some of her original Judaica artwork on e-cards just for you.
Things Asian.com Cards are blank and adorned by photos. Choose the photo of the day or one of six cards on the right. The image selection is thin, but the send form is squeaky clean.
For Jewish holidays or for your Jewish friends or fans of Judaica, there is Aish.com Cards. The Aish cards site has some kind of tracker that keeps asking my browser to grant it a security certificate. I keep telling it no. Cards are two dimmensional, nonanimated, and with messages. The selection is thin, but Jewish e-cards are fairly hard to come by. It is always good to have more of them.
Of course in time you are likely to find card sites of your own that you know, love, and trust. You may even consider paying for e-cards though with all this free material, that is not something I plan on doing. Give these ethical sites a try. They are a good alternative to unscrupulous operators such as Flowgo, Mailbits (TAFmaster), Supertaf, and Funnytaf.
Angelwinks.net is an ethical site. There is no question abot that. There is also no question that I loathe them, but I am restraining my gag reflex and including them because quite frankly, they deserve their place in the Hall of Honor. They are powered by a paid version of Mypostcards.com. I find their image selection awful and their options confusing, but a lot of people really like them and like it or not, they are ethical. If you find them to your liking, hey I don't mind giving you a recommendation.