At the risk of sounding old fogeyish – or worse, a tree hater – I love paper. I like the texture and scent of newsprint, legal files and books with binding. I still look up words in the dictionary and prefer phone books to on-line searches. But no printed matter is as precious to me as my business cards. So I was dismayed to read a Chicago Tribune article about the demise of the business card.

The story described how 20-somethings consider cards passe in an age where they can bump cellphones to exchange personal information. Business cards have become yet another victim of the digital era. Many companies no longer see the need for them. An e-commerce entrepreneur recently raised $75 million in capital without having a card printed. The businesses that still use them can find them cheap, or even free, on-line.

One Internet printer had sales of $130 million in business cards last year, up 17 percent from 2010. Meanwhile, overall sales of business cards have plummeted. Printing in general has been in decline, partly due to the younger generation’s aversion to paper. Many of them don’t even like carrying paper portraits of Jefferson and Lincoln in their pockets – though, I have to say, the Dominican University students organizing our historical society collection, treasure paper and handle it reverently.

Fortunately, not all printers have seen business card sales decline. Nicole, at Forest Printing, said they still get regular orders, partly because they’re a union shop that makes business cards for labor officials. On the other hand, Lori, who operates Forest Graphics, has seen a decline in business card sales due to on-line competition.

As for my own devotion to business cards, they are the most important tool a private detective can carry. Even the fictional detectives I read about rely heavily on cards. Those 2 x 3.5-inch rectangles have worked miracles for me over the years. I’ve had the most questionable characters respond to my handwritten pleas for a call.

During the cyber age, the cards have taken on even greater significance, as people are increasingly impressed by a personal visit. Even if they don’t call, it’s heartening to see my card gone when I go back.

I spare no expense on cards, ordering pricey translucent ones with raised print. The cryptic slogan, “Specialized Insurance Services” sparks enough interest to prompt calls. Though some think I’m selling insurance. I even carry magnets to attach them to metal doors, where there’s no handy slot.

Maybe I’m a dinosaur when it comes to paper but I don’t like staring at computer screens in courthouses, reading books on an electronic tablet, or – well I haven’t tried bumping phones yet. Instead, I prefer to hand out sliver-thin cards printed on high-quality paper that proudly announce I’m from Forest Park, Illinois.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.