Fabulous post (in a slightly obsessive, fanboy sort of way) today by Michael Lopp, aka Rands in Repose, about the qualities that make for a great notebook — not a great notebook computer, an actual paper notebook (cap tip to Gruber for the pointer).
Lopp’s got a collection of at least nine different models, including five from the ubiquitous Moleskin notebookaholic factory, and he’s got plenty of opinions about what makes one great and another stink. Sewn bindings are great, staples or glue stink. Thin paper stinks, thick paper rules. Black covers are great, brown covers less so. And so on. It’s a good read even if you’re not an ink scratches on dead tree pulp kind of person.
Pockets and elastic bands most definitely stink, as Lopp so eloquently explains:
The elastic band differentiates many of the Moleskines, but it also encourages a curiously annoying habit — you save stuff. The band gives the comforting illusion that your notebook is an enclosure, so you start shoving receipts, postcards, and business cards into the notebook. If packratting information is your schtick, the band helps, but I find once I start packratting, my notebook becomes less a writing tool and more like luggage.
But we should not forget just how personal notebook decisions can be. For example, take my terrible, horrendous, simply no good penmanship. It’s quite a failing for a guy whose job is to take notes while talking on the phone, attending press conferences and generally recording whatever happens wherever he happens to be. But I create my own shorthand, I slowdown when I need to and I carry a digital recorder as often as possible. Which all help…a little.
Therefore, I simply can’t agree with Lopp when he disses notebook paper with lines. I need all the help I can get. If only the lines on the page were electrified and zapped me whenever I strayed above or below, my writing would be much neater. I think.
In point of fact, the only reason I can go back and decipher my voluminous journals/diaries from my teens and twenties today is thanks to the inventions of the personal computer and the ink jet printer. In those years, I typed up my journal entries and saved them not on a hard disk but by printing them out, zipping them through a three-hole punch and storing them in black-covered, three-ring binders.
Now a days, I’m most favorably disposed towards the notebooks of Spanish paper goods maker Miquelrius. The paper is thick and colorful, the lines are thick and the Slinky-ring binding works best for my style of notetaking. Plus all the pages are perforated so when I finish an interview, I can pull out the pages, staple them up and stick ‘em in an appropriate manila folder. I could go on for hours about great folders, but that’s a topic for another day.
For the true notebook hounds in the audience, the picture at the top of this post shows ten of the local paper products on site. From the left, you’ve got a blue Miquelrius model #1, a tiny orange Miquelrius, a giant 11″ by 14″ Canson sketch pad with 65 lb. paper thickness, a box of groovy Brookfield2 note cards, another tiny Miquelrius number for when the orange one gets full, a red-covered Miquelrius #6, a Moleskin reporter’s pad (with lined paper), a cheap and crummy Tops 6″ by 9″ steno pad, an unopened pack of Moleskin cahiers plain journals waiting to become hipster PDAs, and a graph-paper lined Miquelrius “leather look” notebook. Take that, Lopp!