Friday, December 09, 2005

Pocket Notebooks

I'm no luddite, but sometimes technology can get in the way of efficiency. After all, all these computers were supposed to save us paper, right?

I find that carrying a notebook helps me navigate through the day. Palmtops are sexy, but a good old pen (or pencil - but that's for another day) and paper just seem more efficient to me. No waiting to power up, no batteries, no interface, and a sense of permanance all contribute to the utility of a notebook. They also seem to promote creativity, as you can jot, draw, scribble, and tape things in them quickly and easily.

The more accustomed to carrying a notebook you become, the more use the notebook gets, and the more invaluable it becomes. I dug up a pocket notebook out of the closet the other day that was 14 years old, and it was like a time capsule to another time in my life. It had reminders, shopping lists, and phone numbers that evoked some great memories.

Pocket notebooks are also extremely portable. At around 3"x5", they can easily slip into a jacket or pants pocket. Back in the late '80s I tried to get on the Day Runner bandwagon, and the size of the planner kept me from carrying it consistently, thus defeating its purpose.

Best Pocket Notebooks

Once the decision to try carrying a notebook has been made, the question that follows is which one? A cheap spiral notebook from an office store might fill the bill, but there are benefits to a little research.


If notebooks had groupies, this brand would rival the Greatful Dead. Its fan club is devout and eclectic, and if you believe the brand's marketing, its alums count no few stellar minds. Out of production for a time, Moleskines are back with a vengence.

Offered in a variety of sizes and paper colors, the basic pocket Moleskine is about 3.5" by 5.5", and has a sturdy oilcloth cover, 180 sewn pages, a bookmark, rear pocket, and an elastic band closure. A good place to grab one of these is Ninth Wave Designs , a site that also maintains a Moleskine related weblog. Once you're smitten, check out Moleskinerie to cement you addiction.
I find Moleskines durable and highly useable - but don't fall in to the nagging feeling that these are actually too nice to write in.


These Spanish-made notebooks seem to be the main competitor for the Italian Moleskine. They are closer to 4" x 6", and feature a flexable leather-like cover. The have about twice as many page, are twice as thick, but can cost about 30% less. The tradeoff is in the cover material, paper thickness, and lack of the little extras and cachet that the Moleskine offers.

That said, these are eminently useable, and only slightly harder to find that the Moleskine. Here again,Ninth Wave Designs carries these, but currentl only through their eBay auctions. Another spot, great for this and similar products is Pendemonium.


BOOK, MEMO, 6 in. 3 1/2 in., GREEN NSN 7530002220078

If you were in the US military, you may remember these - the notebook that every NCO or officer carried that helped them keep everything straight. You know the ones - green with Memoranda written across the front cover in yellow. Unlike the picture above, the ones I like are those that open like a book.

For years I looked for a source for these, with no succuess - it seemed that they were only available through the Federal Supply Service.

I finally found a source on an internet bulletin board that has lots of Veteran members. The specs, according to the source: "The cover is made of artificial leather with stitching detail. Contains 144 pages. This versatile book features a flexible cover with rounded corners and white sulfite writing paper. Does not include an index; pages are not numbered."

Not only do these hold a lot of nostalgia for folks like me, but they are a steal - around $20 a dozen! Not fancy, but they get the job done! Should I divulge my source? Should I add that they also sell no-frills Fisher Space Pens at an obscene price?

If this subject has got you intrigued, you'll find many variations on the theme at Journalisimo.

So are you nostalgic, practical, or GI issue? Any way you like - pocket notebooks can help you stay productive and creative.



Blogger Speedmaster said...

Great stuff, thanks for the post. I'm a regular Moleskine user, but I wasn't aware that some of these other journals existed, I'll check them out.


8:25 AM  
Blogger jgodsey said...

I am a blank book slut. I love em. have lots of them, even some i have made. i even have some that are 100 years old. but if it's bound, I can NOT bring myself to write in it.

I carry 2 kinds now. i keep the ridiculously cheap steno books handy for actual WORK. and I use a reporters notebook for carrying in my coat pocket. they are about half the width of a steno book and the same length, they are designed to FIT in a coat pocket, even inside the jacket. and you know what? they ACTUALLY work for taking notes while i am reporting!

6:55 AM  

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