The comeback of the paper notebook

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

head-medium_0Basically declared dead well ahead of time at the advent of mobile devices, the cloud and all that the paper notebook is far from dead and dying. In fact, it is making a definite comeback, as are good quality pens and their use.

The German company Leuchtturm 1917, who has been making good quality notebooks well before Moleskine was ever thought of, reported a 40% increase in notebook sales across the board in 2013 compared to the previous year. And more and more notebooks of the style, upon which Moleskine is based, are being produced by and for other stationery companies.

Seeing that we are, supposedly, in the digital age makes the return of analog ways an interesting phenomenon, not only are paper notebooks, especially good quality ones, all of a sudden cool – a little like the Filofax was in the Sloane Ranger era – but demand for typewriters, and here even and especially manual ones, and here also working vintage ones, also is on the up.

Paper and especially paper notebooks, and analog in general, is far from being dead or at the brink of extinction in the digital age and this is also good so, in my opinion.

The United States has reported that in a number of areas enquiries as to learning the use of a typewriter to such an extent that typewriting schools are opening up (again) even. And most of those enquiries appear to be coming from young people under 28 years of age.

Paper, handwritten, or types, or printed, will be with us for much longer as records and books go than anything stored on hard drives or in “the cloud”.

The British Archives at Kew have been working on the archiving or websites and other material from and on the Internet but had to make a choice as to what to keep and what not to and much of what is on the Internet today, even important information, will not be available for future generations, not even researchers, unlike published books in print, notebooks, journals, and other paper records, whether held in public, university or private “collections”. And we call that advancement?

E-books and cloud storage all sounds good until we look a little deeper into that glass and find that we have been falling for an illusion on a grand scale.

Amazon's Kindle books have had a serious problem once when Amazon decided that people had had their books long enough and deleted them off people's devices. Even though you pay for them you do not, unlike with a physical book, actually own them and you are not permitted to – legally – pass them onto others. It is also not technically possible to do so.

If you store your notes – and some people even upload, using white-lined notebooks, pages of their paper notebooks – and other stuff in the cloud you give, by using the service, the owner of that service, be this Google or whoever, copyright use of everything to use and distribute as they see fit. Sorry, but I do not think so! Thus my notes and other materials stay in hard copy firmly with me (and in digital for on some electronic media in my possession).

It very much appears to be time to rethink digital and find some terra firma again and some sanity. And, it would appear, a fair number of people around the globe are beginning to realize that too.

The paper notebook, the fountain pen and the typewriter are on their way back again already and, so it would appear, not just in a small way.

Paper notebooks have a great deal going for them and they are far from dead, that is for sure. While this may not be to the liking of the proponents and advocates of paperless and may also displease the believers that the production of paper harms the tropical rainforests – which is a fallacy – it is a sign that people appear to be looking for “slower” ways in our maddening modern world. The continuing increase in the same of paper diaries, address books and agendas also proves this trend.

At the same time paper notebooks, the notes contained therein and diaries are always accessible, even on a mountain top or during a power outage and thus beat the electronic equivalent – if there is such a thing as an electronic equivalent to them – hands down (and that goes for real books as well). No batteries, no power cord, no connection, or whatever, to worry about.

Paper is here to stay and is going still very strong indeed and long may it continue.

Personally I cannot function without paper notebooks of some kind and I always have various on the go.

© 2014