I thought notebooks would be a popular discussion topic, but I wasn’t expecting quite so many people to turn up to Stationery Club No.2. We had about thirty-five people all in all, in fact, there were so many of us that we managed to take control of the whole of the upstairs room (two poor non-Stationery Club guys who were trapped in the corner eventually left, asking “Is this some sort of cult?”)

It seems nearly everyone has a favourite type of notebook, and they are used for all sorts of things:

Shopping lists
Random thoughts
Things you think about in the pub
Budgeting
To do lists
Lists of train journeys

Of the various ways that people use notebooks, there was one quite unusual use mentioned. @BekkiMeehan and @tipyourhat use their notebooks to write diaries for each other. As he explains:

@bekkimeehan and I met randomly over the internet several years ago. It wasn’t long before we were ‘in love’ despite the exceedingly large distance between us, and we talked via computer on a daily basis via chat, audio, video, or all three. That meant that due to the 8 hour time difference we really couldn’t share most of our lives with each other as on top of the time zones we both had lives and jobs and crap like that as well.

So we both got notebooks (we independently bought them in the others’ favourite color) and used the times we would have been talking to each other to write entries.

When someone at work asked me If I was writing in a journal or diary, I said ‘well, yes, kind of a diary, but not to me, to someone else.’ Each entry would start with the date and time and speak about the events and observations in my daily life but it would be directed at Bekki instead of my future self.

We’ve been keeping these notebooks for about five years now, and still try to write in them regularly. We’ll give them to each other someday and learn things about each other despite being together in real life, not just interweb-land.

Awww.

In discussing what people use their notebooks for, we stumbled upon a guilty secret shared by many of the group. Buying notebooks, but not actually ever using them. A kind of paralysis takes hold. Fear of polluting a pristine notebook with something banal or somehow unworthy. However, and perhaps understandably, this concern was not felt by those who (and this is not something Stationery Club condones in any way) steal notebooks from work. Here, the lack of personal investment was liberating and people felt free to scribble and scrawl without compunction.

Of course, it would be impossible to discuss notebooks without at some point mentioning Moleskine (after some uncertainty, the group decided on a pronunciation of “skin” over “skine” or “skeen” or whatever).

As mentioned in the last post, Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel launched a savage attack on the Moleskine in the Guardian:

The magic has surely gone out of the little black tablet now that you can buy it everywhere, and in pastel pink, and even get it from Amazon.

I’d printed out a comment left on the last post from Rodney and as I started to read it out, it turned out he was in the room. Please, don’t let me attempt accents in public. Sorry Rodney. His comment was quite good though, and was one of the few pro-Moleskine arguments made during the evening:

I will defend Moleskine as an advancement of human note taking. Just because something is ubiquitous, though this may reduce its value in scarcity, but not in function. In this way spoons are still to be celebrated over the soup twigs they replaced.

Although, perhaps the strongest argument made in favour of the Moleskine was the observation that each Moleskine notebook comes with a quality control sticker with a unique code, and one Stationery Clubber found that their code was 800085 which is close enough to “BOOBS” to win a couple of people over.

Despite that, the mood in general seemed to be against the Moleskine. Even those defending it felt its ubiquity, declining standards of quality and ever-growing product range meant it had lost most of the charm it once had. And there was definite anger about the way Moleskine had seemingly created a false history for itself by associating the brand with literary figures who predated the founding of the company (“I don’t care about being associated with Hemingway, he was a dickhead” as @MandrewB put it, despite being largely in favour of the Moleskine himself).

After some furious debate, I mistakenly thought it would be a good idea to vote on what are the ideal qualities of a notebook. I only had a couple of questions. Two simple questions which could be answered by a show of hands. I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Some people were voting twice, some people challenged the way the questions had been phrased. All I wanted to know was whether people like plain, ruled or squared paper and how they like their notebooks bound. Is that too much? After a slightly frustrating process, during which time I had a tantrum, threw my pen down on the table and exhausted pretty much all of the goodwill in the room (“Why are we voting?” I was asked. “I thought it would be NICE” I barked), I finally managed to count up the votes.

Anyway, here are the results:

The preferred paper type of Stationery Club members is as follows:

Looking more closely at the issue of ruled paper, we see the following preference:

And finally, on the question of binding, the results looked like this:

Sadly, spiral bound and stapled both failed to win a single vote.

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