A collection of things people who went to Stationery Club No.2 said about Stationery Club No.2:

@siansparkles, says that there were gasps all around the room as @wowser raised his arm.

@mondoagogo confesses that at Stationery Club, she discovered that she “wasn’t the only person who felt like this, which was reassuring.

@1mgoldstars describes Stationery Club as a semi-serious, question-led discussion which only occasionally descended into drunken chatter.

@acediscovery says that it was heartening to see how animated people could be about stationery.

If I have missed any other blog posts about Stationery Club No.2, please let me know.

UPDATE: Rodney points out in the comments below that I missed his verbose defence of Moleskine as well as this stunning panorama. Sorry Rodney!

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
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.


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.

After all the speculation and rumours in the press, the details of STATIONERY CLUB NO.2 can now be confirmed.

The event will be taking place on TUESDAY 23rd MARCH 2010 at 7pm, upstairs at the HORSE AND GROOM on Great Portland Street.

Of course, I’m sure by now you are all familiar with the idea of Stationery Club, but if you are unsure of what’s involved, it’s this:

I see Stationery Club as similar to a book club. People in a pub and rather than everyone discussing the book they have just read, they discuss the pen they have used. It wouldn’t always need to be a pen, of course, it might be index markers, or a mechanical pencil, or a new type of paper clip. The point is, before each meeting, one member would nominate a piece of stationery, and then all the other members would use it for a week or so and then it would be discussed by the group.

For Stationery Club No.2, the topic up for discussion is NOTEBOOKS.

Black & Red, Moleskine, Silvine. Everyone has a favourite. Bring yours along and justify your love. Do you agree with Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel’s savage attack on the Moleskine:

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

Do you, like Mantel, require perforations in your notebooks?

Spiral bound, glued, stapled or stitched?

Plain, ruled or squared?

And then, of course, there’s the question of size.

I am sure that there will be lots of fierce debate, but of course, we won’t be talking about notebooks all night. There’s so much else to talk about. Feel free to bring along a favourite pen, pencil or protractor for us to talk about.

I hope to see you there.

This blog post was originally posted here.

I’ve already written about what happened at Stationery Club, but there are still a couple more things I wanted to say on the subject.

As I mentioned in the very first Stationery Club post, the idea came from @wowser creating the #stationeryclub hashtag on Twitter and me deciding it would be nice to turn it into an actual, real-life club. I bashed out the original post without really giving it much thought, and indeed organised the whole thing without really trying to ensure all of the details were in place. I thought if I spent too long making sure everything was right before announcing it, I’d never actually do it. This way, I committed myself and couldn’t back out.

And so, yes, there are certain things I’d change and will change for next time. Although quite a few people bought and used the Stabilo Bionic Worker, it was perhaps a bit optimistic to hope that everyone who turned up would be interested in talking about the virtues of a single pen for about two hours. Next time, I think the discussion should have a wider focus. “Notebooks” was suggested as a possible topic (Moleskine vs Silvine; plain vs ruled vs squared; spiral bound vs stitched vs stapled).

The choice of venue was based largely on the fact that it’s round the corner from where I work and usually isn’t too busy. It turned out perhaps Thursday wasn’t a great night to pick, and actually, it was a bit busy. So busy in fact, I had to send an emergency tweet telling people to go upstairs (apologies to anyone who turned up, couldn’t see us and left, we were upstairs. Next time, use a bit of initiative).

I genuinely had no idea how many people were coming and sort of expected around half a dozen. Eight at a push. The fact that twenty lovely people turned up meant it was a bit difficult to hear what people were saying; had we the whole room to ourselves (and a gavel), it might have been easier to conduct the meeting. Next time I might book a room somewhere.

There are lessons to be learned and changes to be made, But I’m glad I did it.

I’m looking forward to Stationery Club No.2.

This blog post was originally posted here.

Well, after not a great deal of anticipation and very little planning, Stationery Club happened. About twenty people turned up, which was about twenty more than I was expecting, so a good result I feel.

The pen up for discussion was the Stabilo Bionic Worker, and I wrote out some questions in my brand new exercise book in preparation:

The Stabilo Bionic Worker is a rollerball, and so the first question I asked was whether people prefer rollerballs to ballpoints, fountain pens or gel pens. This inspired some furious debate with various pen types being described as “scritchy”, which I am assured is a word. Biros were largely criticised, although alternative uses were suggested for them ranging from fake cigarettes for people trying to quit smoking to near-fatal weaponry.

Despite being available in “the four most commonly used colors”, Ryman seem to take a Henry Ford approach to stocking Bionic Workers, with people struggling to find one in any colour other than black. This is not a major problem for me, as I’ve mentioned before, my natural preference is for black ink:

It was also around this time that I switched to black ink. It seemed like a more logical partner for a sheet of white paper. Black and white. Like the words on this page, like the words in a newspaper, a book, pretty much any written material. It added authority to my words, words which needed authority as they had none of their own.

Stabilo claim that the orange rubber casing “brings an end to uniform grey and blue pens in the office”, however, people didn’t seem particularly keen on the colour:

Also, it was pointed out that orange is quite a common colour for pens. Both Bic and Staedtler use orange for their fine line ballpoint pens. A point illustrated by this classic TV advert from Portugal:

I tried singing the song in the pub, but I don’t think I really did it justice.

As a final word on the Bionic Worker, I asked the killer question:

And the verdict of the first ever Stationery Club was: NOT SURE.