The Power Of Paper: How The Notebook Has Become Trendy Again

By James Lileks
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) James Lileks of the Star Tribune takes a look at how paper notebooks are making a comeback in this digital age of information.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Search for smartphone “notebook” apps, and you’ll get a hundred choices. Let’s say you choose “Notebook,” just to pick one at random. It lets you draw pictures, enter text, save sound files and sync everything to all your other devices. If you make a shopping list on your phone, you can see it on your smartwatch.

Isn’t that incredible? “Nah,” you say, as you put a Post-it note in a little paper notebook.

“I’m doing just fine.”

Writing by hand is making a comeback. Notebooks are fashionable again.

Why are people opting for something as hopelessly retrograde as paper? Because checking off a box with a pen is more satisfying than tapping a piece of glass. Because you don’t have to worry about your notebook shattering if you drop it. Because paper has soul.

If this sounds like another Young Folks Discover a Classic Tool story, well … yes, it is.

But it’s much broader than that.

The older demographic, you know, the settled, sensible people with decades of wisdom and experience, like notebooks because they’re dependable and simple. You do not have to call a whippersnapper to help you figure out how it works.

The younger demographic, you know, the ones older people think are novelty-addled and utterly dependent on their devices, like notebooks because they’re dependable, simple and … authentic. They have history and tradition behind them, said Jim Coudal, co-founder of Field Notes, a Chicago-based purveyor of notebooks.

“Tractor companies, seed companies, they made these little notebooks and gave them to farmers as promotional items,” he explained. “There are thousands to be found at garage sales, estate sales.”

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