The Perfect Pocket Writing Notebook, Part 2: Criteria

Poppin-Sot-Small-NotebooksAs I mentioned in part 1, I think a pocket writing notebook is a vital tool for a writer, or at least for THIS writer, and I’m detailing my ideas about about what makes for a great one.

It may seem like I’m over thinking this, but If I’m plunking down fifteen dollars to get an important tool for my job, I want that tool to be designed in a useful way – lines that aren’t too close together, pages that don’t fall out, a binding that’s going to hold up until I fill all the pages, etc. And there are other considerations as well. For instance, I’ve never been big on style, but I don’t want my writing notebook covered with kittens, or pictures of a woman’s boot.

Here are the qualities I consider when picking out a writing notebook:

  • Durability: It’s got to survive being taken in and out of my pocket multiple times a day and endure me accidentally sitting on it. It’ll happen.
  • Height & Width: It’s got to fit in my jeans or jacket pocket. The ideal size seems to be 5.5 by 3.5. Even a little larger is uncomfortable. Smaller ones don’t lie flat and obviously don’t hold as much info.
  • Thickness: It can’t be too thick or it won’t fit in my pocket. On the other hand, I don’t like really thin ones because I have notes that I copy from notebook to notebook and I’d hate to do that more than once or twice a year.
  • Line Spacing: I need lines, and I need a little more space between the lines than Moleskines have, or I just can’t stay between them. I don’t have a real delicate hand, as they say.
  • Paper Quality: The paper’s got to be made well enough that it won’t rip easily or let ink bleed through to the other side.
  • Style: When I pick it up, I want to be pleased that I’m getting ready to use it – at some level I have to think “this is cool” every time I see it, or at least NOT think “man, this looks goofy…”
  • Closure: Notebooks without some closing mechanism get warped by my pocket and end up gaping open and looking disorganized. The default seems to be a black elastic strap.
  • Pricing: I wouldn’t want to pay much more than 15 dollars for one of these notebooks and would prefer to pay less. I suppose if it were REALLY nifty I could go a little higher. For instance, if it transformed into a notebook robot and fought my enemies.
  • Availability: If I really like it, I want to be able to buy a new one when it wears out without having to order it from Outer East Dakota. Some European or Asian notebooks are easy to get ahold of, but their shipping adds enough to their expense that I’ve eliminated them from consideration.
  • Binding: I’m not interested in glued bindings, which tend to fall apart. Sewn bindings are great, and smyth sewn seem to lay flat. I don’t have much faith in stapled bindings, although some small notebook brands with stapled bindings have loyal followers.
  • Ergonomics: The ideal notebook really has to be able to lay flat. Some of the pages at the beginning of sigs may not quite be able to do so, but as long as most of the pages lay flat I’ll be satisfied. If I have to fight to hold it open when I’m using it, it’s not the notebook for me.

notebooksNext Time

Whew! Alright. Now that you know my criteria perhaps the upcoming evaluations will make more sense. Maybe I’ll still come off  a little crazy, but I live in hope that a writer out there with similar needs will find all this analysis of use.

Here’s the dedicated page that shows you a little about all the notebooks that meet my criteria.

3 Comments on “The Perfect Pocket Writing Notebook, Part 2: Criteria

  1. Howard,

    Here’s a question, maybe one you can go into a bit when you finish your notebook post: What about writing implements? And where do you keep them? If you try to keep it in a back pocket, a pencil will likely break and a pen will eventually bleed. Also, you need to keep it close to your notebook to keep track of it, right? (at least I do. I’m constantly losing pens.) Issues include back pocket/front pocket/shirt pocket (do you always even HAVE a shirt pocket?), what if it falls out, what about reliability? (lead and graphite break, pens can stop writing or bleed,not write on wet surfaces, etc.) What about writing experience (graphite pencils, ball point and gel pens all offer different experiences), and many more.

    Just curious what you think. Trivial stuff I guess, but if you think doing a series of posts on finding the right notebook is worth doing (and I do find it interesting), maybe finding the right pen or pencil deserves some time. We’re talking about a “field” pen/pencil here. When one is writing at a desk the issues are different.

    Whaddaya think?

    • Just reread my previous post. The “if you think” bit didn’t come out right. I want to re-emphasize that I am enjoying the notebook series. Please keep it up.

      • Thanks for your question. No offense was taken!

        I usually keep a Papermate mini in my front jeans pocket, or a Pilot mini. You can see the Papermate to scale with the notebooks in the final photo in the post above (click on it for a larger view). Either model is small enough to rest in my front pocket without breaking when I sit down. I have NEVER had either model leak on me, and I’ve been using one or the other for at least six years.

        For a while there either was available in all kinds of places, but lately I’ve only been able to find them in office supply stores. I see that Amazon has them, of course.

        They don’t fit in a Quiver, alas, which is what I’ve been using lately. If you’re just going to take your notebook out of your back pocket when you sit down anyway, you might as well put a Quiver on it, in which case you can slide a regular sized slender pen inside. Here’s where to find your own Quiver. I love mine. Note that if you have a softcover pocket notebook you’ll need the Quiver Adapter as well (visible on the Product page).

        Maybe I will do a whole post about this later on…. not a bad idea at all.

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