Harvard Business Review: Paper or Digital?

I noticed these two dueling articles, both on the Harvard Business Review website:

What You Miss When You Take Notes on Your Laptop

“Even in my relatively short foray into office life, I notice that few people bring a pen and notebook to meetings. I’ve been told that over the years, the spiral notebooks and pens once prevalent during weekly meetings have been replaced with laptops and slim, touch-screen tablets.

I suppose it makes sense. In a demanding new age of technology, we are expected to send links, access online materials, and conduct virtual chats while a meeting is taking place. We want instant gratification, and sending things after the meeting when you’re back at your desk feels like too long to wait. It seems that digital note-taking is just more convenient.

But is longhand dead? Should you be embarrassed bringing a pen and paper to your meetings? To answer these questions, I did a little digging and found that the answer is no, according to a study conducted by Princeton’s Pam A. Mueller and UCLA’s Daniel M. Oppenheimer. Their research shows that when you only use a laptop to take notes, you don’t absorb new materials as well, largely because typing notes encourages verbatim, mindless transcription.”

Dear Colleague, Put the Notebook Down

“I knew right away, when you walked in here with a paper notebook — a paper notebook! — I realized that this meeting was not going to be a good use of our time.

You’d make better use of your time if you took your notes in digital form, ideally in an access-anywhere digital notebook like Evernote that makes retrieval a snap. If you had that, I could shoot you the link of the book I want you to read, or the contact card of the person you want to meet. And if you planned to act any of the ideas or outcomes from this meeting, you would want to pop the follow-up tasks into your task management program.

Unless you reserve 20 minutes after each meeting to transcribe your notes and enter your follow-up tasks, however, most of this meeting’s value will slip like sand through a sieve. And if you’re taking 20 minutes to transcribe each meeting, you’re losing several hours per week of productive work time.”

Now obviously, I like paper notebooks. I like digital tools too. But I found the “you’re wasting my time and yours” tone of the anti-paper article to be extremely rude and condescending. Why should my paper notebook stop anyone from sending me a digital note? I wouldn’t be reading that book or calling that person til I got back to my desktop computer anyway! And the research in the first article indicates that typing notes on a laptop may change the way people process information, in a negative way.

Ultimately, everyone will have their own preferred style of taking notes in a method that works well for them. I usually have a paper notebook AND a digital device when I go to a meeting. I can quickly jot down notes, circle things, draw arrows, whatever. (I also doodle a lot, and there have been studies that claim doodling can help you focus, rather than being a distraction.) I may later transfer something from my notes to digital form, but it certainly doesn’t take me 20 minutes. I could never take notes as efficiently on a tablet or laptop, but I like having one handy in case I do need to look something up or refer to an email. If someone else uses a laptop in a meeting, I don’t hold it against them, and I would expect them to respect my choice of note-taking method too.

Laura Jernegan’s Whaleship Journal

A reader named Resi tipped me off to this wonderful website where you can see the pages of a journal kept by a young girl while she was at sea on a whaling ship in 1869 (her father was the captain):

Laura Jernegan: Girl on a Whaleship – Explore Laura’s Journal.

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It’s pretty amazing to think of being a 6-year old along for the ride on a whaling ship! What a treasure to have her observations on the journey.

Review and Giveaway: Zettel Notebooks

I was quite excited when the maker of these new notebooks contacted me and offered a sample. They take the common format of a 3-pack of staple-bound pocket notebooks and add a flash of color and a touch of travelogue.

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Zettel Notebooks are made in Berlin, and each cover is a tribute to a part of the city. Artist and designer Martin Dixon created the cover art on his iPhone using the Brushes paining app. (He should really do tutorials on how to make the most of that app– I’ve tried using it on my iPhone and can’t begin to imagine how he achieved the beautiful effects in these images!) The notebooks I received are the launch edition of a planned series of sets, each featuring different covers.

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In many respects, these are just like Field Notes– 3.5 x 5.5″ format, stapled spine. The pack comes shrink-wrapped, with a card with some brand info as well as a bonus postcard included. Each set has one notebook with grid pages, one lined, and one blank. The Zettel covers are all smooth heavy paper, with full color printing on both sides.

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The inside front cover gives a little background on the cover image, and pinpoints the location on a map. The inside back cover has a space to put your contact details, and a handy metric ruler on the edge. They are made entirely from FSC-approved 100% recycled paper.

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The paper inside is a cool white, with grey lines or grid. The grid is noticeably smaller and darker than the Moleskine paper shown for comparison, but not so much so that it’s distracting. It has a soft, pleasant feel, not quite as smooth as Moleskine or Clairefontaine paper.

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All my usual pens worked quite well and there was no feathering with fountain pens. Show-through was somewhat better than average, but unfortunately several pens had slight bleed-through in spots. But if you’re using it with fine gel ink pens, you’d probably be quite satisfied.

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At this point, it looks like the Zettel website is the only source to buy these– they are €9.95 but that includes VAT, I think, so as a US customer it showed me a lower price of €8.36, with shipping of €5.60, which starts to make them a bit pricy, unfortunately.

I will be keeping the graph paper notebook I tested, but will give the other two away to one lucky winner, chosen randomly from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Zettel Notebooks @zettelberlin @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @zettelberlin

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and post something containing the words “Zettel Notebooks” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Zettel Notebooks” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday August 7, 2015 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

Moleskine Monday: Office Stash

Here’s the latest photo of the spare Moleskines I keep in my office… You know, for emergencies…


There are more at home…

Notebook Addict of the Week: Didier

This week’s addict is a Frenchman who is crazy about notebooks! Il est fou de carnets, I guess you’d say! He also has a lot of fun documenting his notebook addiction in videos.

Didier says:

Take a look on some of my links on the Wiiiiild Wide Web:

Voila !

I have between 100 & 200 notebooks.., from 7cm until A4 size and more… ; ) from different brands, styles, material etc.

BUT… BUT, and this is… a bit.. « strange »… They are totally empty. Not used. Never used. All blank. White. Lol.

I love the « object » as it is, more than the tool to use…

Hoping to be in the Notebook Insane of the Week!

Merci á Didier for sharing his insane addiction!

Giveaway Winners!

I am late in picking some giveaway winners!

The two commenters who won a Japanese stationery magazine each are Razzlebery and Grace Ji.

The two winners of the Paper-Oh giveaway are @mikes10663 on Twitter, and Shea Ryan on Facebook.

WWII Japanese Notebooks

A tantalizing glimpse of some Japanese notebooks dating back to World War II:

“Long-forgotten documents on Japan’s attempt to build an atomic bomb during World War II have been discovered at Kyoto University, which experts say further confirms the secret program’s existence and could reveal the level of the research. The newly found items, dating between October and November 1944, were stored at Kyoto University’s research center. Research into uranium-enrichment equipment, a key to the production of atomic weapons, was scribbled in three of the notebooks. Japan surrendered in August 1945 before the secret project could reach fruition. “The new data could show us the level of research they were involved in,” said Hitoshi Yoshioka, a professor who studies the history of scientific technology at Kyushu University. It has long been known that two programs were under way in Japan to produce a nuclear weapon during the war. One, commissioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy and code-named “F Research,” involved Bunsaku Arakatsu, a professor of physics at Kyoto Imperial University, the predecessor of Kyoto University, and other leading researchers at the institution. The other, carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army and known as the “Nigo Research” project, was spearheaded by Yoshio Nishina, a physicist at the Riken institute in Tokyo. Yoshioka, well versed in the development of nuclear-related technology, noted that there are few known documents on the research that took place at Kyoto Imperial University compared with that conducted at Riken. The notebooks in question belonged to Sakae Shimizu, a researcher who worked for Arakatsu.”

Read more at Wartime documents shed light on Japan’s secret A-bomb program – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun

Anders Nilsen’s Sketchbook Art

This was an exciting find from the LA Times website: Anders Nilsen’s sketchbook art

“Anders Nilsen is called a comics artist, but that’s not exactly what he does. Yes, his books are visual, but  Nilsen seems at times to be about the deconstruction of form itself in favor of a purer style of storytelling, gathering evidence: images, correspondence, notes from the author to himself.”

He has a new book coming out called Poetry Is Useless:

“In Poetry is Useless, Anders Nilsen redefines the sketchbook format, intermingling elegant, densely detailed renderings of mythical animals, short comics drawn in ink, meditations on religion, and abstract shapes and patterns. Page after page gives way under Nilsen’s deft hatching and perfectly placed pen strokes, revealing his intellectual curiosity and wry outlook on life’s many surprises.”

You can see more of his sketchbook pages including the ones below in an excerpt from the book posted on the publisher’s website. Nilsen is also interviewed by Paste at this link, with some additional page images.

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Notebook Addict of the Week: Esme (again)

Esmé has been featured here as a notebook addict before, back in January 2014. Since then, their collection has been expanding , filling a whole additional shelf!

Esmé writes:

“So I’m now 17, as of last week (I was 15 when I last submitted I think), and I’ve been collecting notebooks for the last couple of years. I have journals from when I was 9, and since I was 14-ish I’ve been keeping all my general notebooks, creative writing notebooks, and sketchbooks (I used to tear out the useful pages and bin the rest…)
In the photos, you’ll see

  • my entire filled notebook collection (except my first 12 journals, which are in my loft)
  • some pages from old journals (the small black moleskine is the one I took with me to Namibia this year, on a school expedition)
  • my collection of in-use notebooks and examples of their contents (a page from my sketchbook, a page from my creative writing notebook, a page from my quote book, a page from my current general notebooks, and a spread in my current journal)
  • my blank notebooks

Writing down my thoughts has helped me figure out so many things- opinions, feelings…most importantly to me, my gender identity, which I finally understood after several pages of “I don’t feel like a girl or a boy at all ohh no!” ramblings.
My friend told me recently that “someone could take all your notebooks and just… become you”, which is pretty indicative of how much I write and draw day-to-day!

Thanks for being a reminder that if my notebook habit is weird then I’m not the only weirdo around!”

Indeed, we’re all pretty weird here if notebook addiction is any indication… but hey, who needs “normal!”

Here’s Esmé’s photos:

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I love Esme’s dense pages of writing and collage, and the commitment to filling lots of those pages, especially at such a young age! Keep it up, Esmé, and thank you for sharing your addiction!

Basquiat Notebooks

I was so excited several months ago when I heard there would be a big exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum all about Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks. I’d seen some of the images of the notebooks and pages and thought it sounded really cool, but then I read that the notebooks had been carefully disassembled so the individual pages could be displayed in the exhibition. Although the curators supposedly did this very carefully and claimed that the notebooks could be stitched back together into their original form, I kind of lost interest in going to the exhibition. The idea of all those lonely pages made me sad.

BUT! My interest was recently rekindled when I discovered that I could experience Basquiat’s notebooks in a something closer to their original form through this book:

The Notebooks

This is not the official exhibition catalog, but it’s a sort of compilation facsimile of Basquiat’s notebooks. The format is just like an actual composition book, with some of the most interesting pages from his various notebooks reproduced inside. It’s published by Princeton Architectural Press.

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From the publisher’s website:

Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) was one of the most important artists of the 1980s. A key figure in the New York art scene, he inventively explored the interplay between words and images throughout his career, first as a member of SAMO, a graffiti group active on the Lower East Side in the late 1970s, and then as a painter acclaimed for his unmistakable Neoexpressionist style. From 1980 to 1987, he filled numerous working notebooks with drawings and handwritten texts. This facsimile edition reproduces the pages of eight of these fascinating and rarely seen notebooks for the first time.The notebooks are filled with images and words that recur in Basquiat’s paintings and other works. Iconic drawings and pictograms of crowns, teepees, and hatch-marked hearts share space with handwritten texts, including notes, observations, and poems that often touch on culture, race, class, and life in New York. Like his other work, the notebooks vividly demonstrate Basquiat’s deep interests in comic, street, and pop art, hip-hop, politics, and the ephemera of urban life. They also provide an intimate look at the working process of one of the most creative forces in contemporary American art.Review:

“This carefully reproduced facsimile edition of renowned visual artist Basquiat’s eight notebooks provides us a glimpse into the mind of a visionary artist. On nearly every page, readers will ponder over why and how Basquiat chose to string together these specific word marks and often bizarre phrases. The notebooks function as a sort of incubator for Basquiat’s artistic process as well as a finished product in their own right . . . a vital part of Basquiat’s legacy and an invaluable window into his ingenious and whimsical mind.”Publishers Weekly

I absolutely love my Lynda Barry facsimile composition book and I’m sure I’ll love this Basquiat one when I get my hands on it too!

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