I was in London a few months ago, and while the trip wasn’t my best notebook-spotting adventure, I did see a few interesting items.
At Foyle’s, the huge bookstore on Charing Cross Road, there is a nice selection of stationery tucked in shelves by the registers on the 2nd floor. I thought the Puggy’s Best notebook was rather cute, and I was really tempted to buy the composition book tote bag!
At an airport shop, I was somewhat tempted by this Ted Baker notebook, but I didn’t like the pen loop on the spine, or the included pen itself. The pages inside were a mix of lined and squared pages, but the squares were very small– I think I’d find them a little distracting. Note the notch in all the pages for where the elastic closure sits.
So those were the things I did NOT buy… but I did purchase a couple other notebooks on my trip, which I’ll review soon!
I recently went to Book People, a great independent bookstore in Austin, Texas. They have a huge selection of gift items and stationery, including lots of notebooks from Moleskine, Leuchtturm, Miquelrius, Michael Roger, HandBook, Paperblanks, Rhodia, Field Notes and many more.
Here’s what I had to snag for myself, as I’d never seen these in a store before:
It’s not the most practical notebook, but I loved the design! A variety of map designs were available. Some were only on the front cover, but others had maps both front and back. The edges of the paper are rough-torn and seem like they’ve been dipped in something to artificially age them. The overall effect is quite attractive, though I’m a little worried that the binding won’t be very durable. There is no branding anywhere on the notebook, so I have no idea who makes them. BookPeople’s price label says “Worldbuyers Blank Books” but a Google search hasn’t turned anything up.
The other new discovery for me was some Field Notes-like 3-packs of notebooks in themes for Grumps and Introverts. A fun gift item for sure! They’re made by Archie McPhee.
BookMarc is the Marc Jacobs bookstore on Bleecker St. in NYC. They have a cool selection of old and new books, and some rather nice notebooks:
The notebooks are all lined inside, seem to be of pretty good quality, and say they are made by Chameleon Like, Inc. On the company’s website, they offer a variety of journals that can be custom embossed and imprinted, including these. The small notebooks seem to wholesale for about $6.05 for quantities of 5000 and up, so the $15 that BookMarc is charging is about the markup you’d expect, maybe a bit on the high end. The wholesale cost usually includes a 4-color belly band, so maybe they actually paid less. Chameleon Like’s minimum quantity for these seems to be 100, at $9.85 each. Worth considering if you are looking for a nice promotional notebook.
One of the fun things about working in publishing is a system called Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks estimated sales of books. They gather data from lots of independent booksellers, chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders, online sellers like Amazon, and other retailers like Target and Costco and grocery stores. They aggregate these numbers and then do some statistical manipulations to arrive at sales numbers they believe represent around 80% of the book market.
What does this have to do with notebooks? Well, all Moleskine notebooks have an ISBN number, and they are distributed by Chronicle, a book publisher. So they’re tracked by Bookscan. Which means I can see how many they’ve sold… and it’s quite impressive! The total number of units they estimate sold since 2002 (when Bookscan started) is about 8.3 million. If you assume that is 80% of the market, that would mean the real number is around 10 million in the last 10 years, so about a million a year on average. But that’s only the book market– Bookscan doesn’t track a lot of the museum shops and gift shops and stationery shops where Moleskines are very popular, so the real number is probably way higher. Also, the report I ran doesn’t include older planners from 2008 and before, so you’d have to add that in too.
The bestselling notebooks in 2010 were the ruled ones, hardcover large and pocket, then softcover, followed by the large sketchbook, the pocket size sketchbook, the 18 month planner, then the ruled cahiers. Of the new items introduced in 2010, the Passions Recipe Journal seems to have been the most successful, while the Folio line of larger notebooks doesn’t seem to have done well at all– though since we’re mainly talking about bookstore sales, that may be misleading. Perhaps gift and stationery stores were more likely to devote space to the spinner racks that displayed those products, while bookstores might prefer to just stock the smaller, lower-priced items that are an easier impulse purchase.
I wish someone would invent a sales tracking system like this that covered all stationery brands and all stationery stores– I’m a bit of a numbers geek!