In the time of the cloud, paper notebooks

I love paper notebooks. I have several at a time: the reporters’ favorite Green Apple steno small enough to fit in your pocket, a pair of Moleskine plain cahier journals and OhYeah Moleskine knockoffs (see photo). When I’m in the bookstore, I never fail to stop by the notebooks section, often going there first. I go over the items one by one, the notebooks I checked just last week.

I panic when I don’t have one: notwithstanding the fact that my phone has Evernote and Simplenote, which are both connected to an online account and syncs to all my devices.

I live in the cloud, so to speak, before that word became mainstream. Mention a note-taking service or application, I probably use it or have tried it: Evernote, SpringpadIt, Simplenote + Notational Velocity, Fetchnotes, Google Drive. For a time, I had an intense love affair with TiddlyWiki, a self-contained wiki system. (I just scrawled “check out TiddlyWiki5” after opening the TiddlyWiki website for the first time in several years.)


And yet for notes, I’m a pen-and-paper guy. I’m an inveterate scrawler – a random quotation here, a new web service listed as “to-check” there; a column idea here, a potential blog post there.

“We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption,” said Joan Didion in her essay “On Keeping a Notebook (PDF link),” “a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.”

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