Paperful: The Joy of Apica CD15 notebooks

Image from where you can of course purchase these notebooks. No endorsement of Amazon or any particular reseller here. You can also get them at sites like Jetpens, etc.

#paperful #hidetheeraser

I love paper. I'll admit it. I love smooth sheets of high quality paper. I love thin sheets, thick sheets, narrow lines, dot journals. I have love for yellow legal pads and cheap scraps of paper. It all has a place.

I know that folks have strong feelings about these things. Writing materials are profoundly personal things. I am fascinated by the way that writing tools can be a source of meaning to people. Not to all people of course... My business partner confesses that she hates paper. She has a single scrap of paper that she occasionally jots a reminder on with whatever Bic pen is sitting around. A good childhood friend of mine was full steam ahead, before it was fashionable or easy to do, about digitizing everything and having nothing in physical form. A professorial colleague was most proud of when she rid her office of books by scanning everything she needed. (It should be noted that her husband — also a professor — is an extreme hoarder and acquirer of books, pens, and paper products, so I see here a bit of brand differentiation within an academic couple.) Between the camps advocating digitization and those fetishizing the physical, I will class myself squarely at the extreme edge, in that second camp that delights in the implements of writing and the written word.

The Goldilocks problem

I go back and forth trying to find a journal or paper that is just right. Too small and I don't have enough room to write what I want; too big and it's not portable. Too cheap and it feels like I might as well write on toilet paper. Too expensive and I sleep uneasily thinking about what my wife (not a paper fetishist) would do if she knew that a tiny bit of notepaper cost that much. There's a lot to balance.

I have gone through distinct phases: the period where I had reasonably nice bound notebooks, knock-off Moleskine or Midori or Leuchtturm and the like, usually in the larger sizes (where many brands tend to charge a pretty penny); then I had a period of using the Levenger/Staples Arc/disc systems where you could rearrange pages and have all sorts of nice sections and make custom notebooks of sorts; and then a third major phase involved the very cost-effective use of plain old yellow pads and the ubiquitous manilla folders. Lots of variations along the way, but that covers some 20 years or so of adult worklife.

Most recently, I've been working with Apica notebooks and I think this one might stick for a bit. The problem with legal pads was paper quality; the problem with previous notebooks was high cost; and the problem with the rearrangable books was that they were never quite the right size, too big or too small for the page, and always too bulky in the discs. So there's a lot to like about the CD15 size in particular of Apica. – It is bigger than a standard medium-sized notebook (just a tiny bit, but it matters) and still not so big and oversized as the full 8+ by 11+ or A4 sized ones. It's technically a “semi B5”, at 7” x 10”. – It doesn't have a ton of pages (66 sides more or less), but I kind of like that, as it means enough sheets for, roughly, a month. I can use two page spreads, one per workday, and have room for some extra stuff. I can fill other notebooks with writing and it feels like it takes a while, but it's not like filling a 100+ pages of big paper. I kind of like the turnover and being able to start new notebooks. – They are pretty cheap, under $5 from sites like JetPens. The paper is creamy, not too thick but feels substantial. – The binding feels happy somehow— retro and efficient and just a little absurd in its formality. – I can use a variety of fountain pens and they all seem to love this paper. – There's just enough formatting to be useful but unobtrusive. There are spaces to put dates and custom page numbers. Since I use two page spreads, I tend to number as 2a/2b, 3a/3b, etc. And there are these very small but handy tick marks both every 5 lines vertically and about every cm horizontally that mean you can create boxes and sections on the page pretty easily and cleanly. – And, finally, I like the fact that I can grab them in a ton of colors. So I can have have them color-coded in series. Red ones are for my daily to-do and work records. The pleasant light green is for blog notes and writing. The light blue is the theme color for a particular business venture. I tote around five of them in a stack and that covers what I need to do in different projects during the day: 4 for projects + the red one for keeping track of to-dos, agenda, and schedule. (going by the notion that humans can only hold a limited number of options in mind at once— a number which may be 4, but also may be 6 or 5 but is in any case somewhere around there.) It's like carting around a single thick book which as a book-ish type, is familiar and comfortable.

The whole thing makes me happy as part of my morning writing routine.

As in all things, I will have to see how this plays out over time. It must be noted that the cost per page is a little higher than other notebooks of that standard medium size. And we'll have to see how well the bindings hold up over time and under strain.