The Joy Of…. Notebooks

(I like to imagine that the tablet is making the death sound from "Commander Keen IV")

(I like to imagine that the tablet is making the death sound from “Commander Keen IV”)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about notebooks. No, not the electronic kind – the good old fashioned paper kind.

This is mainly because I’m one of those young fogeys (well, a twentysomething, at least) who still uses notebooks to jot down ideas, sketch out random things and record some of my thoughts.

I’m guessing that, these days, most people use smartphones and tablets for most of these things. And, in a way, this is a form of progress. After all, back in the 1980s and 90s, tablet computers were quite literally the stuff of science fiction.

The electronic notepads in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” were extremely futuristic when they first appeared on TV in the late 1980s – but, these days, we have tablet computers that are better than the ones from Star Trek. Just let that sink in for a second.

Yet, I still use paper notebooks most of the time. In fact, I don’t even own a smartphone or a tablet (I’m writing this on a mid-2000s desktop computer, if you hadn’t already guessed). Hell, my parents have better technology than I do. And I don’t mind in the least, because paper notebooks are awesome.

Seriously, there are so many reasons why traditional paper notebooks are way better than their more modern electronic counterparts.

For starters, you can be a lot more spontaneous in a notebook than you can be in a tablet. You can doodle in the margins of a real notebook, but you can’t do this easily in a typed document on a tablet. You can write upside-down or at a 45 degree angle in a notebook, you can’t do this easily on a tablet.

Spontaneity is one of the most essential parts of creativity. After all, most forms of creativity come from linking seemingly unrelated ideas together in new and interesting ways. This is a lot easier to do with hastily scribbled notes (that are in a beautiful state of chaos), than it is to do with precisely-ordered lines of text on a screen.

Likewise, in a real notebook, you can switch from writing to drawing in an instant. Whereas, with a tablet, you’d have to close the word processing program you’re using and open a drawing program of some kind. Usually, this probably isn’t an issue – but if you’re feeling extremely inspired, then you don’t want anything to break up your flow. Even for a few seconds.

Likewise, notebooks lend themselves to multi-tasking in a way that tablets and computers really don’t. You can watch a DVD on your computer, whilst also writing in your notebook. You can’t really watch a DVD and type something on the same screen at the same time…

Notebooks are also a lot more reliable and durable than tablets are. Yes, unless you scan the pages of your notebook, you won’t have a backup. But, notebooks are still a lot hardier than tablets are. For example – if you spill water on your notebook, then the ink might get smudged, but it will probably be at least slightly readable.

When was the last time you opened up a paper notebook and saw an error message? And, when was the last time you had to stop writing in your notebook because the battery was running low and you needed to charge it for several hours?

Plus, there’s also the subject of privacy. Thanks to years of practice, my cursive handwriting is almost illegible.

Unless I deliberately make it legible or write slightly more slowly- it’s often a tiny, barely discernable scribble that only I can usually decipher. This is one of the best forms of encryption known to humanity.

Notebooks also have no social distractions whatsoever. Unlike a smartphone, your notebook suddenly won’t start ringing in the middle of a sentence and, if you want to procrastinate and surf the internet whilst using a notebook – you actually have to put the notebook down and start typing things into a computer.

Yes, notebooks might have far less storage space than the average tablet or smartphone does (eg: they can probably only store a few hundred kilobytes of text or a few megabytes of images), but they also make up for this by the fact that they cost a lot less.

If you want to get a new tablet or phone, then you’re probably going to have to pay tens or hundreds of pounds (or dollars). But, you can buy lots of notebooks very cheaply. Hell, even high-quality notebooks are still several orders of magnitude cheaper than high-quality smartphones or tablets are.

So, yes, don’t overlook the humble notebook. It’s cheap, extremely reliable and much better suited to creative thinking than even the fanciest smartphone or tablet is.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂