Paper notebooks

I recently read a New York Times article by David Sax about the increased use of the Moleskine journal, a paper notebook, in the tech community. Basically, the article points out that on one hand we’re increasingly using digital note-taking apps like Evernote and the Notes app which comes preinstalled on iPhones. However, interestingly, this isn’t coming at the expense of physical paper notebooks.

I don’t know whether digital note-taking apps or paper notebooks are growing faster. But I can certainly attest to using more paper notebooks despite also performing more digital note-taking in the last few years.

I use the iPhone Notes app because I like its simplicity. Evernote provides many features beyond those offered by the Notes app. For example, it lets you collaborate on specific notes and sync these notes for cross-device viewing. However, I tend to take notes for my personal use, and I always carry around my smartphone so I don’t need to access the notes on other devices. I prefer the simplicity of the Notes app to the additional Evernote features that I don’t use.

Those who work with me know that I also carry a paper notebook into each of my meetings. I do this because I find it easier to structure my thoughts by writing them down. And the reason I prefer to do so on paper than in digital form is once again because of the simplicity. When I’m taking notes in an app, my mind gravitates to the many other apps (browser, email, chat, …) that I could be using on the device. This distraction lowers the quality of my thoughts.

On the other hand, when I’m taking notes in a paper notebook, these distractions fade away. I’m able to focus exclusively on the content of what I’m writing. I prefer the simplicity of a paper notebook to a digital note-taking app in the proximity of other apps that I shouldn’t be using. The growth of the Moleskine journal suggests that a lot of other people feel the same way.