et al. - Latin abbreviation. et alii. (and others.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the death of the notebook.

The ringed notebook frustrates and confounds me.  The metal spiral twining its pages together is a grotesque deformation that spits in the face of every attempt to form a neat stack of books.  At any given time, its metallic spine holds prisoner a handful of notebook paper strands.  They cling to the spiral, forgotten or ignored. My utter inability to properly tear out the poorly-perforated pages is revealed by the more tattered and torn of the strands.
Despite its glaring flaws, the notebook has become a staple of everyday school supplies.  It is the most dangerous of evils: that which nobody questions.

But I think it's time to question.
It's time to do better than question. It's time to challenge.
It's time to do better than challenge. It's time to end.
This is the end of the notebook...
and the beginning of a revolution.

Of course, all this criticism is pointless unless I can present a better alternative.  After all, there's no reason to eliminate the notebook if there is nothing to fill its place when it's gone.

Luckily, there is an alternative.
It is grander in concept, smaller in size; greater in quality, lesser in quantity.  Priceless, but less price.
I present to you the Notepad Proposal. 

Here's what you'll need.

1. One Yellow Legal Pad. * ($4 - $5 for pack of 2)
The classic yellow legal pad is a simple but essential starting point for this proposal. A single legal pad will now replace all of your bulky ringed notebooks. On top of this all, the yellow sheets helps increase concentration, and are much easier on the eyes than harsh, hyper-reflective white.  What's important here is color (yellow) and size (8 1/2 x11.)
2. One Pack of Paper Sleeves. ($3 - $6 for pack of 5)
These are dirt cheap, super-slim, and perfect for keeping your papers organized. Say goodbye to the unseemly collection of assorted papers in the front of your notebooks. Say hello to innovation.  I find my Avery Insertable Pockets 'n Tabs in the Duane Reade across my street, and you can find similar products at CVS, Staples, Office Max, etc. A friend of mine also suggested plastic organizers because they last longer. (I'll always prefer the classic, professional manila appearance.)

3. A Quality Padfolio. ($10 - $40)
This is the vehicle in which this entire project is carried to glorious victory.  In the interest of simplicity, I suggest you try to find something with just the basics: one pen-loop and a basic flap for holding loose papers.*
* For the sophisticated gentleperson, most padfolios also have slots for business cards.  Vistaprint sells quality cards at dirt cheap prices. Business cards are great for impressing friends, potential employers, & your girlfriend's scary parents.

4. A Nice Pen. Or a Few. (~$10 for 5)
This element isn't essential to the purpose of the Notepad Proposal, but it certainly can't hurt.  Pilot G-2's are my personal favorite. Bic Triumph is also a great choice. Find a pen you enjoy and stick with it - and if it happens to be refillable, save yourself some dough and just buy a bunch of extra ink cartridges.

Put it all together, and you're finished!
Feel different? Got a new spring your step? Holding your chin a little higher now? It's no coincidence.  It's because you have in your hands the greatest note-keeping system known to man.  Congratulations.

Every decision we make is a trade-off.  There is never a perfect solution to any problem. Instead, we decide which solution has a greater net benefit than the others.
So bear this in mind: do I believe that this system will make your life easier and more efficient? Yes.
But do I claim that it's without its flaws? No. It can be easier to lose track of papers, it may be marginally more expensive, and you'll have to suffer the jealous glances of classmates!

I don't claim that this revolution is for everyone.
Plenty of people are undoubtedly content with their notebook layout as it is.
But I refuse to believe that I have been alone in wrestling with the sinister notebook conundrum.
There must be more out there like me, yearning for a better way.  So this is for you, friends.

Notebooks will always be around because there will always be the wallets of an unquestioning populace to provide demand.  But you're better than that.  You understand that whenever you spend money, you're also making an investment.  And where would you rather invest: in the monopolistic reign of an under-qualified monarch, or in the grassroots of a monumental revolution?

It begins with a notepad...and you. Good luck.

- benjamin

(thoughts? questions? criticisms? leave a comment below!)


  1. Nice pens are tempting to steal. Especially Pilot G-2s.

  2. True. Luckily, pens can double as pointy weapons to fend off would-be thieves.

  3. The problem is when the people you thought were your friends were after your pens all along. They catch you unawares. Suddenly you find yourself penless and friendless.

  4. That is quite similar to the solution I discovered for this problem. I buy a pack of filler paper (it is lined and is ready for 3-ring binders). A pack of plastic pocketed and tabbed organizers. A durable and colorful 3-ring binder. Put it all together and you get a binder that contains everything for the classes (notes, homework and handouts)! I buy larger binders to hold several classes in one. So I put the filler paper in the front and then move it the right class' section after I wrote the notes. This has worked very well for me for two years now!