Tag Archives: field notes

How Much is TOO Much?

I’ve been in this holding pattern of knowing I have enough notebooks and journals to last me for the next several years. I haven’t bought a new edition of Field Notes in quite some time.* I’ve traded and sold some off but felt no need to buy more.  My use pattern is pretty stable. I generally go through 1.5 per month, occasionally less, occasionally more. I use them in the same way every time. I’m a user and not a collector. I’ve blathered on and on about my feeling that the bottom of the Field Notes collectable market is going to drop at some point and the only editions to be worth any money will be the early editions. I still hold to that belief and I still point to Beanie Babies as an example of how this can happen.

Anyway, I was vaguely aware that Field Notes had raise the price of their colors editions and collaborations. Apparently they vary from around $13 to $14. Especially interesting is that the L.L. Bean edition is on the higher end and costs $14 per 3-pack. The Carhart was around $13, adding taxes and what not it was around $15. So if you order them online you are also going to pay shipping. The cost is going to be even higher.  At $14 that’s $4.67 per notebook. At $13 that’s $4.33 per notebook.

Fourteen bucks is too high for pocket notebooks. I don't care if they are special/limited editions. Stupid. #imout

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What is the cost of production of a notebook? It varies based off of the scale of production. If I sit down with a ream of HP LaserJet 24# paper ($9.50 at Amazon) and a stack of Neehah Astrobright Eclipse Black Cardstock ($7.64 at Amazon). I have a total of $17.14 invested. I can make 41 notebooks from the 500 sheets of paper and the cardstock. Without factoring in staples, a long reach stapler or my time. I’m looking at each notebook costing 42 cents.

Thinking about the time that it takes to staple, fold, trim, and check for quality; I know I can make quite a few of these in an hour. I spent 15 minutes stapling and folding 8 full sized Traveler’s notebook inserts. Trimming took another minute. That means in one hour I can possibly churn out 30 hand stapled and trimmed notebooks. Pocket sized notebooks take slightly longer because they are smaller and require 2 cuts instead of just one. So I can also make roughly 30 pocket notebooks in an hour.

If I charge $1.50 per notebook I’m making roughly $1 gross per notebook. Some of that money must be used for administrative fees- paying Etsy and Paypal- we’ll roughly estimate that at 50 cents. so I’m down to 50 cents of profit per notebook. Which leaves me making roughly $15 per hour for my labor. If I charge $2 per notebook, then I’m making roughly $30 an hour for my labor.

This does not factor in time spent packing and shipping items to people.

The examples given above are using relatively inexpensive papers and covers by an individual person. If I were to buy a case of the HP LaserJet paper it would bring the cover down dramatically. The more paper I buy the cheaper it is. Further if I automate the production it gets even cheaper and cheaper.

I digress. Smart shopping means that the bookbinder can find deals and make their own pocket notebooks at a fraction of the price of Field Notes. as someone who has made and sold handmade notebooks in the past I’m rather appalled that the corporate collaborations with Field Notes are $14 a pack. It’s not like FN is doing a great deal of design work here. Every corporation has a “Look Book” or “Design Bible” that details the colors, color combinations, fonts to use, and how the logo can be used. The first LLBean books are LLBean colors and camo over dirt standard Field Notes. The Carhart books are the Carhart logo exploded out and in Carhart colors, with an admittedly cool back cover**. All this stuff would come straight out of the corporate look books. The first LLBean books could have been farted out by anyone with adobe and a mockup of the Field Notes covers. $14 is too much for little more than a kraft notebook with a fresh coat of paint.

With the price hike I submit to you that Field Notes has jumped the shark and diverted far from their initial inspiration. After all the inspiration was promotional notebooks that were often given away free with the purchase of goods. Instead Field Notes and their Corporate Collaborators are now making the consumer pay for the notebooks, at a premium price.

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Review: Field Notes Byline Summer Colors Edition

 

I don’t usually review the new Field Notes (FN) color editions as they come out, but Bylines is so different I think it really deserves a once over.

First, I’ve been digging Reporter Notebooks for the last 6 months and began to get interested in them about a year ago. Why? I don’t know. Universe synergy? Collective consciousness*. Clearly something is in the air, because reporter notebooks are booming. Field Notes and Write both came out with one at the SAME FRICKIN’ time. Whoa. Crazy cool.IMG_0107

Anyway. The Byline has been hailed as “reinventing” the reporter notebook among many other things that fans of Field Notes are wont to say. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Aaron Draplin design, but this is not reinvention. It is a fabulous interpretation of the reporter notebook, but reinvention? Well, if you count using floppy barely functional covers as radical. But then Tops, Portage, and Mead have been doing that since the 90s. So radical, what a  departure. Please, cool your hyperbolic jets, field nuts.daringfireballhyperbole.bmp

But the covered spiral binding? That’s surely radical. Err, yeah, you haven’t seen many annual reports for midsized companies** have you? The covered spiral binding is routinely used by print companies to dress up a company’s annual report. It’s relatively inexpensive yet looks great. It stands up well to being tossed around and shipped.IMG_0113

He made it narrower! By a quarter inch. There are also half as many pages as in a regular reporter’s notebook. Yes the paper in the FNB is twice as good and I’m able to use both sides. There is a pocket! Is that really your trump card? *shakes head* The pocket makes the last few pages lumpy and bumpy and hard to write on. It also gives some weight and thickness.IMG_0108

Here’s the thing, I LOVE this edition. I love reporter’s notebooks. The long narrow form factor is great for making outlines for stories, podcasts, videos, and other things that need outlines. It’s one of the reasons I love the Write Notes Ledger and I want to love all notebooks that are tall, open at top, and narrow. If you like this form factor it’s going to work for you. If not, well, my address is…
IMG_0112 IMG_0115One of the best aspects of his new design is the paper. It’s heavy, quality, and great with all manners of ink. This is a notebook for the fountain pen users of Field Notes, granted it’s not the right form factor, but you can’t get everything you want.IMG_0111

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New Tool/Review: INDXD

I have written about my indexing method for my pocket notebooks before. I had mentioned that I use a master index, but failed to show an image of the index.

To recap- at the start of every one of my pocket notebooks I create a 2-column index. Basically, I write the numbers 2-48 on the first page, with just enough room next to it to log the topic in a word or two. In my master index book, each book gets a single page. At the top is a brief description and dates of use. Under that the same index is repeated. At the bottom of the page I write down any loose inclusions- such as letters from friends, post it notes, and other odd items. These are always tucked into the back of the book.

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Generally, when I copy the index to the master book I will expand upon the topic on an as needed basis. Sometimes I’ll have written “novel” and I’ll change that to “NOV. Character Name” or “NOV. Scene.” This helps me find info quickly in the master book. Then I know to pull the green field notes from January 2015 and turn to page 25. It definitely helps me to find stuff faster.

I recently began using INDXD, a nifty little website where you create an account and log your notebooks. I was quite skeptical at first. I have been holding off on going digital with my index for awhile. Now that I’ve logged 21 books in my master index it’s getting to be confusing as to which book that novel idea or cord wrap design was in, so I find myself paging through the index searching, and searching. I considered creating an index on a spreadsheet where I logged a topic and then logged each page and book, but the idea was cludgy and seemed like a pain in the ass to set up, so I decided against it. And here is where I kind of just stopped thinking about it. I knew I wanted something as simple as my master notebook, but something more searchable. I considered getting a scanner and scanning each book into Evernote, but the idea of scanning 21 48-page notebooks (not counting the notebooks I’ve drawn and journaled in…) was painful, and who has the time. The idea for me isn’t to recreate my books digitally (though I’ve played with that in my zine, Evidence.) but to make them searchable digitally.INDXD INDXD

That is where INDXD comes in and works beautifully. The reason it works and works so well, is that it’s powerfully simple. You set up a “book” give it a title and dates of use, then log the topics and pages they are on. Also it’s ridiculously simple to use. It takes me between 5 and 10 minutes to log a book, depending on number of topics and how bad my handwriting was when I recorded it.INDXD

Once logged, you can search. Enter in one term and up pops the pages and BOOKS it lives in. Enter another term and the search is dialed down to those two terms. You can then pull the book and find what you need, fast.INDXD

I’ve tweeted at the creator, David Rea, and he says that both Android and Apple apps are in the future. Having INDXD on my phone or tablet would make this even more flexible and easy to use.

As someone who clings to her analog tools and resisted moving toward a digital system this powerful simple tool makes it easy.

A suggestion. I’d like to see the date entry method offer different layouts or more flexibility for entry. I use 20150325 for my date style; year, month, day with no spaces or interuptions. This isn’t an option when entering in chrome. Fortunately the date entry doesn’t work quite right in firefox (don’t fix this yet) so I’m able to enter in my dates the way I use them. On the topic/tag page it would be easier to read the large amounts of text on the screen a little easier if the lines alternated color- cream-tan-cream etc. This would also help on the search results page.
Honestly, this is a great tool and I’m looking forward to entering in all my books

Organization: Pocket Notebook Set Up

I often refer to  how I set up my Field Notes on social media, but I’ve never done a full blog post about my set up. I keep waiting for a time when I have just set up a new book but not written much yet. I am finally at the perfect moment- I have just started a new book and have only filled a few pages.FNindexedI start by numbering each page, preferably with a red Uniball Signo 0.38. If I can’t find the red I’ll use a black ultra fine pen. I use the Signo for it’s waterproof ink and super fine writing capability. It also does not feather or bleed on any paper.

The first page becomes my index. I fold the page in half and write 2- 48. Each line represents a page in the book. As I fill the page, I log it on the index page. I try to stick to simple one or two word descriptions. This lets me find pages with ease. On books with a large top margin (Ambition/Word.) I’ll write an expanded description on this line, otherwise, nothing.FNindexedI have a few set pages that I put in each book. Page two is always a catch all page. This page captures quick info; phone numbers, passwords, websites, words, page numbers, and the like. Specifically info that is ephemeral and I may not need to dedicate a full page. Page three becomes my shopping list. Generally, this isn’t for things like bread and milk, but larger items we run out of less often; light bulbs, laundry detergent, or things like staples, glue, etc… The things I might forget to buy when I’m in a store like home despot or target.  Pages four and five are my to do lists. Four is usually dedicated to my blog while five is my school and life. Page forty-eight, the final page of the book, is always my pen and pencil testing page. This lets me test out pens or pencils in store to see how they will work on this particular paper. Then page forty-seven is where I log the types of brews I’m using for my coffee.  How much coffee to water was used, how did the brew turn out, etc.FNindexed FNindexedFNindexedThe final addition to the book is a 3 month calendar. You can find them online or as a word template. I print one off and then cut out 3 months. I use washi tape to stick it into my book over my address section. I cross off the days as I remember, but this has become very useful when I’m planning things for classes and meet ups with friends and I don’t want to drag out my planner.FNindexedAfter that the rest of the book is a free for all.

When the book is filled I log it into a master index book and file it away. The master index is another field notes book where each page looks like the index for each book. Each book is logged on it’s own page. The descriptions are expanded slightly to be more descriptive, but only if they need to be. If the index states “paper,” it is expanded to state, “Theories F14,” so that I have a better idea of which paper it refers. However if it’s logged as “journal,” there is no need to expand upon that , unless the journaling deals with something specific that I may need to refer to later. This system lets me grab my index book, flip to about where I think I logged something, scan through quickly and find that “Theories F14” entry and pull the right book in less than a minute.

Of course this system works because I’m only searching through an index of 20 or so books. (I did not go backward and index my older books, I’m not quite that neurotic.) As my index, and number of books, grows searching will become more difficult and more time consuming.While I was a wiz with the card catalog when I was a kid, I don’t relish the idea of combing through multiple index books. At some point I will need to digitize my collection of notebooks. I’m resistant to this now, but I do see the need for it later, as I amass more and more books. I’m not sure what application I’ll use to do this- Evernote, OneNote, or some other platform. Who knows what will be available when I do finally decide to digitize.

Review: Field Notes Unexposed

The new Field Notes edition, Unexposed, has been exposed. Like Shelterwood before,  this edition elicits both love AND hate from fans. The edition arrives within a black envelope so that you cannot see what covers you are getting. The editions are packaged somewhat randomly, so you have no guarantee of getting all 6 colors in your packages. To me this is a very interesting way of randomizing the packages. This has also led to frustration among collectors and subscribers. In some cases people have only received 3 of the 6 colors and are trading with other collectors and fans to get all 6 colors.unexposedI was one of the fortunate people who received all 6 colors in my subscription package. But I liked them so much I traded off my sealed Arts and Sciences edition to get another 3-pack. I received 3 more of my favorite colors and another black envelope.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty of this, the review. The colors are neon, eye searing neon with a near opposite color logo. I love these colors. They go very well with my Ticonderoga Neon pencils or Neon Wopexen. They bring me back to back-to-school shopping in 1989 or 1990 where neon ruled the world in pencils and pens. My love of these colors is pure thrown back, sort of like my total enjoyment of the new Trapper KeeperunexposedThe covers and interior feature the same soft touch printing as the Drink Local series, Which up until these was my favorite edition. The soft touch just feels really neat. When thinking I can rub the covers between my thumb and fore finger. The texture is just fantastic. unexposedI read more than one complaint about these colors being “not professional.” I use my FN as catch alls and journal, and now during my internship and a place to take quick client notes. Are they professional enough for me to take into staff meetings? I don’t know, but I’m also secure enough that if someone were to comment on the color to be able to say, “I know! Isn’t it AWESOME!?!”unexposedInside is what FN calls “reticle graph.” Before I had received my books I had to look this up. Instead of dots for dot graph they have replaced them with little plus signs (+). One could think of these like sights  or unfinished graph. They are printed in light gray. I wasn’t sure if I’d like these, but so far I really really like them. I might even prefer them to regular graph. I do like dot graph a little more but these are fun.  The paper itself is regular FN paper. It’s not fountain pen friendly but great with pencils, gel ink, and roller ball pens.unexposed unexposedAnother complaint I’ve read about is that people really really hate the near color opposite* printing on the inside color. It really does make the interior stuff hard to read. I find it impossible to look at and read the interior of the green covered notebook. The neon green on neon orange is impossible for my eyes to makes sense of. If I squint I can read it but it’s hard. I don’t mind since all of the FN stuff stays the same from book to book. I know where to write my name. I also found that once I wrote my info  into the various sections in black ink it broke up the field of neon and I was much more able to read the neon-on-neon printing.unexposedThe envelopes that houses the notebooks as they are shipped to you are a flat black. As soon as you remove the shrink wrap the envelope starts to show finger prints. The envelopes aren’t super sturdy but they are neat and a great way to store 3 FN in a bag or backpack.unexposedOverall, this is a great edition from Field Notes. Great colors, great “soft-touch” covers, awesome reticle graph grid inside, and your typical fun FN uses inside. This will be one of the few that I stock up on and keep a few extras in my stationary boxes.unexposed Continue reading

Shelterwood Stress Test Part 5

I’ve been planning to revisit my Shelterwood stress test for a few weeks now. I’m still carting it around in my back pocket daily. It is worse for the wear but still perfectly serviceable and rugged.shelterwood5The covers of the Shelterwood are noticeably cracked, creased, and chipped. This is due to the fact that in the summer I spend a lot of time in my garden. Knives and scissors go in and out of the back pocket that houses the shelterwood. There is also addition… sweat due to the heat and humidity. I don’t know if this affected the veneer or not. The glue protects the interior from moisture. Which I think has preserved the inner pages. I think it also has kept the staples from pulling through. shelterwood5I’ve only made my way through about half this Shelterwood. I’ll keep carting it around until it’s full. I honestly don’t believe it will fall apart.

shelterwood5 shelterwood5

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Reflection: Adaptability of the Traveler’s Notebook System

For the last several years I’ve been carrying some variation of a homemade Traveler’s Notebook system. I have gotten my system to perfection for me- one of my simple slim two pocket inserts, a BanditApple Carnet (BAC) peewee, and a Field Notes (FN). This system allowed me to jot down important information on a catch all page in the FN or if I needed more room to take up a whole page in the FN. The BAC allowed me to sketch on the train. The pocket hold receipts, stamps, and odds and ends. This worked perfectly for me for several years. It got me through my last hellish year at the old job and through my first year of GradSchool. But today I realized that it was a little inappropriate for me to carry my journal with me to my internship. It also didn’t work for my needs as an art therapist. It was simply put- too bulky and cumbersome.tale of travelersA couple of weeks ago I bought some Post it “Study” Grid notes and cut them down to fit onto the back cover of my planner- housed in a custom made Davis Leather Works simple notebook cover. This cover is traveler’s notebook style, but holds only a BAC peewee sized planner and a simple slim 2-pocket insert. The gridded post it notes saved my bacon as I was running around the senior center, jotting down  notes about supplies the program has, things the director needs, things my supervisor would like to see, what kind of art people like, and other assorted quick notes. While my planner worked well for the day, it’s not a long term solution.

I think that a pocket notebook like a moleskine would be too formal for the setting, and if I lost it would house far too much important information*. I’d like to stick to some sort of Field Notes or Word sized note book, something pocket sized between 48 and 64 pages. Ruling not important. But I’d like to be able to combine it with a pocket system that I can keep post its and index cards in. So basically, I’m looking to make a cover like my planner cover, that holds a pocket notebook and a pocket with a handful of notecards and a few post its cut to size. It has to fit into the back pocket of my khakis.

It feels a little strange to me that the system that I currently use isn’t appropriate for a new setting. I simply assumed it would be good for all settings, since it’s been “there for me” through so much and for so long.  It’s strange to think that I’m so attached to my notebook system that I feel a little lost (and admittedly sad) that I won’t have it with  me. Instead what I’ll have with me will be a new version of the system, something adapted to work with my new profession. Something slimmer and a little more sleek.

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Shelterwood Backpocket Stress Test Part 3

I’ve been carrying around my Shelterwood in my back pocket for 40 days. This is much longer than I normally carry a Field Notes. More than twice my typical carry time.  In my opinion, it has fared just as well as any other Field Notes. Any FN carried naked in a back pocket while walking on hot subway lines, through Cambridge, and while gardening would be battered and damaged.

The damage is mostly contained to where the creases initially occurred. Those creases at the spine have developed into moderately sized chips of the cherry veneer.  There area few splinters of wood at the spine and corners. The spine shows the most wear and the largest splinters. There is a lot of transfer of indigo from my jeans.

Over the last 9 days I’ve been working in my garden occasionally. I’ve been shoving various stuff in and out of my pocket. One of the things that has gone in and out of my pocket is a knife and a spool of cord.

With all of this going on you might think that this notebook isn’t durable, but the fact is that it’s been in my pocket for 40 days. I’d be surprised if other notebooks lasted this well. You can take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself.

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Back Pocket Stress Test Field Notes Shelterwood Part 2

I’ve been carrying the same Field Notes Shelterwood in my back pocket since April 15th. I posted my first stress tests on April 27th. My initial results showed wear and tear that was not much different from any other Field Notes carried in a back pocket. The results after almost a month aren’t much different. Generally speaking I don’t carry a Field Notes for longer than 20 days, so I’m now 5 days past my general carry length. Honestly, I can’t say that the wear and tear, even after 25 days, would suggest that these notebooks are anything but sturdy. Yes, there are some chips and splinters at the spine, but when compared to other Field Notes the wear is decidely similar.

Though I have reached the limit of how long I carry a Field Notes, I’m going to carry the Shelterwood longer and see how it fairs. Gardening season is here, so be prepared for dirt and grime.

Here are some images of the spine, the cracks, chips, and wear on corners. You can also see the transfer of indigo from my jeans to the cover.

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Make Your Own Pocket Sized Notebook

Making your own pocket sized notebooks is ridiculously easy. Once your materials are gathered it really takes about 15 minutes to sew up 3 or 4 of these. If you've been buying Field Notes or Moleskine Cahiers you will save $9.99.

Here are the materials you'll need:

Awl/push pin
blunt needle with a large eye
thread- you can use Linen or Embrodery floss, or any thin sturdy thread made of a natural material
bee's wax, a block or candle
ruler
paper that you'd like inside cut to the size you'll need
cardstock for the cover

 

To figure out how wide to  cut the width of your pages and cover use this simple formula final (folded) width multiplied by 2 plus 1/4 inch So if I want my page to be 3.5 inches the formula works out as follows: 3.5×2+.25=7.25inches. You trim off the last .25 inch when the notebook is finished.