Moleskine Evernote notebooks: Take a photo – it’ll last longer!

Ah. I’ve never had the opportunity to use this particular sarcastic comeback in real life, but it occurred to me this was what motivated me to trial Moleskine’s Evernote notebook: the ability to accurately record your notes from the page to the digital.

Because they’ll last longer.

Now, I’m pretty confident you don’t absolutely need to use this particular notebook to get your notes into Evernote. In fact, I know it – as I’ve frequently taken quick snaps of my inspired scribblings with my iPhone camera and added them to Evernote.

I’m not sure if I’ve fallen for Moleskine’s very slick marketing, but I think the combination of Evernote’s new 8.0 app on iOS and the quality paper and dotted lines in the Moleskine notebook make for better, more accurate and neater scans of the page.

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In essence, the app recognises when you’re taking a photo of a page and attempts to line up the image – based on the fact that paper tends to have straight edges. A transparent green oblong appears on the screen in front of you as you hold your phone over the page and then Evernote turns it into a neat image within a note.

You can then add several more pages from your notebook into this particular electronic note, summarising a meeting, a workshop or just the usual mental diarrhoea you’ve decided to commit to paper.

I used the notebook for the first time yesterday and found that it did an excellent job of recording my meeting notes. The resulting images in Evernote were crisp, clear and didn’t look like a photo of a piece of paper. It was as if the handwriting were magically lifted from the page and added to the electronic note in Evernote. So, no shadows or creases, no shine from the page. Just my handwriting on the screen.

Nice.

The notebooks come in a variety of sizes and formats. So if you’d rather not shell out £25 for a notebook on the off chance it’ll work for you, you might like to try one of the cheaper softcover notebooks they make.

They’re far from new and I’ve known about them for some time. It’s only now I’ve felt they would be useful for me.

This is also part of my effort to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ I carry with me for work. After last week’s (regular) business trip to Barcelona,  returned with real back pain from my backpack. Emptying it back at home,  realised this was in no small part due to the volume of A4 paper I was carrying around.

Journal articles, hand-written notes on looseleaf A4 paper, as well as magazines and an aluminium clipboard.

Ouch.

So, I’ve decided to leave the A4 at home and use this compact Moleskine notebook for all work-related notes, knowing I can scan the contents into Evernote as I go along.

Yesterday, I used my super-slim Cocoon backpack and took just my iPad Pro 9.7″, my Moleskine, my Midori notebook, some assorted cables for the iPad and a couple of bananas for sustenance. And it was a revelation. Another laptop-free day, but also a productive one. And a pain-free one.

I’m far from a minimalist. But it definitely felt good to carry less stuff around with me and if notebooks like this can help, then I’m all for it.

My Japanese stationery haul

One thing I always enjoy about my visits to Japan is seeing what interesting and unique stationery I can come home with. In all my international travels, I’ve never encountered stationery stores like the ones in Japan – it appears to be a bit of a national obsession!

I have two favourite places to pick up paper, pens and suchlike: Tokyu Hands and Loft. And of course, this time round, I got to visit the Traveller’s Factory in Tokyo (see my earlier post for a description of this).

Tokyu Hands doesn’t just sell stationery. In fact, I’m not sure what it doesn’t sell. It’s a chain store and every outlet seems to have at least two floors of paper and stationery, but it also sells excellent luggage, household goods and gadgets. Just my kind of place! These stores seem to be everywhere! And their familiar green logo is easy to spot when out and about. The Tokyu Hands outlet near Shibuya is simply mammoth and very easy to spend a morning in. It also has ‘half floors’ in between the main floors, so it’s very easy to get lost in.

Loft seems to specialise more in paper goods, luggage and travel goods. It’s more like an upmarket office supplies store, with luxury pens, leash-bound notebooks and the like. But it also has a healthy supply of uniquely Japanese paper goods (speciality calendars and planners).

I didn’t have one specific day when I splurged on paper goods, but instead picked things up as and when I spotted them. I did get a little overwhelmed by the choice in Tokyu hands and it ended up being difficult to choose between options. Given sterling has lost so much of its value since our last visit to Japan (thank you, Brexit) I needed to be slightly more careful when how much I was spending on things like this.

To put it in context for you stationery fans: I spotted Filofaxes on sales in the Loft store in Shibuya, Tokyo. The ‘Original A5’ Filofax models go for about £85 in London. This time around, their cost translated into £190. So… I tended to use the calculator on my iPhone while shopping, just to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes like that.

So…what did I get?!

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I got the above selection on my first morning in Osaka. Some Traveler’s Notebook inserts for my Midori (the lined notebooks with the brown cover and the sketch paper notebooks, with white covers). I’ve never used the latter, but love the fact that the pages are perforated so you can remove and share them.

I also got some (wait for it) washi tape. I’m a bit of a convert in that regard. I used to wonder why anyone would put coloured tape into their organiser or notebook, thinking it was time-consuming and pointless. But I picked up a roll on my last visit to Tokyo as it was covered in Japanese images and actually found it very useful to keep with me while traveling. For sticking in random pieces of paper and photos, but also to cover the edges of more fragile pages or covers. Using a strip of washi tape on the covers also makes it easier to distinguish between otherwise identical notebooks. The rolls I picked up here had little images of Most Fuji, Sumo Wrestlers and ‘Maneki-Neko’ lucky beckoning cat figures.

I spotted a handy little tape-dispenser device for cutting the washi tape neatly, and also a tiny, tiny roll of paper glue (top left in the photo). Both went into my shopping basket at some speed. These, along with the washi tape, were great for adding scraps of paper and momentos to my traveler’s notebook for the trip to Japan and Korea. I’ll write a separate post about that, as it was quite a new thing for me to write so much about my holiday in one of these notebooks

Finally, you can see a very handy multi-pocket folder for loose leaf paper. My days are spent thumbing through reports and reading journal articles while on the move. Folders like this are great for keeping them organised. Honestly, I didn’t need another one – I just liked the colours!

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What next? Oh yes. While in Loft in Ginza (it’s a really great one, next door to a massive Muji store), I was almost all shopped out! But in the middle of the Hobonichi Diaries section (which is a stationery cult all of its own!), I spotted these handy little stencils.

Each is about the size of a credit card and light as air, so I can easily pop them into the plastic pocket of my Midori. Very handy for outlining shapes clearly and for drawing straight lines. One thing I seem to do a lot in these notebooks is create mind-maps when I’m planning a new article or designing a workshop or training course for my business. I thought these little stencils could help me keep these mind-maps slightly more organised and easy to decipher,  especially when writing on the go. They were a steal and worked out at about a pound each.

I also picked up quite a few A4 plastic pockets from various shops. These seem to be very popular in Japan and come in an amazing array of designs. Being a massive geek, I bought quite a few that were train-themed. No, I’m not a train-spotter, but I loved the design and iconography of the various Shinkansen bullet trains. And I’m a sucker for a metro map, so I bought several different folders featuring train company icons and maps of metros.

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The two pockets above represent the Yamanote Line within Tokyo (on the left, in green) with which I am very familiar after all these years, and the entire Tokyo rail transport system on the right. The latter map is spread over four sides of the folder, as it’s so complex. It looks a little ‘busy’ in this photo, but I love it!

Speaking of railways, here’s a photo of the Shinkansen folders I got. I don’t remember which store I bought them, but it was in Akihabara, which is actually known for its technology and gadget stores. Each of the five folder is dedicated to a different Shinkansen model. I’ve taken the photo with them in ‘landscape’ orientation to fit them all in, but they’re actually A4 size.

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My final couple of these folders was picked up at the Cup Noodle Museum (yes, there is such a place), down in Yokohama. I loved these because one sets out a nice mission statement of positive, motivational phrases, while the other has a very 1960s kitsch feel. (We didn’t actually visit the museum! We were waling past when I spotted the museum shop and all the various things I thought would be perfect for gifts for people back home. I’m not, in fact, a fan of cup noodles!!).

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Above is a photo of the items I picked up when I visited the Traveler’s Factory store in Meguro, Tokyo. In all honesty, I could have bought three or four times more, but it was coming to the end of the holiday and I had spotted just how much I had bought (not just stationery, but gifts for others) and was getting slightly concerned with the weight of our suitcases. And paper is heavy!

So, you can see I got some more notebooks: lined, sketchbooks and another new one for me: the undated diary. This is a neat little design that includes numbered pages, an index at the front of the notebook and undated diary pages throughout. I thought these would be great for work.

I also got some lovely brass paper clips / books marks, some stickers for my folders and a great binder to store used notebooks (bottom left). Finally, Traveler’s Factory has been selling ‘Pan Am’ branded goods for a while. They have a nice retro feel and seem to be pretty popular with customers. Just check out how much their Pan Am stickers are going for on eBay! I got this little cotton bag (just slightly bigger than the notebook) to store my notebook when in my backpack. Yes, it’s already scratched, but I’d prefer to avoid any further damage.

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So that’s the summary of my Japanese stationery haul. I could have bought SO much more, but other purchases meant we had four suitcases between us, weighing 23 kilos each. And even a British Airways Gold Card has its limits. So, there wasn’t much more room.

And you know what? Leaving things behind in Japan means I always have an excuse for a return visit!

My trip to the Traveler’s Factory, Japan

It may sound strange, but one of my highlights of last month’s visit to Japan was getting to visit the Traveler’s Factory store in Tokyo. They stock the (formerly Midori) Traveler’s Notebook products that I’ve been obsessing about over the last year, so I was determined to visit their ‘HQ’ and see the various products in the flesh.

I was using one of their notebooks to journal our trip to Japan, so it felt apt to spend some time there on a Sunday morning and stock up on new notebooks and accessories. The shop itself is hidden away on a backstreet in Meguro.

We were staying in Shinjuku, so just hopped on a Yamanote Line train and then walked from Ebisu station – about a 15-minute stroll. There is a closer metro station, but our JR rail passes didn’t cover that and we’re well used to walking around Tokyo. Plus, it allowed us to take in some of the neighbourhood – and it’s basically hipster central! Lots of quirky coffee shops and a steady stream of Japanese hipsters made it fairly easy to find.

The shop is surprisingly small, yet they manage to pack in quite a range of products. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. It took me a few rotations of the store to get my bearings and find everything I came to buy – as well a several over things I had no intention of buying until I saw them beautifully displayed. I’m a sucker like that.

It was a marked contrast to many of the tech stories I’d already visited in Tokyo. Soft lighting, the smell of coffee and leather and a distinct lack of loud announcements over a tannoy. It was inviting, calming and more like someone’s home. The perfect place to pursue some stationery.

I’ll detail my Japan stationery haul in another post, but in brief, I picked up some notebooks in various formats, a binder to store complete notebooks, some lovely brass bookmarks, some stickers and a great bag to store my notebook. I also got @FrankDJS a few bits and bobs – he was particularly attracted to the Pan-Am branded goods 🙂

After paying for my purchases, I got talking to the sales assistant – whose name I never got, much to my annoyance – and we had a great chat about the notebooks, her travels to Dublin (my home own) and our visits to Japan. I snapped a quick selfie with her before taking a few pics of the shop interior. Many had to be discarded due to the number of people in-store. It’s quite a popular little store!

I could easily have spent longer (and a lot more money – seriously!), but we had quite a few things to see that day. I almost missed the various stamps they had by the cash register, but after checking they could be used (and weren’t just for show) I got some souvenir stamps of my visit in my own notebook.

For reference, they also have a store in Terminal 1, Narita Airport in Tokyo, but we flew out of the other terminal.  Maybe I’ll get to see it on our next visit. You can also get their products in both Toyku Hands and Loft stores across Japan, but for me, nothing was better than visiting the real thing.

My battered Midori Traveller’s Notebook

My lovely black Midori Traveler’s Notebook, part of the massive haul of stationery I picked up on our last trip to Japan, has been in the wars. After a few months of daily use (and I mean daily) it was carelessly thrown into a bag alongside an iPad charger and came off second-best against the plug’s metal prongs.

It’s no longer flawless, but instead looks like it’s had some bargain basement cosmetic surgery, performed by a surgeon after a heavy night’s drinking and general carousing. But you know what? I like it even more now that it’s not perfect. I was treating it with kid gloves when I should have used it as an object from day one. I think the scratches and general wear and tear make it look real and not something sitting in the shop window.

Since getting it, it’s hardly left my hand, serving as an outboard wallet, travel document holder, frequent flyer card repository, foreign currency pocket and notebook (of course!). It’s what I have in my hand when I make phone calls, when I walk through an airport or when I’m sitting on a train and I’m not looking into an iScreen. It’s so much lighter and more portable than any Filofax I’ve owned and a lot more flexible than any Moleskine notebook.

I only have single Filofax remaining – the gorgeous racing green A5 original. Am I’m holding on to that as a desk-bound notebook until I’ve used up the mountain of A5 inserts I’ve accumulated over the past few years. Then I think it’ll join all the others on eBay.

Don’t hate me, Filofax-lovers.

But I think I’ve moved on.

A brief Midori update

So, as I excitedly wrote last October, I picked up quite the collection of Midori Traveler’s Notebooks and accessories when I was in Japan. This required a trip to a branch of Tokyu Hands in each of the cities we visited! But it was definitely worth it, as Tokyu Hands stores are treasure troves of things you never knew you needed…until you see them.

So has my Midori been used?

Oh yes. It’s barely left my hand and has been used more and more as time went on. It’s definitely a personal notebook. Work-related content goes elsewhere – either a large A4 pad or straight into Evernote, depending on where I am and what I’m doing. Everything related to travel, hobbies, list-making and the rest of my personal life now goes straight into my Midori.

I recently “upgraded” it to my main wallet, actually. Every card I use for ID or travel now lives in a model 007 card-holder inside the Midori. A couple of photos above illustrate how they fit in (with post its to cover the crucial details!).

That leaves me with the slimmest of slim Jack Spade wallets in my back pocket, containing just my American Express card, my bank debit card and my passport card.

As I sorted these cards that had been bulking out my wallet, I realised that many of them had been superseded by apps on my iPhone. For example, my Eurostar ‘frequent flyer’ card and a couple of hotel chain loyalty cards. Now shredded, leaving space for other things.

The card holder I bought in Hiroshima holds its contents very snugly too – when I previously did this in a personal-sized Filofax, the cards had a tendency to fly out in a very annoying way. The last thing you need when you’re trying to navigate airport security! The addition of these cards (twelve in total) has added virtually no weight or heft to the Midori – it’s still very portable.

My kraft paper file, contained in the centre of the notebook has become the place to keep paper tickets like printouts for the cinema and gallery exhibits. I tend to print them as soon as I get the email and put them in the Midori for later use. A mini bulldog clip keeps everything in place and I’ve had far, far fewer of those momentary panics of “where are the tickets?!”

The Midori is a superbly simple, flexible and overall usable little notebook system. I have to say, after less than three months of daily use, it’s the way forward for me. As someone who has spent countless hours lusting after various notebooks and organisers, a stupid amount of money buying them and a head-slapping amount of time abandoning them, the Midori system ticks all my boxes.

So… It means a fond farewell to my remaining Filofaxes. I stumbled across a drawer-full of unused Filofax inserts the other week and so gamely attempted to use my Green A5 Original for work again. It was nice, but insanely heavy compared to my Midori, even my Midori and a large A4 pad. I’m not going to get rid of this, as it’s handy for use at my desk and I’m not keen on wasting all the A5 paper I’ve accumulated.

But my brown Original in personal size is going to be disposed of, along with the unused inserts. It looks gorgeous, but really isn’t for me. The leather is top notch, its design is simple and timeless. But the thing that gets between me and consistent use of personal-sized Filofax is the rings.

I know this is Filofax heresy! But they get in the way of my writing and add weight and bulk I just don’t need. And the A5 models, no matter how hard I work to keep them slim and portable, just end up being a dead loss in my backpack.

So the A5 is going to remain on the shelf in my study, used just for work, while the Personal model is going to find a new home somewhere. Which might be an issue, as I performed some…’surgery’ on the elastic on the inside cover so it could accommodate my iPhone 6s Plus. I’m sure there’s a fellow ‘plusser’ out there who would appreciate this ‘upgrade’, right?

Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about these Traveler’s Notebooks (that’s how the manufacturer spells it), there’s a plethora of resources over at Traveller’s Notebook Times.

Joining the Midori gang

I think it’s fair to say, I went a bit mad buying stationery while in Japan. I had one big item on my list: a Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Once I’d got that, courtesy of Tokyu Hands in Hiroshima, I spent far too much time picking up various inserts for the notebook, as well as stickers, stamps and pens.

I was, in short, in stationery heaven. If there’s one thing Japan does well (and believe me, they do many, many things well), it’s stationery. No matter what you’re looking for, they have it. Paper in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colour, diaries, folders, pens and other bits and bobs. And temptation lies on almost every street corner, with the two biggest offenders being Tokyu Hands and Loft.

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Seriously. Upon entering either store (and I did, on frequent occasions in just a single week), I was like a child let loose in an enormous toy store. By day two of the trip, I was able to do a rough currency translation in my head, and spent most of my time in these stores going “oooh!” and “aaah!” at how “cheap” things were. I filled my shopping basket with glee and little thought for the impact on my credit card bill.

This baby got a *lot* of use!
This baby got a *lot* of use!

Top purchase of the entire trip was, indeed, my Midori notebook. And the many, many inserts I bought for it.

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Now. If you were to google the above phrase, you would be inundated with links to the hundreds (thousands?) of blogs and YouTube videos all about these notebooks. It seems it’s a popular product. To put it mildly.

But what is it?

It’s insanely simple. Basically, these notebooks aren’t notebooks. They’re leather folders which can hold various inserts (notebooks, card holders etc.) via elastic straps. This gives you the simplicity of a notebook, with the flexibility of a loose-leaf organiser like a Filofax.

So what did I get?

I bought a black Midori in the regular size and a brown one in the ‘passport’ size.The regular size has the proportions of a boarding card (remember them?), while the passport size is (you’ve guessed it) approximately the same size as a modern passport.

I confess I did this in a moment of utter confusion, sprinkled with a light dusting of panic. In the outlet of Tokyu Hands where I got my Midoris, they were low on stock. So I had just one of each available to me. Doing the only sensible thing I could think of, I bought both. This wasn’t wanton luxury, as the binders are so much more reasonably priced in Japan. However, I definitely didn’t need both. But I hadn’t decided which size (and associated inserts) I as going to go with.

Over the last week, I’ve decided that the regular size is the one for me. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the passport model yet, but right now, it’s still in its box, safely nestled in a drawer in my study. My Midori is set up with the following inserts:

  • 001 Lined notebook
  • 002 Grid notebook
  • 008 Zipper pocket
  • 022 Sticky notes
  • 020 Kraft paper folder

I also bought a pen loop, which is a perfect fit for the Parker ballpoint I always keep with me. Together, this makes for an excellent and flexible set-up. No diary (this lives in iCloud and is accessible on all my various Apple devices) or contacts insert (ditto). The zipper pocket was excellent for collecting the various tickets and paper bits and bobs I picked up on our travels in Japan, while the paper folder kept my JR Rail Pass and passport as we travelled around.

Much lighter than any Filofax I’ve ever owned. (Sorry, Filofax aficionados!).

Just before we left Japan, I bought a superb passport holder, which fits into the Midori perfectly. A real contrast to the black leather, this insert is day-goo orange plastic and is designed for a boarding card, passport and frequent flyer membership cards.

One of the things I really like about the Midori design approach is that, if you want or need to, you can easily remove one of the inserts in seconds and use it in isolation. So any given notebook can be removed and slipped into a pocket for use elsewhere. And while the dimensions of inserts for the regular Midori aren’t exactly standard, there appears to be an entire cottage industry dedicated to creating and selling replicas on both Etsy and eBay.

That, plus the sheer volume of inserts I bought while in Japan (the top photo in the post only shows what I’d bought on day one!) means I’m not at risk of running out of these any time soon.  But as I’m planning a return visit to Japan next year anyway, it’s big deal to pick up another suitcase load of Midori goodness 🙂

So what is it for? I’ve been using it as a wallet, a travel journal and a place to keep scraps of paper (tickets, receipts and stamps) so far. My frequent travel means it’ll also be where my various airline and hotel frequent traveller cards will live, along with my passport. Work notes will continue to live elsewhere (Moleskine cahiers and / or Evernote), so this is a personal life only piece of kit. Which is fine by me.

So what about my Filofaxes? Now. I have quite the collection of Filofaxes. But it has recently been depleted via eBay, as my new iPad Air 2 doesn’t fit either of the organisers built of iPads (it’s too slim and just flops around inside). I can see the remaining Filofaxes going the same way as they’ve sat on a shelf in my study for months and months as I’ve found individual notebooks so much more flexible (and light!).

I may well explore transforming my A5 Original in green into a kind of “Fauxdori” to carry larger Moleskine notebooks and use this for work, but everything else is leaving the building. They’re unused and simply taking up space.

So. I’m a Midori guy now. Nice.

Japanese stationery lust

I spent a happy hour in a local Tokyu Hands store here in Hiroshima yesterday. And in doing so, I basically cleared them out of their entire stock of Midori Traveler’s notebooks and accessories.

(No, not really – it just looked that way…)

I finally got a traveler’s notebook, a passport notebook and a whole bunch of paper inserts and accessories. The photo above lays bare my excesses.

I’m not done yet!

We’re planning to visit a Tokyu Hands store here in Kyoto later today, to see if they have any of the special edition Pan Am-branded Midori goods.

I’ll follow up with a detailed post on these Midori notebooks and what makes them different – for now, just know that here in Japan, I’m in stationery heaven!