24.01.2024 / Knud Wassermann

The notebook – the constant analog companion

The notebook seems like a relic from a bygone era in today's digital world. And yet, it has not been replaced by the smartphone, tablet or electronic notebook as an analog medium for recording experiences, thoughts and ideas.
It is amazing that the notebook has been able to maintain its role and significance as a constantly available analog storage medium for appointments, data, experiences and ideas. And this in a world in which digitalization continues to advance. In some countries, for example, it is possible to have your driving license issued in digital form to be used on your smartphone.
So why not put your notebook in an electronic device too? Manufactum, a dealer that positions himself as a provider of durable products, tries to answer this question on its online platform: "The notebook becomes a loyal friend, a constant companion that encourages us to record personal impressions - whether for ourselves alone or for posterity. We keep track of things by capturing our thoughts on paper and making them more accessible." Moreover, handwritten notes would be better memorized in the brain.
Trend towards handwriting
Another attempt to explain this is the trend towards "journaling", a modern term for keeping the good old diary. A more advanced form is "bullet journaling". It refers to a self-designed, personalized calendar in which you enter appointments, tasks and goals, but there is also space for self-reflection and inspiration. The inventor Ryder Carroll, who suffers from ADHD, is said to have used it to bring clarity and focus to his own life. Many people now rely on “bullet journaling” to keep track of things.
The medical doctor and writing therapist Silke Heimes even goes one step further in her analysis and sees the new passion for writing primarily as a longing for reliability in uncertain times: "Writing is a return to oneself in a world that often demands too much of us. Me. My pen. My book. This is a new simplicity that will do people good today. It shows the world: I'm not dependent on digital products, I'm content with myself and I'm doing something just for me. The paper becomes a close confidant and a safe space is created in which I can get rid of everything completely unfiltered."
Growing market
Other arguments in favor of notebooks as a storage medium include availability and price. A hardcover copy in A5 format is available at discount stores for just 1.99 euros, but even the classic from manufacturer Moleskine in the same format is affordable and available in various designs from 21.90 euros. The development of Moleskine also confirms the persistent demand for notebooks. Between 2011 and 2021, the Italian company more than quadrupled its turnover, which amounted to more than 143 million euros in 2022.
The distribution channel for notebooks also represents a harmonious symbiosis between analog and digital. For example, notebooks were the second-largest sales market in Europe's online retail sector in 2018, with 80 million online buyers. The global notebook market was worth 45 billion euros in 2022 and is expected to grow to 67 billion euros by 2027. The German market is forecast to grow by 50 percent to 9.3 billion euros by 2027 (source: Technavia). As a result, an interesting market environment is also emerging for niche providers. One example of this is "Die Kalendermacher" from Vienna, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. The company is also convinced "that our lives, which have become digital, need analog time-outs". According to Managing Director Julie Steinschaden, the increasing focus on aesthetics and design, the trend towards personalization and the ever-growing demand for sustainable products are driving the positive market environment forward.
Individual notebooks for big brands
A quarter of a century has passed since brandbook launched the first individual notebook for businesses in 1998. The company has been impressing customers with its quality, pioneering ideas and interesting book concepts ever since. An online book configurator was launched back in 2004, allowing customers to visualize their individual ideas instantly. The reversible book or the anti-handbag elastic band, the use of unusual cover materials and the motif color cut are some of the creations with which the company impresses with its craftsmanship.
Sustainable ideas
Manufacturers with innovative approaches to sustainability have recently been trying to succeed on the market alongside the classics. The start-up 18Hoch2 for example, produces notebooks from recycled coffee-to-go cups and notebooks made from various raw materials such as banana, hemp or sugar cane paper. Paperwise then again uses agricultural waste from the harvesting of rice or grain to produce notebooks and blocks. The company Moyu produces erasable notebooks made from rock paper - the raw material is crushed stone and marble - and the heavy ring binders are waterproof and tear-resistant.
These are all examples that show how agile and creative the notebook market still is and that there are also opportunities for newcomers.
Knud Wassermann,
Editor-in-Chief "Graphische Revue"

Photo credit: @ brandbooks
24.01.2024 Knud Wassermann Editor-in-Chief of Graphische Revue