Notebooks vs. Leatherette Diaries & E-books vs. Real Books

One of these notebooks will go to London.

One of these notebooks will go to London.

I am planning my trip to London.

Two carry-on bags.

And a notebook.

I have a laid-back approach to vacations. I pretend I’m in a cottage, whether I’m in the country or a city.  I get up late, go to the breakfast buffet or a cafe, drink a dozen cups of coffee, hold the map upside down for a while, scrawl notes on when to turn left and right, and then go out.  I do not have a strict schedule.  I might feel like a tour; I might feel like shopping.  Then I go to a coffeeshop and that’s it for the day.

I do have one event planned.  I bought a ticket to see Sebastian Barry at the Oxford Literary Festival. If I feel up to going (if the sun is shining…if I feel like taking the train), it will be exactly like “The Amazing Race”: I must take a train, then find my way around Oxford (by walking, bus, or a taxi; I’ll have to Google it), then take notes if I’m not too frazzled, and afterwards take a “tour-ette” (possibly guided) of Oxford. Do the students and dons still wear robes? No?  I’d love them to look like Dorothy Sayers or Evelyn Waugh, but  possibly they look more like Hugh Laurie or Rebecca Mead, author of the book I’m reading, My Life in Middlemarch.

Fortunately the train service is excellent between London and Oxford.

There are other writers I’d like to hear at the festival, but they’re all there on different days, so I regret I’ll have to pass:  Still, if you want to, you can hear Ian McEwan, author of Atonement and Man Booker Prize winner; Peter Stothard, author of Alexandria:  The Last Nights of Cleopatra, interviewing a writer I’ve never heard of; Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel winner, whose novel Snow I really loved;, and Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries and winner of the Man Booker Prize.

I have a long list of things to do in London.

Too many things.

But what notebook should I take?

I love to write about my vacations.

See the blue Apica paperback notebook labeled “Ideas for Blog”?  Apparently I had no ideas for blog. I took a few notes when I went to Bess Streeter Aldrich’s house in Elmwood, Nebraska.  (Her piano came on a steamboat and she embroidered her own luncheon cloths.)  But what on earth did I mean by Fish Tank, The Third Man, Mother, Fallen Angels, Old Boy, & Mary & Max?

See the orange leatherette notebook?  I bought it at Target while my husband was browsing in the sports equipment department.  I love the magnetic snap:  Close the notebook and you hear that wonderful noise. But it’s more a diary than a note-taking notebook.

Next up:  A natty Miquelerius spiral, but perhaps too big for my purse.

Last one:  an orange paperback Moleskine.  Smallish, and except for a few notes on Swann’s Way, it’s empty.

Actually it’s between the Moleskine and the Apica.

And now:  e-books vs. real books.

Harlot High and Low BalzacHere we are in 2014.

And I miss books.

I used to order print-on-demand books if my Mrs. Oliphant or George Meredith weren’t available used.

Now I buy e-books, or get them from

I miss real books.

I was looking at my Balzac collection.

“Do we have A Harlot High and Low?”  If I remember correctly, this is better than Zola’s Nana, which I’ve just finished.

“I took notes in it,” my husband said.

He was a notorious note-taker in college–my advisor once told me he was the best student they’d had in 10 years:  they were shocked he didn’t go on for a Ph.D.–and the pages are covered with notes.

I simply can’t read a book with highlightings and scrawlings.

On the occasions when I took notes in class, I wrote in a notebook.

I have to buy another copy, right?  And I want a paperback.   I read everything  for months on my e-reader and then suddenly need a real book.

E-books or books?  Which do you prefer?

12 thoughts on “Notebooks vs. Leatherette Diaries & E-books vs. Real Books

  1. Definitely the Moleskine. And *definitely* a physical book (without markings – I am total agreement with you there!!)


  2. Markings can be embarrassing. On going back to read a book I had in college I found my old underlinings and marginal comments (in pen!) did not agree now with what I thought was important then.


  3. I always use a notebook from an Italian make, Ciak, or a notebook with a spring ring spine, so I can slide a propelling pencil into the spine. I have a nice one with a pocket in which a dispenser of spare leads can fit. Moleskine sounds favourite out of your selection. Have a lovely time in England.


  4. Years ago, and I’m able to write this as I approach my 74th year, when I was working on my library degree at Emporia St. University e-books had not yet been fully developed and marketed. I don’t think lap tops were even in existence in the late eighties. At least I don’t ever remember seeing any. No, they were still just on the cusp of coming into being and thus the talk at that time was the idea of eventually transferring printed material, i.e., books, onto a digital computer. The director of the library program was highly in favor of this idea. She was constantly yammering in class on and on things like, “the information age has arrived” or “this is the new paradigm.” Well, one day a student raised his hand and asked, “Dr. Hale, are you by any chance a person who likes to read in bed at night before sleep?” Dr. Hale replied in the affirmative. “Well then,” the student went on to ask, “don’t you think you might find a bit cumbersome to take a computer to bed with you?”
    No, I still prefer the tactile pleasure I receive from a book in hand. Perhaps that was one of the reasons in truly enjoyed my career as a cataloger.


  5. Karen, Yes, Moleskines are international! I fear that if I took my leatherette diary, it would scream “This is from Target.”

    Nancy, I hardly ever wrote in my books, but when I did my notes were embarrassing too. I took notes only in books that were not in my subjectt (like elementary physics for non-physics majors), and fortunately I got rid of all these books long ago. Naturally all my markings were in ink, too.

    Clare, I’ve never heard of Ciak, but very much like the idea of a notebook with pockets. Of course I can’t possibly buy any more notebooks until I use up these…

    Joel, I do agree with you about books. Even though e-books are supposed to be like books, they are not, though I do have a very nice machine. Funny how I can get caught up in the e-book movement when I am the type, but these trends do catch up with one. Yes, real books would be a thrill if you’re a cataloguer! I like them, too.


  6. I use Moleskines. I really can’t bring myself to use anything else. I love seeing them in a pile.
    Fiction in paper, always.
    Non-fiction I can tolerate as e-book. I don’t have an e-book reader, I borrow them from the library and read them on my phone.

    I got a gift from my fellow bookseller this week and I want to show it off:

    When you think that this book has survived for more than 100 years and will probably live for 100 more there is no case for e-books that just vanish if your machine breaks down, or if the format gets deprecated. It’s so easy to delete an ebook. Try deleting my Jane Eyre…


  7. Oh my goodness, Luisa, what a wonderful edition! I love Jane Eyre, and to have a copy like that is beyond dreams.

    Moleskines are very nice. The notebook doesn’t really matter, and yet I do like fancy ones. It’s left over from my “Dear Diary” days.


  8. I can’t read a crapped up book and I love notebooks of all kinds. I have two of the ones in your photo. When I die they’re going to find piles of empty notebooks and journals. I still don’t have an e-reader because I can’t decide which one to buy. I was thinking of waiting for my laptop to die and then buy an iPad but that’s probably too big to read books.


  9. I have a Kindle and an iPad. Both are great machines for reading on. However, although ereaders are fine for those books too rare, expensive or not available, a real, physical book is the absolute best. I was given a copy of Sir Walter Scott’s “Journals”, the two volumes are bound in leather and are a joy to read and hold. The print is clear, the paper still white and the calf binding like silk to hold. My beloved iPad can never compete!



  10. Clare, how wonderful! I love old books, and what an amazing present! I’ve been meaning to read something by Walter Scott, so

    People love their Kindles, iPads. But, yes, there’s something about a really beautiful book.


    • You want to borrow? Lol I think the Atlantic Ocean makes books of this nature very expensive to post. If you were near, you could borrow. Scott is not trendy, but I love him. I am reading his biography at the moment. My hubby was very clever to find out I was browsing eBay for the journals. While I made tea, he looked at what I had been looking at on eBay and voila. He apologised when he presented me with the book and other pressies. I’d have never guessed who had outbid me.



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