Why it is so vital that the paper notebook stays with us?

Earlier this year the novelist John le Carre donated his “literary archive” to Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. The archive includes handwritten and typed drafts of his novels such as, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,”  “Smiley’s People,” “The Spy who came in From the Cold” and so on.

The archive consisted of 85 boxes of files and notepads, with apparently more to follow later.  The whole event of these archives going to Oxford is highly symbolic since le Carre’s most famous character (George Smiley) is represented as an Oxford graduate.

In looking at the archive what’s interesting is the level of change that the stories went through.  On a typical page of the manuscript of Tinker Tailor, only about three lines survive unaltered from the original.

Which must make everyone who is a devotee of le Carre grateful that he wrote in notepads and with typewriters and not using a computer.  Laptops started to be called notebooks in the 1990s, but they didn’t introduce any specific or new notetaking ability at that time.  Indeed, as we all know if one uses the program Word and overwrites each section of a book, none of the earlier editions will be kept.

So is the notebook (as in the paper version) on the way out?  Probably not, because many people find it easier to make notes on paper than on a computer – despite the advances in programming in recent years.

Artists’ notebooks including blank paper for drawing are unlikely to be replaced, and many writers are keen to continue with paper as a way of seeing how their work looks in the form that many will actually see it.

Not surprisingly notebooks exist in many formats – often designated according to the space between the lines: “wide rule” has the lines the farthest apart, “college rule” has them closer, “legal rule” slightly closer still and “narrow rule” the closest, allowing more lines of text per page.   As always, you pays your money…

Journalists who often find themselves reporting the news in difficult situations may use recorders these days to take down the exact words of someone’s speech, but you will still see many using the notebook so that they can sketch in their own vision of what is going on.

Police officers are required to write notes on what they observe, and surveyors generally record field notes in durable, hard-bound notebooks called “field books.”

Which explains why the requirement for storage space for notebooks is undiminished.  And for anyone with a favourite author this must be good news, for the moment everyone starts writing everything on computer is the moment when we will lose our insight into exactly how the writer of excellence came to create his/her work of genius.

If you’re looking to store some paper there’s more information on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.

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