Apica Notebooks Now Available

I used to love writing in these things in graduate school — I have an entire independent study with Henry Glassie in one of these notebooks — but they were impossible to find outside of one little corner store in Bloomington, Indiana. I eventually found, and embraced, Moleskine notebooks and now the Leuchtterm notebooks, which are slightly wider in a way that still discomfits me.

[European Paper now has them](http://europeanpaper.com/brand/apica/?aff=dcE6IO6VGI4GLBJA47UDRSZSDDDE).

No More Note-taking Apps for Me

A friend of mine, who tells me that William Turkel is my doppelgänger (a more productive one at that) wrote to tell me that he has recently written about his use of an iPad note-taking app called [Noteshelf](http://www.fluidtouch.biz/noteshelf/). I responded that There are so many of those note applications running around that it’s hard not to imagine, were I interested more generally in application development, making one of my own. Folks obsessed with the perfect note-taking system buy them like popcorn at the movie theater. I bought a few of these when I first got an iPhone and then a few more when I first got an iPad.

None of them do quite what I want, and it is very tempting to keep perusing them, or to keep reading reviews of them on sites like [43folders](http://43folders.com/) or [Lifehacker](http://lifehacker.com/) or whatever new get organized site has sprung up recently for those, like me, dream of the perfect workflow / system that will bring order to their chaotic brains and channel all that energy into useful output. As Merlin Mann perhaps pioneered: there is a great deal of money to be made by simply being unproductive and searching out better means of being productive and chronicling your search. Thousands, or millions, feel similarly.

We live in an age of consultants. (Don’t get me started on the number of consultants that universities now rely upon.)

Myself, I simply decided to settle on [Evernote](http://evernote.com/) for note-taking. It’s far from perfect, but it syncs to all my devices and offers a number of abilities, including the ability to OCR notes I take in an actual notebook once I scan (take a photo) of the page with my phone or pad. I picked up a year’s worth of the Premium service with the purchase of a [Fujitsu ScanSnap][] for our home — amazing little device that. Now, Evernote has it right and is offering a [Moleskine notebook][] designed to be scanned. Sweet, but pricey at its current cost of $30.

[Moleskine notebook]: http://www.moleskineus.com/evernote-smart-notebooks.html
[Fujitsu ScanSnap]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008HBFADQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B008HBFADQ&linkCode=as2&tag=johnlaudun-20

Some Notes on Note-Taking

I am trying to get over the dreadful hump of being in the middle of writing a multi-part book and trying to determine what part I am going to write next. I would prefer to work closer to the middle of the book, the section that needs the most work, but because I hope to secure a grant to finish writing the book, I think I need to work closer to the beginning to give readers a better sense of the book’s frame.

This kind of falderal opens up a space in which to procrastinate, a space which I am too happy to create. One of the ways I procrastinate, and if all the web sites dedicated to productivity hacking are evidence, a whole host of others also procrastinate by focusing on how the work gets done. Is there a better word processor? A better note taker? A better something or other?

I have no idea if it’s a global, human phenomena or simply an American one. I can certainly see it in the number of gadgets we Americans buy: it’s the stuff of late-night television commercials. And, well, I’m a good American and so I can’t help but turn to gadgetry when I think things can be made better.

Fortunately, for me, I have already found the best application there is for long-form writing: it’s [Scrivener][] and I have written about it before, as have many others. The novelist David Hewson has even written [a fantastic Kindle ebook][dh] about how he uses the application.

But it’s the note-taking, and for a nonfiction writer, the keeping of source records that continue to make working difficult, at least for me, within a larger project with multiple threads running simultaneously. (A lot of this is going to make a lot more sense when the book finally comes out.)

For citations, I have decided, for better or worse, to go with [Zotero][] for the time being, despite the fact that I have a license to the much better-looking [Bookends][]. (This may change at any time, however.)

Zotero is capable of keeping your notes, but it’s a terrible interface with very little functionality.

More importantly, it turns out I already own the application around which an entire community has built a system of note-taking, [Devonthink][]. Much of the success of this must be credited to Steven Johnson, a very successful nonfiction writer who early on described [how he uses Devonthink][sj] — later he blogged a version of this on [BoingBoing][]. Others have since chimed in: [Devonthink for Historical Research][dthr] is a really involved essay, which also contains a link to how the author uses Devonthink for course management (interesting!). And, speaking of teaching, Shannon Christine Mattern keeps a blog entitled _Words in Space_ and has a fantastic post on [note-taking and abstracting][wis] that would be a useful place to begin talking about the research and writing process with students.

[Scrivener]: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php
[dh]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004ZG7BMU/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004ZG7BMU&linkCode=as2&tag=johnlaudun-20
[Zotero]: http://www.zotero.org
[Bookends]: http://www.sonnysoftware.com
[Devonthink]: http://www.devontechnologies.com/products/devonthink/overview.html
[sj]: http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/movabletype/archives/000230.html
[BoingBoing]: http://boingboing.net/2009/01/27/diy-how-to-write-a-b.html
[dthr]: http://parezcoydigo.wordpress.com/2008/11/13/devonthink-for-historical-research-part-ii/
[wis]: http://www.wordsinspace.net/wordpress/teaching/student-resources-2/note-taking-and-abstracting/

Make Notebook

The good folks at _Make_ magazine opened the _Maker Shed_ a while back and they have regularly offered a lot of very interesting supplies. Their original notebook was a little unwieldy, but they seemed to have streamlined it and to have made it more affordable. In particular, they seemed to have recognized the importance of the thing lying flat when open:

Make Notebook

If it looks interesting, [check it out](http://www.makershed.com/Make_Notebook_p/mkmnr.htm). The new price is $6.99.

**UPDATE**: See my longer review [here](http://johnlaudun.org/20120814-the-new-make-notebook-tldr-great/).

*I’d point to my review of the first notebook they produced, but there isn’t anyway to see any product reviews on the site apart from the average of the stars given. What’s up with that?*

The Three Things I Carry

I guess when you’re stuck somewhere in your own process, you can’t help but wonder how others do what they do. I regularly get asked by graduate students and undergrads what I carry. I think they think that I must always have a computer with me. Or a lot of other technology or impressive gear.

Sorry, no.

Apart from wallet and keys, here’s what I carry:

Pen, Paper, Phone

And that’s pretty much it. If I have a backpack with me, it will have an assortment of other things in it — pens, bandaids, photos of my wife and daughter, a kerchief of some kind, a large notepad, a file folder or two, usually at least one book — but at its core, in my mind, will be these three things.