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The Informant: The Perfectly Sized Notebook

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There’s a common thing that happens when you write for a living or express an interest in writing or tell your aunt that you keep a journal when you go on vacation. Every birthday or Christmas or Father’s Day (if you’ve crossed that Rubicon), you get a notebook. The thought is simple: People who write need something to write on. That’s a sweet sentiment, but also maybe-kinda-sorta stupid. Every writer I know (and it is my unfortunate lot in life to know many) has, somewhere in their apartment, a stack of unused notebooks unblemished by the written word.

This is because, like anyone who has a certain tool or device involved in their trade, writers are particular about their notebooks. Whether it’s a yellow legal pad tucked into a briefcase, a flip up notepad seemingly made for an old-timey beat reporter, or a leather-bound book that looks like it contains riddles about the location of the Holy Grail, writers have a preference. They don’t deviate. It feels wrong to them, like hammering a nail with a fish stick.

Like all writers, I believe I have found the perfect notebook. For me, the crown jewel is The Rollbahn Spiral Mini Memo Notebook. The dark blue color is best, but allowances can be made—it’s smartly sized and beautifully designed. It has become, over the years I’ve carried one, one of my top two favorite extremities.

First, the size. The Rollbahn Spiral Mini (RSM) slips into every blazer or jacket pocket without fail. I travel without a bag all the time to work, and never leave home without the RSM in my pocket. (In the colder months, with a more structured coat, I’ve also been known to leave my laptop at home and just take this foldable bluetooth keyboard and my phone.) 

Second, the notebookness. The RSM is spiral bound, which means it lays flat on the surface you’re writing on and creates a sheath for a pen. And not just any pen. Bar pens – the thin, twisty-top ones with the clip—slip perfectly into the RSM spiral.

(A note on the above: Moleskine people do that thing where they close the book over the pen it’s bound in place by the elastic loop. This is not what the pen wants, not what the elastic is for, and a quick way to bend a notebook.)

The page and paper quality of these books is also unmatched. Unlike the larger formats of Rollbahn’s spiral bound series, like the popular A5 notebook size, the mini doesn’t have perforated lines to tear out the pages from the book evenly. While one may think that this makes the notebook less useful, consider this: how many times do you use ripped-out notebook paper for a document so precious that it needs a perfect edge? Also, how many times have you been writing close to the middle margin when the point of your pen or pencil has punctured that perforated line? Lastly, I always opt for the grid-lined notebook, as opposed to college ruled or blank, because I’m all about structure when I’m taking down notes. 

The main issue with this size of Rollbahn is that they can be hard to find. Even your more posh stationary stores don’t have them sometimes. That’s why when I buy them, I usually take home about a dozen of them. Luckily, Archer Paper now sells them for a steal. I, for one, am stocking up.