Wanted & Acquired | Smythson Notebook

Comments on “Wanted & Acquired | Smythson Notebook

    Chris on June 3, 2010 11:42 AM:

    I have a hard time pulling the trigger on a $15 Moleskine. I just don’t think I could pony up that much more for the leather.

    Brian Miller on June 3, 2010 11:43 AM:

    Really cool. Nicely done.

    Thornproof on June 3, 2010 11:50 AM:

    Those are great notebooks, but I have often wondered while fingering them in shops, are they worth the extra over my trusty Moleskins?

    But, I am sure that it is nice to have a dream come true!

    cpb on June 3, 2010 12:14 PM:

    The only issue with Smythson that I have is that if you are a heavy writer the pages are so thin it makes writing on the reverse side almost impossible because of the press through. I prefer Moleskines as the pages don’t fan out after you write on both sides.

    L.A.S on June 3, 2010 12:24 PM:

    Diggity dope.

    charlotte on June 3, 2010 12:37 PM:

    I’ve been buying Smythson for years; I love everything about them from their bendy covers to their pretty blue pages. And, unlike Moleskines, they are not made in China.

    bob corrigan on June 3, 2010 12:42 PM:

    Why didn’t you plump for their jotter? At least you could have replaced the paper when it ran out. Unless the one you bought does have removable inserts. . .

    Eric on June 3, 2010 1:22 PM:

    I just bought my first Panama Notebook after years of lusting over them…

    It is worth every penny!

    Ancient Industries on June 3, 2010 5:55 PM:

    The non-absorbent featherweight paper was designed to hold fountain pen ink or pencil, the only 2 options available when the company began. It’s just another reason to use a fountain pen.

    Greg D on June 3, 2010 5:57 PM:

    $70+ for a “notebook” is absolutely absurd. You need a reality check.

    Michael Williams on June 3, 2010 7:03 PM:

    $70? I think I paid $109 for it. Those letters are $13 each.

    Derek on June 3, 2010 7:17 PM:

    Quite seriously, how do you justify spending $109 for a notebook when the per capita GDP for all of Burkina Faso is ~$500?

    When Greg D says get a reality check, it’s kind of perverse for you to flaunt the fact that you paid even more money for your narcissistic notebook.

    I’m no saint myself, but we should take a step back and get some serious perspective.

    Derek on June 3, 2010 7:23 PM:

    Also, just to preempt the obvious asshole who’s going to come at me with some libertarian “to each his own” consumer morality: If you saw a baby drowning in a pond and decided not to jump in because you didn’t want to muddy up your nice pants or shoes, you would be an immoral asshole. Conspicuous consumption like this, in a world where the average person in Burkina Faso makes $500 a year (not even the poorest people in Burkina, the average), is the moral equivalent of that act.

    Again, I’m not saying we should never treat ourselves. But seriously . . . seriously . . . $109 for a narcissistic notebook? Seriously.

    Michael Williams on June 3, 2010 7:27 PM:

    BERKELEY in the HOUSE. I choose not to have children, thus I can justify spending $109 on a notebook. If that’s not good enough, let’s try it another way. I live in Manhattan and shit here is expensive, especially drinks. Say I went out drinking one night. That could easily cost me $150. Now say I decided to not go out drinking and buy an over priced notebook. Net gain: $41.

    Trip English on June 3, 2010 7:31 PM:

    Haters gonna hate.

    Derek on June 3, 2010 7:36 PM:

    It’s intellectually cowardly and weak to brush off a moral discussion by using a subtle ad hominem attack and red herring. To say that you drop $150 on drinks in one night, so you’re morally justified to drop $109 on a single notebook, doesn’t at all address the ethical analogy I’ve drawn (baby in the pond being valued over nice shoes = person in Burkina Faso being valued over a notebook or night’s worth of drinks).

    There’s a lot of appeal to masculinity on this website, which I appreciate and also revel in. But you know what’s masculine? Honest, good, intellectual pugilism. Richard Feynman was a man. Cheap fratty, anti-intellectual jeers at my university; poor intellectual counters; and strutting of one’s lifestyle are not.

    Michael Williams on June 3, 2010 7:42 PM:

    Derek — I think you are just taking this too seriously. Slightly. I don’t think this the place for moral discussions. Also you are correct, I am a coward and intellectually weak. But, a coward rich in notebooks.

    Derek on June 3, 2010 7:48 PM:

    Is there something in 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son about not being intellectually craven? Or not being blithe and unserious? If not, maybe someone should submit that. I guess it’s old American values that I fetish, not just aesthetics. Oh look! I can be cheaply snarky too!

    Geoff on June 3, 2010 7:56 PM:

    What does one write in a $109 notebook?

    Speedmaster on June 3, 2010 7:56 PM:


    Greg on June 3, 2010 7:59 PM:

    Your baby in a pond thing isn’t quite right. It’s more like not saving the baby because you are on your way to an appointment with your tailor and if you’re late you’ll miss it.

    tom on June 3, 2010 8:00 PM:

    Derek – Ain’t nobody forcing you to read ACL, brother. If you don’t like it, unsubscribe.

    MW – that’s one gorgeous notebook, sir. Love the ACL typeface – what is it?

    JD on June 3, 2010 8:13 PM:

    Our beer club just bought a $100 case of beer. At least you’ll still have that notebook in a year.

    cpb on June 3, 2010 8:21 PM:

    For petes sake people, it’s a notebook and yes it cost more than your average notebook but is it worth getting on your high horse and start lecturing about countries in Africa and morales.

    If you’re so high up there with Oxfam, why don’t you unplug your internet and send your monthly broadband access fee to the Red Cross. Hell, if you are accessing this website on an iPhone or godforbid an iPad then you should be ashamed of yourself, spending all that money on a oversized and overfeatured calculator that was made in China where people have to work 23.5 hours a day for $1 an hour.

    Go and find a blog titled “ACR” or “A Continous Rollback” where poor people post what they bought at Walmart if you want to gauge morales vs. expenditures.

    Aaron on June 3, 2010 8:22 PM:


    Is it not intellectually hazardous to assert that the purchase of an expensive notebook assails the people of Burkina Faso? Talk about a red herring.

    If you are asserting that money and time are better spent saving the world, then I suggest you get off the blogs and join Peace Corps.

    If, instead, you are asserting that narcism is immoral, I suggest you stop your self-egrandizing, egotistical blog commenting.

    Finally, if you meant to say that wealth is immoral, what the hell are you doing on a computer, in a house, with electricity?

    Not expending 100% of one’s expendable income on charity is neither economically nor morally bankrupt. The only lack of ethics and intellectualism here is your accusing others of being baby killers for buying nice things.



    Pete on June 3, 2010 8:23 PM:

    I just bought one and had the words “INTELLECTUAL COWARD” stamped into it. $303. That’s almost three drowning babies.

    Larry on June 3, 2010 8:28 PM:

    More important question: IS IT A CUTE BABY?

    mike on June 3, 2010 8:36 PM:

    Pete, now that is funny.

    Actually what started off an a merely “spoil myself rotten and feel a little bad” post has now escalated, thanks to post haters. You should all be ashamed these revolting levels of self indulgence that makes even Kim Jong-il look like an “adopt an African child (and have them send you photos and drawings of where they live)” participant.

    andrew on June 3, 2010 8:54 PM:

    priorities are different. no big deal. kinda hard to hate on someone when you don’t see their entire budget. if MW spent all of his money on $109 notebooks then you might have a case for him being unreasonable. but maybe for every amazing notebook, he donates twice that amount (if not in dollars than in time) so some earnest, wildly altruistic endeavor, then i would say that evens out.

    and who knows, maybe he will write something that will inspire all of us to be better people, or the cure for MS or something. then the notebook was more than worth it.

    you never know.

    Mike on June 3, 2010 9:04 PM:

    What about if MW actually spent the last 2 years saving up for the notebook. Every dollar, 90 cents to the poor, 10 cents to the new notebook fund. Now that’s inspiring.

    Having said that, I am sure the cost of hosting this website isn’t GoDaddy @ $9.99 a month. Maybe tomorrow it won’t be here and all that will remain will be a holding page saying “gone to Africa (and not to watch soccer)”

    rom on June 3, 2010 9:14 PM:


    I too revel in appeals to masculinity.

    Arthur on June 3, 2010 9:38 PM:

    Pretty good deal next to Hermes. Very elegant.

    Russell Sprouts on June 3, 2010 9:46 PM:

    Just booked a ticket to Burkina Faso. I”M GONNA BE A BALLER!

    M.R.H. on June 3, 2010 10:52 PM:

    This is what BOBO (Bohemian bourgeoisie) epitomizes.

    Rollergirl on June 4, 2010 5:10 AM:

    Love a monogram athough, yes, those Smythson letters ain’t cheap. Would rather have beautiful stationery than a round of drinks anyday. Just sayin…

    Another Aaron on June 4, 2010 5:53 AM:

    I second Aaron’s comments, and would just add that Derek’s attempt at moral mathematics is ridiculous. Trying to find moral equivalencies is no longer attempted by any moral philosopher worth his or her salt. True, some hardcore utilitarians still linger, but unless one is a rational choice theorist (or some other pawn of the free marketeers), trying to draw an analogy between buying a notebook and not saving a drowning child is, at best, absurd.

    BTW – I love those notebooks, and have been getting a year diary for the past ten or so years – with initials!

    Billy Ray Valentine on June 4, 2010 7:48 AM:


    If I saw the drowning baby I would take out my new notebook and write a note to the parents of this baby and say “your baby has drowned.” Also I would write “why is your baby all alone in a pool of water, you need to work on your parenting.” Then I would ask the baby if it is developing abandonment issues over being left alone to drown. Also Derek you did not say that you would help the baby either. So what gives?

    Eric on June 4, 2010 8:16 AM:

    I was actually looking forward to hearing some discussion about these notebooks from reasonable people.

    Is there any way that we can get back to the topic at hand?

    Chris Tetro on June 4, 2010 9:10 AM:

    So dead babys aside…
    How is the paper?
    How does it hold up to a felt tip pen?
    How does it handle ink from a fountain pen?
    Any bleed through?
    Does it feel good in your hand?

    I love the moleskine. I lust after them. I can understand wanting what is nice. I just wrote a post about getting over my fear of not having notebooks specific to a task. This Notebook would have to be for more than shopping lists and food intake records or gym workouts. This for me would have to be a true journal. An archival piece to be handed down. To take your example of paying for $350 jeans. If you wear them 350 times its a buck an outing.

    If this notebook contains something worth reading and passing down, and if it is of a quality that will last generations. Then I can justify it in my mind.

    That being said by no means should your purchases be limited to the moral views of others. If however you would like to start purchasing children I believe Angelina can get you a good deal.. probably not much more than a couple of these wonderful notebooks.

    bob corrigan on June 4, 2010 9:46 AM:

    Let’s say you’re a professional note taker (defined as “someone who takes notes for money”).

    Now let’s say you have been a note taker for a number of years (defined as “more than 1”).

    Let’s also posit that during your spare time (defined as “those times when you are not taking notes”) you save drowning babies.

    Let’s supposed that you have found, to your horror, that Shabby Ersatz Notebooks (SENs), when used in the company of people whose money you wish to earn, are regarded as evidence of a certain lack of professional commitment, mental capacity and perhaps even suitable grooming. In effect, they think you’re an amateur note taker, and as a result they take their note-giving custom elsewhere.

    As a result, you must spend more time taking notes, which takes away from your drowning baby-saving time.

    Therefore, the purchase of a Most Excellent Notebook saves lives. QED.

    An alternative and equally effective argument is that the job of the individual who operates this blog requires the purchase and subsequent display, review and discussion of such relatively inexpensive personal luxuries (inexpensive when compared to watches, pens, shoes, cars, yachts, etc). This would suggest that such purchases qualify as business expenses. Now let’s talk about the morality of a business buying a printing machine.

    Ah, it’s fun to be facile with morality.

    I still think he should have gotten the jotter with replacement pages. Grins.

    Ed the First on June 4, 2010 10:41 AM:

    Of course, if this were a British blog this thread would long since have been taken over by a discussion of the new government, the creative director of Smythson being a certain Mrs S. Cameron. Maybe she designed the typeface used for the personalisation with her own fair hand, in which case I’d say she was catching up with her husband in the achievement stakes (and I just KNOW he’s a baby-saving sort of chap).

    Notwithstanding any of the above, what are the, erm, “class associations” of a notebook such as this in the States? In the Kingdom – as I like to call it, for contrast – if a guy in his 20’s or 30’s bought a Smythson notebook he’s be suspected of rather blatant social climbing, rather than just ostentation, as Smythson is the sort of shop one calls at for one’s stationary on the way from White’s club to the gunsmith when preparing for a weekend’s shootin’.

    andrew on June 4, 2010 10:44 AM:

    just for the record, since I don’t know if anyone else has brought it up…BEST COMMENTS SECTION EVER. it should be printed and sold…in Smythson notebooks. this is magical.

    Tintin on June 4, 2010 11:19 AM:

    I have a bar tab with Williams that was almost $300. No food. Just Manhattans. God will punish me for that.

    Tony on June 4, 2010 11:44 AM:

    Derek, give me a break. It costs hundreds of dollars to take your family to a baseball game these days. I just paid $200 to watch the Phillies get killed by the Red Sox. At least MW will get to keep his notebook for years. All I got was a hangover and a farmers tan. To each his own.

    Max on June 4, 2010 11:59 AM:

    Cameron’s wife is the creative director of this company? I hope to see some politically themed covers soon. The “Make It Happen” cover is great (it inspired the title for my blog). It’s a nice challenge. If it said “not for the press,” “the enemies list” etc. then maybe I would splurge on it as birthday gift, maybe.

    Greg D. on June 4, 2010 12:16 PM:

    Hey, whatever floats yer boat y’all, but a fool and his money are easily parted…

    Michael Williams on June 4, 2010 1:03 PM:

    This is by far the best ever comment thread on ACL.

    Justin Power on June 4, 2010 1:15 PM:

    This IS by far the best thread I’ve seen on ACL.

    Why does everyone get so worked up about how others spend their money? I am willing to bet that most of have spent an upwards of $100 for jeans (and many topping two or three hundred) when Levi’s cost $35. And have none of you really never dropped that much at a bar in one sitting? Give me a break – your faux-outrage is trite.

    If a notebook is used properly, it is likely something that you will hold on to for the duration of your life. When you are in your sixties, I can guarantee it will be far more rewarding to flip through those pages than it would be to try and find that old pair of RRL’s or Raleighs that surely won’t last a fraction of the time.

    Try and temper your hatred before you start furiously typing on your overpriced laptop (they have free computers at the library, anyway).

    Love the blog and keep it up, MW.

    OTC on June 4, 2010 1:19 PM:

    MW – I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed following this thread – it now has its own atmosphere. Don’t stop now…

    I’ll have to get one myself with a nice little “OTC” in the corner.

    Mike on June 4, 2010 1:36 PM:

    Now THIS is what blogging is for.

    Actually, I keep coming back to this thread to see if the number of comments tops the actual dollar amount that MW spent on the notebook.

    If it does, MW young sir, I fear that it is only right that you pay more money to have more letters gold stamped onto notebook so we can keep the monetary aspect of the whole situation in line with how many comments are on this post.

    Mike on June 4, 2010 1:39 PM:

    quick note,

    MW, please add some sort of “subscribe to follow up comments of this thread via email” feature to this post so that the gang can keep up with the goings on.

    I know there are wars on in the world and a big oil spill somewhere out West, but this post comment thread is much more important.

    Once Upon A Time on June 4, 2010 2:28 PM:

    “NOTES” backwards spells “SETON,” which sounds awfully close to “SATAN.” Coincidence? I think not.

    Jonas on June 4, 2010 2:54 PM:

    This post made me open up some desk drawers and look through some old notebooks. I kept a few of the green “memorandum” notebooks that were issued to me in the Marines and went back to have a look through them.
    What memories.
    Huey Helicopter maintenance specs and adjustments, girls phone numbers, Flight information, Parts requests, many “to-do” lists, and on the front page written in his own writing is the home address for Ssgt Tommy Fields of the Army’s 160th SOAR whom I met at a military course in Arizona (we both grew up in Maine). He was Michael Durrants Crewchief and was killed in the now famous Blackhawk Down incident in Mogadishu a few months later.

    So the message to me is, that it maters not so much what you pay for your notebook, but what you put in it after you get it.

    I like those rite-in-the-rain notebooks. And they are made in Tacoma, Washington.

    Mike on June 4, 2010 3:14 PM:

    Rite in the rain are awesome notebooks. I recently ordered some “Alwych” notebooks from England. Love the cover feel and the blue page edges.


    After trying many types, these beauties are well worth waiting for.


    Ancient Industries on June 4, 2010 3:25 PM:

    A short note on Mrs Cameron: We love Smythsons, but we are a little bit wary of Mrs Cameron’s creative input. The fonts within were, until recently, a classic unobtrusive serif, complimented with a dash of Gill Sans. A full stop was, until this year, added to the end of the date on the cover of the diaries. The full stop made no sense but it was a quirk of Smythson that we appreciated. We hope that Mrs Cameron will not be removing the perforated corners next.

    ray on June 4, 2010 3:49 PM:

    smythson is a great brand. while i myself do not write in notebooks, this would be a lovely choice.

    Loopy on June 4, 2010 9:15 PM:

    Derek = poor.

    Matt on June 4, 2010 10:45 PM:

    How about “just” getting the Field Notes stuff?

    blues on June 5, 2010 3:19 PM:

    As long as a notebook has paper, it’s fine by me.

    twoShay on June 6, 2010 4:40 AM:

    I’m just surprised that no one has pointed out the contrast between the finely made notebook and the cheap ass piece of wood that it sits on.

    Tintin on June 6, 2010 11:16 AM:

    Jonas- I a couple of those green memo notebooks that I snagged in the army. One notebook has 1/50,000 grid coordinates for Ft Bragg and the next page has my class schedule at the college I went to on the GI Bill after I got out.

    The army notebook ends with plenty of pages to go butactivity is picked up again in Orange Park Ranger pocket notebooks that were issued by the National Park Service for fire fighting. Sometimes you don’t know what you got til someone else reminds you. Thanks for the reminder.

    Dennis Cahlo on June 6, 2010 4:58 PM:

    This is the funniest comment thread on this blog (I think someone just wrote that…whatever…I’m late).

    It is a lovely notebook, Michael, even if it goes against every cheapist bone in my being. I always find that different perspectives is what makes the world go round. I’m poor. You are a little better off. Doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from this blog, though.

    As a shameless plug, I have a post coming up this Friday that I think you will like. Whilst on vacation I came across a Saturday Evening Post from 1960 and shot as many photos of the content as I could. Out of all the bloggers I have come across I think you may appreciate them most of all.

    Take care you $109 notebook purchasing bastard (that was a joke),

    Larry on June 6, 2010 5:11 PM:

    I have a bunch of the Smythson Panama Notes and the smaller version Wafer Notes. Just try tearing a page out (carefully) and its near impossible. The paper itself is very special feather weight. Fountain pen inks do not bleed through at all. The leatherwork of the cover is peerless in my opinion. I could do without the brand history printed on the inside of the back cover. Buy a fountain pen and a few nice inks and you will be in heaven with the Smythson.

    Jonas on June 6, 2010 7:20 PM:

    Ft Bragg grid coordinates… Reminds me of some advice given to me by my elders: You will find Jesus during “the trek”, stay away from the dog pound, dont be late, dont be light, dont be lost.

    I just wish they were issuing Rolexes back then. Hell, I would have bought one at the PX maybe a pair if they were only $200 a squirt.

    My junker Nautica watch needs to be replaced NOW!

    matt on June 7, 2010 10:25 AM:

    Dig this interesting observation about Smythson and the cult of notebooks from the Guardian.


    ita darling on June 7, 2010 5:33 PM:

    oh my goodness, paper products can make me weak in the knees… i compulsively buy paper notebooky paper things and line my secret office-in-a-closet shelves with near empty ones… the smythson is of course a anglophillic grail of note writing… i can wax poetic about different points in my life where my obsession was rhodia, moleskine, marie papier, miquelrius. the pages have everything from shopping lists, personal goals, daily to dos, quotes, contacts, phone numbers and business cards stashed between the pages.. i say use your smythson for all of the above and more- memories and prudence be damned.

    Jonathan on June 7, 2010 7:42 PM:

    Mores aside, it’s idiotic to pay someone $13 per letter to stamp your notebooks and shove some gold leaf in the holes. There’s nothing special about this notebook, except for the fact that saps are paying the stamper’s mortgage at an alarming rate. It’s as bad as paying $6 for a fountain drink at a baseball park.

    Thomas on June 7, 2010 7:50 PM:

    Derek – you are bad at the internets. Very bad.

    angelo on June 7, 2010 7:59 PM:

    I rarely agree with MW, but by not having children, he is in fact limiting future consumption immeasurably. Furthermore, the blogosphere seems decidedly nice and lacking in ego lately, so I may be coming back around to ACL.

    This comment thread is not yet as good as the comments section on the Jake Davis/Jeremy Kirkland test shot.

    Derek on June 7, 2010 8:08 PM:

    It’s not about limiting consumption. It’s about being conscious of how you spend your money. The argument is incredibly simple – when we buy things, we make choices. In a world where there is a, I believe, a moral imperative to help others, isn’t it a bit perverse to spend $100 on a notebook? I mean, surely people here have some moral limit. If some guy stepped over a homeless man and then went to a bathroom where he paid $1,000,000 to wipe his ass with gold toilet paper, we would call that a bit unethical. It’s not that hard of an argument.

    There are too many retarded comments above for me to respond to, but some of your readers should check out Peter Singer.

    Though, frankly, I have a pretty strong feeling that people who visit this blog like collecting books and displaying them as objects than they do reading them. Just a hunch.

    Derek on June 7, 2010 8:10 PM:

    The argument, in full:


    I challenge anyone to actually read that and post a thoughtful response.

    Terry on June 7, 2010 8:16 PM:

    While I disdain lined notebooks, this is particularly nice (for a lined notebook).

    My envy lies less in the notebook itself than it does in the fact that you (presumably) write nicely enough to justify dropping a little change on a very nice one. In addition to having godawful handwriting to begin with, I’m a southpaw (so I drag my hand across the newly-laid ink, smudging it as I go).

    So I splurge on $20 quick-dry pens. That’s at least a drowning baby-arm.

    Something something flamewar. Oh, I do have a moleskine, too, but I got it at a consignment shop for like $4. It isn’t monogrammed, but now I want to go “borrow” a gold paint marker and make it so. That would be klassy. With a k.

    Enjoy the notebook. And the lovely antique bureau upon which it rests.

    mike on June 7, 2010 8:29 PM:

    That gold toilet paper, is it Smythsons featherweight paper?

    Also, I guess some of the poor people use the internets in the local library as this comment thread was a little quiet over the weekend and suddenly it’s heating up again! Yay!

    mbroker on June 7, 2010 8:41 PM:

    I have a notebook and I have no clue what to write it it, what do people put in these things?

    BTW, MW- great notebook. I love how people justify spending money. Next Greg D ( and others) are going to say that spending $300 on shoes is stupid because they can get flip-flops for $10 or my jeans shouldnt cost $200 because they can get a cheaper pair elsewhere.

    Gawd I hate liberal f@cks like these guys.

    megan on June 7, 2010 9:42 PM:

    But, what if the drowning baby that you save grows up to buy $109 notebooks????

    Zack on June 7, 2010 11:25 PM:

    I just read through this thread. Perhaps it’s good to be able to laugh about this stuff, but at the same time spending $109 on a notebook is spending $109 on a notebook. It doesn’t matter if drinks are more expensive….that just means the drinks are too expensive too. If dropping that kind of money on a pad of paper (with gold lettering on the front) doesn’t at least make us pause, then perhaps our perspectives are a bit out of whack.
    Sure we can crack a joke or shift the view to justify it, but fact of the matter is that that’s a lot of money to spend on writing paper. Fact of the matter is that that money probably could go to better use. It’s funny how everyone got so defensive, if you’re in the right then why do you feel such a need to defend yourselves?
    Michael, I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, but after reading some of this and after seeing your wise-crack on your latest post that referred this this thread, I’ve lost a lot of respect for you. Let’s get some junk in perspective. And don’t say that this blog isn’t the place to talk about morals. Some of your postings have been on morality, but I guess that’s the difference, they were your postings on the morals that you wanted to talk about.

    Mike on June 8, 2010 12:38 AM:

    I don’t think anyone started off the other direction part of this thread purely on the basis of justifying the purchase. I wouldn’t spend $109 on a notebook and that’s just through personal choice. Sure I have probably spent twice that in thrift shops where I have bought 2$ items over the years that I never wear, is that any better?

    From the thread history, I think that where it started to go downhill was simply due to the fact that one minute MW made a joke about how much he “actually” paid for the notebook and next minute a reader is commenting about African countries. He set himself up really.

    I read ACL because it’s escapism. Like Biggles and all the other schoolboy adventures stories that us blokes now have turned into dreaming of hand crafted shoes and finding that vintage whatever. It’s personal discovery and you know what, if it means enjoying someone else’s notebook purchase and discussing what we use to write our thoughts in then that’s what this blog is for.

    I don’t want to sound like some elitist ass-kissing buddy buddy of MW, but if you come onto a blog like this where maybe a small percentage of the monthly 300,000 readers obviously appreciate the content is on this site, and then instantly go off on some tirade about African GDP, then don’t be surprised if the readers pull up their pants round their armpits, pull on some boxing gloves and give you a jolly good ass kicking.

    Tom on June 8, 2010 1:25 AM:

    Derek – like a lot of people, you don’t get how money works.

    It doesn’t change anything for better or worse if he spent $109,000 for the notebook. It’s just an exchange between two people. No value was created or destroyed. The $109 that was in his bank account yesterday is now in the other guy’s bank account.

    What the $109 was traded for makes no difference to Burkinabe strangers.

    Ed the First on June 8, 2010 4:22 AM:

    Vis a vis the whole $1,000,000 dollar toilet business (or “lavatory”, as I should say while we’re within earshot of Smythsons), I think Dererk’s perspective rests on the assumption that the money you spend on you toilet/loo roll/notebook would otherwise be given to charity, so by spending it on yourself you’re depriving the people whom your money would otherwise have helped.

    So it comes down to proportion. If you happen to be a multimillionaire, you can happily spend $109 on a notebook, $300 on a pair of shoes and $500,000 on a nice flat and still have money to give away. The problem only arises if your income is low enough to mean that these purchases leave you with nothing “for the poor”. Thus, you could say it’s wrong for a man of moderate means to spend huge sums on luxury notebooks, but not for Bill Gates to do the same. I don’t know whether MW sleeps on a pile of gold coins or in a cardboard box, so I can’t comment on whether I think he’s spending too large a proportion of his cash on this stuff, and anyway it’s none of my, or anyone else’s, business how he chooses to spend his own money.

    All of which disregards the question of tax. If you pay tax then many people would say you were already doing your bit, as you’re giving away 20 or 40% of your income before you even begin to think about your own wants (those percentages are British tax rates, alas I don’t know the US ones). So you’re free to do whatever you damn well please with what’s left.

    Mike on June 8, 2010 7:52 AM:

    here, here

    tyler on June 8, 2010 9:12 AM:

    Eff that. Your money is your money. This is the land of opportunity, not the land of privilege. I have no obligation to give money to the poor. I already do that through welfare and other social programs that benefit people who do not deserve it. Healthcare is also a right, not a privilege. I don’t know when we as a society decided that no one should have to work for anything; it should just be given because they were born here or snuck in.

    All ranting aside (these liberal jerks make my head almost explode)… $109 on a notebook is f*cking ridiculous. What benefit does it provide over a $15 moleskin or a $3 drug store notebook? It is not as if it is a piece of high end clothing, where the skill of tailoring the piece is part of the price, etc.

    Mike on June 8, 2010 10:46 AM:

    I think in closing, we should all club together, buy a Smythson $109 notebook and then transcribe this entire comment thread into that notebook and then send it off to the Smithsonian institute, MOMA or some other timeless museum as a work of art.

    We could all make a fortune and would be better off than we started (perhaps the poor could be thrown a few cents)

    Hell, modern artist crap on canvas and sell it for millions!!

    Ben on June 8, 2010 12:34 PM:

    I’d have spent the money on a bookbinding class and make my own… Lots of them.

    Dave on June 8, 2010 5:28 PM:

    My thoughts on this thread:
    1. Best ever
    2. Surely the good MW has done in the world by creating this site has earned him a $109 indulgence
    3. Would anyone here be as terrified to own one as I would? For me, it would be a really expensive way of inducing writer’s block
    3. Derek – what enjoyment could you possibly be deriving from making pronouncements to a group as obsessed with aesthetics as this one? Must feel a bit like reading Shakespeare to a horse

    Mike on June 8, 2010 6:38 PM:

    MW tell us that all this comment traffic has been a good thing for your business, and then at least we’ll know that some monetary profit does in fact, come from social media.

    Murph on June 8, 2010 7:06 PM:

    I love this blog. Though, that doesn’t mean Derek is wrong. I think most of us are uncomfortable with giving it all much thought. And if we do we’re even more uncomfortable with what we find. I agree this is the best thread yet.

    Andrew M on June 9, 2010 1:43 AM:

    This thread is the best only because it proves that the ACL reader demographic includes either A) anarcho wingnut inexplicably on internet, reading ACL, or B) current liberal arts college student age 20, i.e. someone still wearing cargos and figuring out which deodorant they like. Whole new territory for the ACL marketeers!
    Besides all that, the notebook looks beautiful and I think it’s well worth it to spend any amount of money on things you really like and take pleasure in. Some people buy really fancy wine but wear cheapie flip flops, or put all their money in their car and eat mostly fast food. It’s a give and take.
    So yeah, dead babies and GNP indexes aside, nice notebook.

    Ryder on June 9, 2010 1:58 AM:

    Echoing the best comments thread on ACL ever above as well as pointing out this: a) $109 in notebook money does not equal $109 benefit to some destitute person in a far off land. To use Haiti as an example of long suffering people their quality of life has been steadily decreasing for decades. Every year all manner of wealthy countries, all of which I’m sure who could afford to give more than they do give more none the less. The uptick in money hasn’t solved their problems and if you have a better idea of what to do to help poor people than the last 50 years of numerous charitable organizations I’m sure there’s a future in that sort of thing for you.

    Murph on June 9, 2010 1:48 PM:

    Actually, I think this thread is the best because it proves Derek struck a chord. Also, trying to frame this in terms of “liberal” and “conservative” is par for the course. What ever happened to good ol’common sense.

    mjking on June 10, 2010 10:02 AM:

    I agree with Derek. I think his example of a life in Burkina Faso worked to highlight the question of how we spend our money. It is clunky in that I doubt there are many who feel any responsibility for individuals who live there.

    But the facts are that other people exist. The way we spend our money matters. Do I have instructions as to how you should spend your money? No, but I think that these are true for this world.

    I am grateful for the comments in this thread because they helped me to reflect on this site. I have checked it probably daily for about the last year. I see now that I was attracted to the ethos suggested by the sturdy clothes and goods and the old-time pictures of people like those in the Forest Service.

    But, if I understand his job correctly, Mr. Williams is an advertising man and this site is in harmony with his profession. It’s not about how one would practice a life of honesty, hard work, sturdiness and respect. It’s about the trappings of a life like that.

    I have not seen anything on the site that leads me to believe that there is anything dishonest going on. On this site, I’ve never seen a profession of the best life to live, orders or instructions on how to go about it.

    It’s about a look, not about living. Unless the goal is to inhabit that look.


    JD on June 10, 2010 11:22 AM:
    Mike on June 10, 2010 1:27 PM:

    The $109 notebook is now so yesterday

    Mike on June 10, 2010 3:49 PM:

    Derek is a shithead

    Derek on June 11, 2010 1:22 AM:

    I’m a shithead?

    I admit that I haven’t been as tactful or polite as I should be on this blog, and for that I apologize; but how am I a shithead?

    Let’s recap:

    I suggested that buying a 109 dollar notebook is wasteful and unethical because the same amount of money could really improve the life of someone in a poor country. You can go to kiva.org to lend it directly to someone in a poor country, in fact. If you lent or donated it, someone in a poor country could start his or her own business or prevent their child from getting malaria. If you bought a notebook — well, you’d just have a bunch of papers bounded together.

    I said this trade-off was analogous to walking by a pond and seeing a drowning baby and deciding that one would rather keep their shiny shoes clean rather than jump in and save the baby. The only difference here is that we don’t see the poor people in other countries, but that doesn’t make the ethical obligations we have any less important. I also linked Peter Singer’s article, which originally made this argument back in 1972.

    Then a bunch of people brought up things about how they forsake spending money on some other absurd item; that they have a right to spend money however they wish; that they already pay taxes; and suggested that I don’t do enough myself either. Many others just resorted to really immature and cheap mocking.

    How does that not make the other people assholes/ shitheads? To the first, it’s just stupid since the reply would obviously be “well then don’t spend money on either absurd item and lend it out to a poor person in a very poor country so they can have a home instead.” To the second, you haven’t answered why then it’s not unethical for someone to walk by a drowning baby in order to have nice shoes. To the third, the US spends a ridiculously small percentage of its tax revenues on foreign aid, and in fact spends most of it on the military. And to the fourth, I’m a graduate student studying political economy and development. I work on economic development issues, so I’m doing a little bit of my part, but yes, I completely agree, I don’t do as much as I could. But I also don’t drop $109 on notebooks.

    Wouldn’t mocking the person who says we should forsake $109 notebooks in order to help 109 people note get malaria (net cost about $1) make those other people shitheads?

    To Michael, so much of this blog is about values and morality. I’ve been drawn to this blog not only in part because you have great aesthetic taste, but also because you implicitly draw on values and morals I believe in — self sacrifice, sense of responsibility, appreciation for the laboring man and his craft (and hence appreciation for people), etc. There’s a ton of moralizing on this blog. I’m just disappointed that 1) the natural connection between this ethics to the one that regards shaving a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of American wealth and privilege in order to help others abroad (who just happen to lose the birth lottery and were born in the wrong country) wasn’t made and 2) that you and your readers think it’s better to make really unclever jeers than to engage in a serious conversation.

    I feel cheated; where ACL seems to value old world sensibilities, a world that valued books and discussions about American morality and responsibilities, Michael and most of his readers have neither taken the time to read the link I posted or reply to my comments in a serious and intellectual way. I also feel that the old world morality appeal of this blog is completely superficial. Michael, you sell all this stuff, but it’s completely for shallow aesthetic. As time marches on, social ethics have become more and more selfish, individualistic, and anti-intellectual . . . this blog is apparently all that but with just a different covering.

    This is my last post, as I’ve said all I’ve had to say. My apologies to everyone who had to see the poor side of me come out when I got really angry earlier. I didn’t like how my post was responded to, but I shouldn’t have responded the way I did.

    Good night to everyone.

    Mike on June 11, 2010 10:06 PM:

    I would like to note that there is another “Mike” commenting and my last comment was re. the $109 notebook being so yesterday.

    Mike + shithead = wasn’t me


    Riazm on June 12, 2010 6:53 PM:

    I say this sincerely; Derek is the last sane man on the internet.

    Amory Blaine on June 13, 2010 11:23 PM:

    As much as it makes me cringe to have someone yelping about how great their $109 notebook is, and really truly wondering if you have anything very interesting to write in it besides what kind of marketing strategies you’re cooking up, I am struck by one other thought that, of course, pales in comparison to ethics and third-world nations’ GDPs.

    It is this: how thoroughly unoriginal.

    I think this community of folks is more engaged with the unusual, the unique, the one-of-a-kind, the makeshift, jerry-built, and jury-rigged, and in that light a piece of overpriced, however excellent, foppery is highly offensive and should be seen as a lapse in character.

    I would love to keep my notes in such an elegant book, but if I had the means to do so you can trust that I would not be brandishing it as you have here.

    You are at times, in a word, disgusting.

    Amory Blaine on June 13, 2010 11:26 PM:

    Thank you, Derek.

    dan on June 15, 2010 11:52 AM:

    Hi folks.
    Does anyone realise that it isn’nt what note book you write in, but what knowledge that goes in it that counts? ‘ If a rose was not called a rose by the name a rose, would it still not smell the same?’
    If Shakespear\Oscar Wilde\ Socrates\ Darwin et all had been using expensive or non-expensive notebooks, would the material have changed?
    Social commentary is not ‘riding on a high horse’, or about libertarian vs conservative doctrines. It is there to reign in on our values and common sense through human vitues like empathy and love.
    I’m very much pro choice, BUT there is a need to curb obstentation and conspicuous cvonsumption in our world. It is in a word gluttony.
    It is a shame that some of the commentors on the above posts have missed this point, and worse still, they have resulted in name calling.
    Very Juvenile.

    Kader on July 1, 2010 9:26 AM:

    I am from Burkina Faso and came to the US to be afforded the opportunity buy $109 notebooks. Derek, you are my arch nemesis.

    RM on July 1, 2010 3:20 PM:

    That’s great stuff. I decided to kill two birds with one stone myself, with my latest being the Portobello diary and before that, the Soho one. It includes a thick Notes section at the end that I barely finish within the course of a calendar year. Therefore, I’m able to condense all my thoughts and my schedule in just one book. The London/New York/general reference sections in the front are a bonus especially for people with residences in those cities. But those are more like desk books; or rather, you need an attaché case, and not just a jacket, to carry them around. At least you can carry yours around.

    The fountain pen bleed is better when you’re writing outlines or with a continuous flow versus, say, prose that you “edit as you write.”

    As for the question of stationery provenance, of course with Moleskine you have Picasso and Hemingway and with Smythson you have the royalty of various Commonwealth countries. Though one company whose founding predates Smythson is Prantl, and they have Thomas Mann, Richard Strauss, and Royal Bavarians & Austrians.

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