Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I enjoy using both Field Notes and Doane Paper Memo books. They are handy, well-made notebooks that fit very comfortably in a shirt pocket. They are similar in many ways, yet each has certain distinctions that I will address in this review. Let me say up front, there is no loser in this comparison. These are both fine products that will serve well. I like and use both of them in a myriad ways: task lists, mileage log, phone log, random ideas, etc. Still, the differences in terms of style and function are worth noting, so here goes.
First, the similarities - both memo books are 3.5 x 5.5 inches in size and contain 48 memo pages. Both utilize three-staple saddle-stitch binding with durable flexible covers. Both come in three packs for about $10. And, both are made in the USA! (Click on the links above for more product details.)
For all their similarities, there are some distinct differences. Field Notes brand offers three paper options: ruled, grid and plain. You can also opt to purchase a mixed pack that includes all three. The cover is tan (other color covers are available such as orange and blue, but quantities are limited) and includes some interesting and helpful printing on the inside covers - a place to add your name, address, etc., contact info to offer a reward if lost (or not!) a small printed ruler, and a list of "practical applications" that range from "to-do" lists to your last will and testament. The Doane Paper Memo Book, by contrast, offers only one paper option, but it's a good one! Doane's clever ruled + grid paper is included - some of the nicest writing paper available, in my opinion. It has bold blue horizontal lines with faint but legible blue vertical lines for the grid. The Field Notes paper is good, but not of the same quality or weight as the Doane Paper. I do like the tan grid lines which complement the look of the Field Notes tan cover. Field Notes also provides some nice freebies when you order - I received a pen and pencil, a nice touch!
I suppose the deciding factors are functionality and style. The Doane Paper Memo Book has a slight edge if one wishes to use a Fountain Pen. The heavier Doane paper is less prone to ink bleed-through than the Field Notes. However, the heavier paper makes the Doane Memo Book "springier." It does not stay closed as easily as the Field Notes (an issue easily corrected with a clip). I like how the Field Notes memo book tends to open flatter when writing. I understand that Doane Paper is using a more flexible 60# stock in their newest batch, as opposed to the 80# stock used in the one I tested - still heavier than the 50# paper in the Field Notes. I find I prefer the tan cover of the Field Notes to the black cover of the Doane. It's easy to write on the tan cover to identify the contents. On the Doane, one can write on the white inner cover, but the black does not lend itself to easy labeling.
As to style, I could see Indiana Jones reaching for a dusty and battered Field Notes memo book, jotting some quick notes with a pencil stub before rushing off on his latest quest. In contrast, I could easily see James Bond pull a Doane Paper Memo Book from the inside pocket of his tux, a combination Mont Blanc pen / laser in hand as he writes down the phone number of an attractive woman. But that's just my impression. In my more mundane world, I use them both. They are practical, durable, affordable and gosh-darn it, they're kind of cute too! Sure there are other options - the Moleskine Cahier or the Rhodia version. But I really like the two I've reviewed here. Maybe it's because they're made in the good 'ol USA. Maybe because the people behind them are passionate about their products. Maybe because both companies have cool websites. My advice? Buy a 3 pack of both - you won't regret it!