When I first started using an iPad, stylist, and note-taking app, I thought, “No more pen and paper!” It sounded like the perfect way to avoid spending money on notebooks, and pens, and maybe even save a few trees. In fact, people were fairly excited about the new technology, and whenever they saw me using my iPad for notes, would ask what app I was using and if it worked well. Generally speaking, it was a positive reaction, and, for the most part, I felt the same way. But it didn’t take long before I ran into a few problems and concerns. After using my iPad for a few years, I’m back to using the basic pen and paper for note-taking and developing ideas, and I reserve my iPad for things like research, presentations, and sermon notes.

Let me give you six reasons why I still choose a notebook (in particular a moleskin) over my iPad for taking notes and developing ideas.

1. My Notebook Never Dies. 

My iPad has decent battery life.  In fact, I can almost go 3 days without charging it. The problem with that — there comes a time when it completely dies and it takes a while to recharge.  If I’m somewhere where I can easily plug it in, no problem. If there’s no power, however, the iPad becomes a useless device.  My basic notebook, on the other hand, is always ready to go!

2. My Notebook Never Has a Glare or Reflection.

There’s nothing worse than when you’re outside on a sunny day, trying to take notes or read notes on an iPad. Yes, there are some tricks and covers that reduce this, but it’s just something else that you need to buy and it often affects the resolution and brightness of the screen.

The only reflections in my moleskin are the words on the paper (ba-dum-ching!). Simply put, it’s just easier to write and read on real paper when you’re outside.

3. It’s Cheaper to Use a Notebook.

I remember the first time I dropped my iPad.  It was like slow motion as it left my hand and fell towards the floor.  It’s amazing how many thoughts can run through your head in such a short span!  Will the glass smash?  Will it hit the floor the right (or wrong) way?  How am I going to replace it!  My wife is going to say, ‘Told you so!’  It’s a feeling I don’t try to replicate.

Why is it such a big deal? I don’t have another $700+ to replace it.

Why do I choose to use a notebook? I’ll usually use two $24 Moleskin notebooks over the span of a year. Let’s be conservative and say an iPad will last 5 years. That means it costs $460 more to use an iPad than it does to buy 2 premium notebooks every year.  I know you use your iPad for other things too (ie. games, email…). I get it.  But it’s certainly something to think about.

And, guess what? I can drop my notebooks as much as I want!

4. Physically Writing Is More Powerful than Typing.

When I was a student, I did both.  When I started university all of my notes were handwritten.  By the time I completed my master’s degree, I was typing almost everything.

Both options certainly have their advantages. But if I’m honest, I remember more from handwriting my notes than I do if I only type them.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels that way.  Research proves that people who take handwritten notes tend to perform better.

“Because longhand notes contain students’ own words and handwriting, they may serve as more effective memory cues by recreating the context (e.g., thought processes, emotions, conclusions) as well as content (e.g., individual facts) from the original learning session.

Cindi May, “A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop,” Scientific American, June 3, 2014, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop

5. Writing Apps Aren’t Searchable — Flipping Pages is Easier.

There are indeed some great apps now that let you search previous notes.  But that usually only works if you type your notes into your iPad.  

If physically writing your notes is more profitable, the only way to do that on a tablet is by using a stylus and a writing app.  Those apps aren’t typically searchable — at least not easily anyway.

I’ve found that if I want to find a previous note, it’s just as easy to flip back through my physical notebook as it is to scroll through an app.  I date all my notes at the top corner, so it doesn’t usually take very long.  If it’s a note from a while ago, I simply go to my shelf (where I store previous notebooks) and search there.

It’s actually amazing to flip through an older notebook every now and again to see how my thoughts have progressed.  It’s quite encouraging!

6. I Simply Like a Pen and Paper.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed pen and paper.  I think it’s simply the fact that it’s tangible.  A memory sick doesn’t store my notes, or my notes aren’t locked inside of a tablet.  My notes are right before me — handwritten in my notebook.

I’m not going to lose my notes in an unfortunate computer meltdown, and I can’t accidentally delete them.  When my pen goes to paper, my notes are forever.  Yes, I could lose my notebook or forget it somewhere, but I treat each moleskin as if it holds the same value as an iPad. 

And if you are prone to misplacing things, write your name and contact info on the inside of the cover.  There’s a much better chance someone will return a notebook before they will return an iPad!

The Moleskin Notebook:

There are many different notebook options that range in size and cost, but my favorite is the 5×8.25 blank page moleskin.  There are a number of reasons why I prefer this particular notebook:

  • Moleskin notebooks are durable and have acid-free pages. That means the paper won’t discolor and fade over time.
  • I prefer blank pages over ruled ones. Lines imply writing, while open space allows for creativity! I don’t really want to stay ‘in the lines’ if I want to encourage creative and critical thinking.
  • The size is perfect.  It’s actually the same size as my Bible, so I can easily carry both together. 

The Sharpie Pen:

Again, there are so many different pens that someone can use.  But just like I’m pretty particular over which notebook I use, I’m also particular over my pens.  I use a sharpie pen for a number of reasons:

  • Sharpie pens have a quick-drying ink that is acid-free (which partners will with the acid-free moleskin)
  • They write smoothly and keep consistent lines.
  • Sharpie pens come in a number of different colors which is very helpful in note-taking. Specifically when making adjustments and corrections later. 
  • They have bold colours but don’t bleed through pages easily.  This is particularly useful for writing on thin Bible pages.

At the end of the day, however, whatever pen and notebook you choose will come down to your preference.

Happy writing!