If you read books at all (and I mean even if you read just a little) you should consider keeping a commonplace book. I am writing a series of articles about commonplace books and this is the sixth and final article in the series, which highlights a number of products that can come in handy when keeping a commonplace book.
If you are just getting into this series with this article, I suggest you start at the beginning of the series and work your way through:
- Commonplace Books Part 1: What Are They?
- Commonplace Books Part 2: Why Keep One and How?
- Commonplace Books Part 3: Choosing a System
- Commonplace Books Part 4: My Setup Using Ulysses
- Commonplace Books Part 5: Automation
If you have read my entire series of articles you know that I ultimately chose a digital system for my commonplace book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use some analog tools to compliment my main system. In fact, I am a huge proponent of using analog when doing things that are rather creative or used to stimulate new thoughts and ideas (like keeping a commonplace book). Below are just some of the products that I have come across and used to some extent over the last couple of years that I have been keeping a commonplace book. Regardless of whether you choose a digital option like I did or keep a physical notebook as your commonplace book, I think you will find these products of interest.
The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
I did a full review of the RoWrite Smart Writing Pad back in 2018 here on GeekDad. The RoWrite is worth a serious look for people who really like physically writing and sketching things on paper but also want to be able to capture that writing digitally. That’s because the RoWrite uses standard paper and pen ink in combination with a pressure sensitive pad embedded in the folio that digitizes your pen strokes. So write and sketch on paper, and then when you are done, the RoWrite app converts everything to digital and allows you to take that content and put it into the system of your choice. Check out my original review (link is above) and also check out the new RoWrite 2 which was announced at CES 2020 this year. RoWrite 2 improves upon the original by nearly halving the weight of the unit, being more flexible in its use of paper (no longer do you have to use specific pads of paper, any A5 will work), and sporting an all-new leather cover. The RoWrite 2 is set to debut here in the U.S. by the end of this month.
The RocketBook Line of Products
Another set of products worth checking out for commonplace book use is Rocketbook. Rocketbook products are similar to RoWrite in that they are based on an analog product, but integrate technology alongside so that you get the best of both worlds. The Rocketbook line of notebooks allow you to write in them and then use an app to scan and digitize the contents of the notebook (the technology relies on the dot grid embedded in the paper to digitize). You can even automate the process by circling an icon at the bottom of each page to indicate which service or destination each page should go and the app takes care of it from there. The other unique feature of Rocketbook products are that they are reusable because the pages can be erased and then re-written on and used over and over again (the erasing process varies by notebook type). Check out my original GeekDad review but also check out their latest products like the new Rocketbook Core notebook.
BOOX Line of E-Readers
Everybody has heard of Kindle but you may not be familiar with BOOX. What makes BOOX unique as an e-reader is that they are not proprietary like Kindle (they run the Android operating system), and that opens up the BOOX E-Reader to formats and apps (and therefore functionality) that just isn’t possible with a Kindle device. BOOX also offers the option in some of their devices to take handwritten notes using a stylus. So you can be reading a book on the BOOX device and on the same screen (using a split screen mode) take handwritten notes and sketches as you go and use those notes for your commonplace book. This is a really great way to stay true to analog solutions but also take advantage of digital all at the same time. If you are someone looking to get into commonplace books and are thinking about buying a Kindle, I would recommend you check out the BOOX Nova 2 as this is the device I would recommend as a more powerful alternative to a Kindle. Check out my original review on GeekDad and the new BOOX Nova 2 which retails for about $339.
Wallets by Form•Function•Form
I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 years since my review here on GeekDad on a couple of the Form•Function•Form wallets. I am still carrying the Charette wallet five years later and to look at it now you would think it was still a brand new wallet. So what makes the Form•Function•Form wallets so well suited for someone keeping a commonplace book? Several of the Form•Function•Form wallets come with both a notebook and a Fisher Space Pen built into them! Once you get into the habit of taking notes of the knowledge and wisdom you come across, you start to recognize that having the ability to pull a notebook and pen out of your pocket wherever you go is worth its weight in gold. Even for me, someone who keeps a completely digital commonplace book, I find a ton of value in being able to jot down a few notes or quotes in the notebook built into my wallet and then scanning those notes into my system later. So give the line of Form•Function•Form wallets a serious look if you are getting into commonplace books.
Not everyone wants to use a lot (or any) technology when it comes to their commonplace book and for those people I recommend taking a look at Moleskine. A few years back Anthony Karcz and I did a review of several of the notebooks in the Moleskine line. In particular, I focused on the Pro Line of notebooks but there are a ton of options from which to choose. Whether you are looking to go completely old school and stay analog or use it to augment your digital system you can’t go wrong with Moleskine.
The THINKERS notebook is another mostly analog product with a digital twist. Just like the Rocketbook notebooks, you have the ability to digitally scan in the contents of the notebook by taking advantage of a dot based background printed into the paper on each page. But a unique feature to the THINKERS notebook that is definitely advantageous for a commonplace book is the disc binding that allows you to completely remove a page from the notebook and re-insert the page anywhere you like. So you can take notes and re-organize them within other sections at a later time. I will be writing up a full review of the THINKERS notebook here on GeekDad, but in the mean time you should definitely consider the THINKERS notebook when contemplating your commonplace book system.
I hope you have enjoyed and found some utility in my series of articles about commonplace books. As I have stressed throughout the series, there is no one way to keep a commonplace book. Everyone will have their own specific needs and therefore their own processes and tastes in tools and products. Hopefully by sharing with you my tools and process (as well as a few alternatives) it has given you some ideas of how you can start keeping a commonplace book of your own. If you do it right you will find keeping a commonplace book a very enjoyable and rewarding experience that makes reading even more more fun and a lot more enlightening in the long run.
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