The Demise Of The Pen Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

I am as digitally entrenched as anyone I know. I work in IT, read all the tech news, buy the latest gadgets and apps, and am the neighborhood tech support guy. I love the digital world, but pen and paper are, and will always be, a huge part of my life.

My Twitter feed blew up tonight with links to a New York Times article by Nick Bilton titled "Fare Thee Well, My Pen." Mr. Bilton, it seems, is in love with his finger:

Unlike pens, fingers don’t run out of ink, they’re free and you always have one with you. I use mine to take notes on my phone, highlight books on my Kindle and draw pictures on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about losing this work because, unlike a piece of paper, my digital notes live in perpetuity online.

I, too, use my fingers quite frequently. They are pecking away at a keyboard typing up this post as a matter of fact. And yes, I would be sad if all of my digital notes up and vanished one day. But this digital form of expression is nothing compared to putting pen to paper.

Writing is more personal. It's more passionate. There is more meaning behind it. Writing a daily journal entry is cathartic. Sending a handwritten letter shows how much you care. I find it sad that Mr. Bilton's girlfriend will never find a handwritten love letter on her pillow. Maybe he can send her an email.

From a business perspective, he writes:

Not surprisingly, some pen makers have seen declines in the United States, including Bic, the maker of those iconic plastic disposable pens, which said sales of pens fell slightly last year.

Any reader of this blog needs only one guess as to why Bic's sales are down. Let me enlighten Nick: They make a bad product. There is a reason Microsoft is laying off thousands of people this week. Consumers vote with their wallets, and like Microsoft, Bic has lost touch with what consumers want.

My evidence is purely anecdotal, but from where I sit, the pen and paper industry is as strong as ever, especially for those willing to innovate. Yes, the traditional brick and mortar store has seen a huge decline, but that is not a problem limited to the pen industry. Online retailers are thriving more than ever, pen communities like this and others continue to grow, and new pen and paper addicts are being created daily.

Drew Magary, closet pen junkie, breaks down the entire Bilton article hilariously in a piece called "Asshole Cannot Find Pen; Writes Entire NYT Trend Piece About It", which is worth a few giggles.

I feel sad for Nick Bilton that he will not get to experience the joys of pen and paper for the rest of his life. Maybe I should send him a care package - with a hand written letter.

Posted on July 24, 2014 .

Noodler's Turquoise Ink Review

As I continue down the long and winding road of fountain pen inks, I'm learning that I actually enjoy trying new inks more than pens at this point in my journey. The good news is, there are hundreds (thousands?) of different, unique inks to try. The bad news is, well, there are hundreds of different, unique inks to try. So, as long as I ignore the part of this journey that involves paying for inks, it's a win-win situation. Tired of a pen you've had for a while? Find a new exciting ink for it. It's instantly a new pen (almost).

The latest ink that has landed in my daily rotation is Noodler's Turquoise. This is another ink from the awesome Joe Lebo – thanks Joe! He really does have great taste.

Noodler's Turquoise is a classy, interesting blue-green ink that delights me every time I use it. To the unknowing eye, you might think it's a black or dark blue on first glance. But, on second glance, you notice the green lying on top of that dark blue foundation. And after looking closer, you spy just a touch of shading in certain letters. It's turquoise! This is what keeps bringing me back to this ink. You can use it every day because it isn't wild, but it's still really interesting and adds some flair to the every day carry.

When you get down to it, this is a great ink. It's well-behaved, has nice writing qualities, and looks great. My main caution is for the left-handed writers. This is a slow-drying ink. I've definitely smudged a lot of writing while using this ink, and I'm right-handed. Fair warning.

That said, it hasn't stopped me from filling the ink into pens again and again. It's a new favorite.

The ink is saturated and a bit on the wet side, but not very. I never have any skipping or starting issues with it, and it keeps up with my fastest writing, scribbling, and doodling.

There's a tiny bit of shading when writing quickly with a small nib – XF to M. Wider, specialty nibs really bring out the personality of this ink. I only have a calligraphy nib (2.0mm!), but I know that this ink would be great in a small stub. I need to get one of those pronto. Despite my terrible attempt at some form of fancy script in the title, you can see some of the shading aspects from the wide 2.0mm nib I used.

This ink does not like cheap paper. It bleeds and feathers like crazy on cheap notebook paper and copy paper.

Lastly, there's a small amount of sheen to the ink that also adds personality. It's a very small amount, and absorbant papers pretty much remove all sheen, but it's great when it works.

I've never really settled on a real-life example for this ink color, but I keep coming back to something like the ocean on certain days. It's a dark blue with green swimming around in the dark depths. Maybe it's just me, but I like to get lost in colors like this. It's a favorite, and I'll be buying my own bottle soon, along with a stub-nib pen.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and App.net.)

Noodlers Turquoise Review.jpg
Posted on July 23, 2014 and filed under Noodler's Ink, Ink Reviews.

Pilot Vanishing Point Gun Metal Black Matte Fountain Pen Review

I didn't need another Pilot Vanishing Point. I already had two: the famed Black Matte, which became one of the "pens who shall not be named" on the podcast, and a retro Black Faceted model, which is a mainstay of my collection. So why did I NEED this new Gun Metal Black Matte Vanishing Point? I rarely need any new pen, but this one I had to have.

It took a while for me to get on the Gun Metal bandwagon. I wasn't sure of the color scheme at first, but after seeing multiple pictures of it and checking it out in person I went for it. The barrel is slightly different than the full black matte version, with the grey area being smooth as opposed to a satiny matte feel, which is reserved for the tip, clip, middle band, and knock. It's quite a stunning look, especially in person.

It also sports one of the recently introduced black nib units, which I am in love with. I went for the EF nib, which is ridiculously small, even for me. I never recommend this size to anyone but I love it. Paired with a well lubricated ink like Sailor Nano Black, this nib writes wonderfully smooth and consistent. But boy is it fine. You really need to manage your writing angle with this one to make sure you are hitting the sweet spot.

Many people have asked what fountain pen best compares to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3 mm/0.4 mm gel ink pens. Pilot's EF nibs, as found in the Penmanship (which can be swapped into the Metropolitan or Prera) and the Vanishing Point, are the closest I have found. Looking at the writing sample in my Field Notes it is closest to the 0.28 mm Uni-ball Signo DX and 0.3 mm Hi-Tec-C, so that seems like a good range. Ink and paper will cause this to vary of course.

But back to this whole idea of needing this pen. Although yes, I got this pen for free as part of my JetPens sponsorship, I still couldn't justify it without selling one of my current Vanishing Points. I didn't see myself actively using two similar pens, so my trusty black matte VP, one of my first big fountain pen purchases, has found a new home. More than any other fountain pen I own, the Vanishing Point is made to be used, anywhere and everywhere. That is this pens job, so having one sitting around collecting dust would be doing it a disservice.

My friend Mel found the words I was struggling to find about my Field Notes Butcher Orange, and it applies here too: "By using it, it is now truly yours and you've fulfilled its purpose." Words to live by.

(JetPens is an advertiser on The Pen Addict and I received this product at no charge.)

Posted on July 21, 2014 and filed under Pen Reviews, Pilot, Vanishing Point, Fountain Pens.

Ink Links

-- What’s the best everyday pencil? (All Things Stationery)

-- Review: Pen & Ink Pocket Sketchbook (The Well-Appointed Desk)

-- TWSBI Micarta V2 (inklode)

-- Staedtler Noris Stylus Pencil (The Pencilcase Blog)

-- Melissa Gira Grant (The Setup)

-- Context (Crónicas Estilográficas)

-- Review: Sheaffer Balance (Alt. Haven)

-- Uni-Ball 5 Roller Ball Pen Review (THE UNROYAL WARRANT)

-- The Amazing Vanishing Point (Pen Pursuit)

-- Sterling Plastic #526 Roll Top Pencil Box (My Supply Room)

-- Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen review (Peninkcillin)

-- Parker Duofold Centennial in Gold Godron (mycoffeepot.org)

-- Epic ink test - three months in (Fountain Pen Physicist)

-- Pencil Review: Grumbacher Sketching 4B and Charcoal Pencils (A Penchant for Paper)

-- Pilot Acroball PureWhite (The Pen Hunter)

-- Bic 4 Color Metallic Multi Pen (Office Supply Geek)

-- Lamy Safari (The Newsprint)

-- A caped crusader…Italian style (And All Other Tasks)

-- Review: Caran D’ache Chromatics INKredible Colors Delicate Green (The Well-Appointed Desk)

-- Pocket Department Notebooks, reviewed (Woodclinched)

-- Pen Review: Sailor Professional Gear Imperial Black Edition (The Gentleman Stationer)

-- Ink Notes: Pelikan Edelstein Aventurine Cartridge (Fountain Pen Quest)

-- Always Open To The Possibility Of Writing (The Cramped)

-- Big Idea Design – XTS Raw Titanium Pen + Stylus Review (My Pen Needs Ink)

-- Kaweco AC-Sport fountain pen review (Pens! Paper! Pencils!)

-- Pen Review: Parker IM (The Pen Habit)

-- The Pilot Knight Fountain Pen (The Pen Hunter)

-- The 5-in-1 Staedtler Pencil for Paper and Tablets 2014 (Selectism)

-- Pilot Capless Fermo Retractable Fountain Pen - F Nib (The Clicky Post)

-- Pilot Metropolitan White Tiger Fine (The Frugal Fountain Pen)

Posted on July 19, 2014 and filed under Links.

Platinum Blue Black Ink Review

Platinum Blue Black is an ink I should have loved right out the gate, but it has taken me some time to come to grips with it. There is nothing inherently wrong with the ink. It flows well, dries fast, has some shading, and is a nice color. But it's not a blue black, and that bothered me more than it should.

Do you ever get hung up on something silly like that? I'm my own worst enemy when it comes down to the minutia of things. I've talked about my eye-opening experience with tip sizes recently and the enjoyment I am getting from branching out. I need to apply that type of thinking more often.

Like in the case of Platinum Blue Black. Despite high recommendations, I have barked about it in the past about not being a blue black ink, but almost a traditional blue or even royal blue instead. I don't even consider it a dark blue. But does it matter? If you ask me for a blue black ink recommendation I'll never mention this one but if you ask me for a good blue ink it ranks pretty highly for all of those reasons I stated in the first paragraph.

In fact, once I got over being a dummy about this ink I have committed to using it full time. In cartridge form. In my Kikyo Blue Nakaya Piccolo. Call me insane, but it seems like a perfect fit and I have been enjoying this combo for a month now, with no end in sight.

(JetPens is an advertiser on The Pen Addict and I received this product at no charge.)

Posted on July 18, 2014 and filed under Ink Reviews, Platinum.