Field Notes Brand vs. the office supply cabinet

A recent noon hour stroll took me near a university bookstore. As a bookstore, this place is only average for casual book browsing, as it is mainly a textbook store. But they also have a small stationery shop which was stocked with a few items I’d not previously seen in person.

One item that caught my eye was the Field Notes Brand steno book. To me, Field Notes is one of those “internet sensations” that is known to stationery aficionados, but which I don’t expect to see in “real life”. So, it was a nice surprise to see a small Field Notes display in a local store. I picked up a steno pad, and thought it might be fun to compare it with a “real life” item – a steno book that I’d find back at the office.

The office supply cabinet steno book was Staples brand.

A few notes: The Field Notes steno book is 80 pages, and the Staples steno book 350 pages. The Field Notes was $9.99, and the Staples book lists for $3.73. This makes the Field Notes approximately 12 cents/page, and the Staples 1/cent page. Twelve times more expensive per page is a significant difference. Is it worth it?

Field Notes Brand steno book

The two steno books in profile:

Field Notes Brand steno book

Both books are made in the US. The Field Notes has very strong cardboard covers front and back, and the Staples has a medium strength back. The Field Notes has brown lines which nicely match the covers. The Staples has green and red lines.

Field Notes Brand steno book

Green vs. brown:

Field Notes Brand steno book

With some steno pencils:

Field Notes Brand steno book

The Field Notes paper is thicker, and one gets a sense of sturdiness. The results with graphite are similar:

Field Notes Brand steno book Field Notes Brand steno book

The Field Notes gets style points, but I wonder if it would really be the choice of anyone who just needs a steno book?

14 Replies to “Field Notes Brand vs. the office supply cabinet”

  1. Nice comparison of the two steno pads. I had used Staple’s exclusively due to the price and general quality until I started using a fountain pen last summer. Staple’s paper is very thin an ink bleeds through easily. I have since switched to other brands for pen and still use Staples for pencil and occasional gel pen. Field Notes is on my list to try. They are still less expensive than Moleskine notebooks and Moleskine have bleed-through. Thank you for the review.

  2. “I wonder if it would really be the choice of anyone who just needs a steno book?” Isn’t that the rationale that got us into this mess in the first place? We live in a world in which you can find cheap, cheap junky products, and very expensive super-premium products. Where is the in- between? I like Field Notes because of the aesthetics. One look at that awful looking Staples product and I’m ready to spend 12 cents a page.

  3. As they’re both made in the US, I’d buy the Staples steno pad over the Field Notes. I find Field Notes’s heavy-handed branding *very* off-putting, and their quality good but not great. For the price they charge, I would expect it to be better.

    I notice that the Staples pad says on its cover it has “heavyweight paper”. Does it actually state what weight it is?

  4. I love Field Notes products, though I’ve yet to buy the steno pad. I find stenos in general not especially appealing: the lines are too wide for my tiny handwriting, and the spiral binding doesn’t suggest (to me) the permanence of a saddle-stapled notebook. What do users use steno pads for (other than the more or less lost art of stenography)?

  5. I like the size of steno books: not too large, not too small. They’re great for taking notes. Cheap ones though lack the hard stiff backing, and then they’re almost useless. The Field Notes has a really strong, sturdy back, and very good paper.I haven’t tried the Staples one, but if it has a strong enough support, it looks like a good deal. I like the green tint of the Staples paper too, which is a carry-over from when stenographers used to take dictation: the green helped ease eyestrain.

  6. Oh and I forgot to mention that Field Notes also makes terrific round-barreled pencils, like the stenography ones in your photo, except they’re wood-toned. They have pretty dark lead and go really well with the steno book. They’d make an interesting topic for a review.

  7. What do I use steno pads for? For note-taking, at work (with a pencil, of course!). At home we use them for shopping lists.

    The brand I prefer is Ampad, in the green tint: nice quality, not expensive at all.

  8. Oh, one more thing: I find that the really thick steno pads–like the Staples one shown here–impede note taking. Your hand has too far to fall as you get near the edges. I think many of you might find the traditional 80 page steno book to be more comfortable to use.

  9. What are the specifics of the papers like? Weight, texture, writing feel? How well do they each take different media? Ballpoint, roller, fountain? What’s hand-stability like for each of them, as in, how well can you hold either one and write on it with no supporting surface?

  10. I’m thinking that the better value Staples would be best. As much as I love proper paper for the proper task, it does not pertain all that much to the task at hand, which is note taking. Note taking can be an art form, but not when you are doing it for business, in which case you need to work, not to work beautifully. Stenography itself is about quick, abbreviated note taking, not a long, lovingly crafted, artistically written story, correct me if I am wrong?
    I have not tried Doane Paper products, on a slightly different note, but I think they would be the perfect solution for writing notes, with their combination of notetaking lines and grid. That would be my ideal choice, but again, can’t beat the dead cheapness of Staples brands.
    One more thing, this time an irrelevant thing to my original topic for posting this: Penciladmin. I very much enjoyed your review of the Hi-Uni pencils from Mitsubishi Pencil and would love to hear more about them from you. I am considering getting some from Jetpen’s, but you undoubtedly know more about the subject of pencils than I do, so I wonder what you think about them now, as opposed to before, as people are free to change their minds. Well, peace, your blog is really cool.

  11. Nice article. I have contacted Staples about purchasing one of those pads. They tell me they don’t have that pad in their inventory. Can you provide any guidance? Thanks

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