Mini-ETP Notebook Update: Surveymonkey Says…

I received a total of 114 responses via SurveyMonkey yesterday, and have submitted an RFQ based on my findings to Papergraphics, my local printer in Merrimack, NH.

My current thinking and survey analysis follows!

The Current Specification

This is what I’m planning on making for sale in the USA on Amazon.

spec (US) value notes
Size 5.8×8.5 inches Neither A5 or Half-Letter, this size will allow one to insert a half-page (5.5×8.5) sheet into the notebook without the edge sticking out.
Binding double-wire loop Although there was a preference expressed for spiral binding, double-wire has the advantage of not having an offset when you open it flat for a cleaner look. I’ll get samples to make sure it’s not too big.
Cover vinyl A flexible but durable cover. I’ll get samples to confirm quality.
Page Count 46 pages, double-sided ETP 3 consecutive months worth. 31 + 31 + 30 days. ETP on both sides. I may include some blank cover pages for style.
Paper thicker The same paper as other printed ETP pads on Amazon USA. It can take my Lamy fountain pen medium cartridge ink without showing through (unless I go over the same line 3-4 times with the intent to maim)
Blanks front / back A blank page each at the front and the back, of different paper stock TBD, so there is a place to write address information

Commentary

Details I need to finalize with the printer are revised cost and actual samples of the cover, binding, and blank sheets that are representative of production. I particularly want to make sure that the cover is thick enough, and that the wire binding with 48 pages total will not be too bulky. Selection of a nice interior blank page that complements the color of the cover would be nice too.

To keep costs down, I’m avoiding additional printing as much as possible. Every time a new plate has to be made and put on press, that costs me $800, and to make the run efficient I have to run 10,000 sheets, which is another $800. I’m looking at an initial run of 500 units as a middle-of-the-road estimate, so the numbers don’t work out unless I want to sell this notebook for $30+. I’d rather sell it at $15. If this becomes a perennial seller, then I probably can do a bigger production. I could conceivably do a Kickstarter, but that would push production out by at least another two months with Kickstarter’s lead-time for approval, project setup w/ video and reward tiers, and then running a 30-day funding period. I’d rather go as soon as possible.

I’ve come to think of this notebook as the “baseline mass market” version of the Mini ETP which is designed to be usable for 3 months (one quarter), daily use, self-archiving, and as compact as possible. There are a couple other use cases that I would like to address in the future, which I’ll talk about below.

Survey Notes: US Trends

question results (in order of preference)
Size (all users) US HALF LETTER – I suspect people don’t care about exact dimensions
Binding (users) HDW 21, PSB 17, CSN 14
Binding (non-users) PSB 12, CSN 11, HDW 8
Sheets 60, 75, 48 – generally, people want some number of months
Double (users) 21 YES, 16 RHS, 7 LHS – dot grid popular request
Double (non-users) 12 YES, 8 RHS, 6 LHS – dot grid popular request
Paper 50% preference for thicker. Must take fountain pens, not bleed.

HDW = Hardcover Double-Wire Binding, PSB = Plastic Spiral Binding, CSN = Composition-style Notebook, RHS = Right-Hand Side ETP (left side blank), LHS = Left-Hand Side ETP (right side blank)

In the US survey results, there was a preference for US Half-letter because I forced a choice between that and A5 after seeing people check both of them. I should have left it alone; my takeaway was that the actual size didn’t matter. I decided to change the dimensions to 5.8×8.5 after playing with my A5 prototype; I found that when I folded a US Letter sheet in half, it tucked in almost perfectly except for the height. I could imagine wanting to put a bookmark or maybe carry a printout in my mini-etp when I’m on the go without the edge sticking out and getting frayed. Since US Letter is the most common size here in the United States, this is the size I’m going with.

In my spec, I deviated most significantly in page count. The most popular request was for 60-75 pages, but I’m going with a 3-month page count because it works out well for a year (4 notebooks), and keeps the notebook slimmer. I was most illuminated by the realization that people are keeping their ETP sheets as a kind of journal.

I also noted that although double-sided was most popular, it wasn’t that much more popular than the right-hand-side (RHS) requests. I did some additional digging through responses:

  • People who wanted double-sided ETP: wanted CS(17):PSB(14):HDW(11)
  • People who wanted RHS ETP: wanted HDW(12) to PSB(11)

For double-sided respondents , the preference for composition-style notebooks is slightly more than for spiral bound, and there was a tendency to want higher page counts. I’m interpreting this segment as meaning that they want compact and durable

For RHS respondents , they want the extra note space, and seem to prefer a more durable fold-over style. Composition-style notebook doesn’t enter into the equation here, because folding them over doesn’t work.

I was next curious about page count preferences…did page counts reflect trends with binding and double-sidedness?

  • People who wanted 30 sheets preferred ETP both sides(7) to RHS(5), and PSB(7) to HDW(6) to CSN(6)
  • People who wanted 48 sheets preferred ETP both sides (I didn’t write down the other results)
  • People who wanted 60 sheets preferred ETP both sides(12) to RHS(8), and HDW(11) to PSB(5)
  • People who wanted 75 sheets preferred ETP both sides(8) to RHS(7), and PSB(10) to HDW(8)

Double-sided ETP printing was preferred in all cases, though not overwhelmingly. The 60-page and 75-page totals taken together indicate a preference for HDW, though.

So I think I see two types of users, an impression reinforced by the comments that respondents left:

  • the “I want it as compact as possible” users
  • the “I need room to spread out and keep notes” users

I think it makes slightly more sense to produce the first one because it has a bit more market appeal, and I want to be sure I can sell all these notebooks. However, the second type of hypothetical user is looking for something to keep on the desk, folded over or open wide, to keep additional working notes during the day. This is also an important market, and one that might be willing to pay more to cover the additional costs. So this will be coming at some point, but I need extra time to research the hard cover options (this is proving more difficult than we anticipated to sample).

Incidentally, I didn’t include US people who have NEVER tried the product in my final analysis. Their responses were evenly distributed, I thought. This might have been a mistake, but this group left no additional comments either to illuminate their thinking. The most vocal users were the ones still using the ETP.

Survey Notes: European Trends

While there were 1-2 Asian/Australian responses, there didn’t seem to be a market interest there, so this is the European data for the 23 users:

question results (in order of preference)
Size (all users) A5
Binding (users) GTP(9), HDW(4), CCS(3), PSB(3)
Binding (non-users) HWD(5), PSB(4), GTP(2)
Sheets 60, 75, 48 – generally, people want some number of months
Double (users) RHS (7), DS (3), LHS (3)
Double (non-users) RHS(5), DS(4), LHS (2)
Paper (users) Don’t care (9), thicker (4)
Paper (non-users) Don’t care (6), thicker (5)

GTP = Glue Top Pad, CCS = Cardboard Cover w/ Sewn Signature, DS = Double Sided, HDW = Hardcover Double-Wire Binding, PSB = Plastic Spiral Binding, CSN = Composition-style Notebook, RHS = Right-Hand Side ETP (left side blank), LHS = Left-Hand Side ETP (right side blank)

There’s a preference for glue-top pads among users, but non-users seem to like the idea of the hardbound journal. Glue-top is popular overall, with hardbound coming in at a close second. Users also seem to like the idea of a moleskine-style signature, though I haven’t looked deeper.

There is also a preference for RHS over double-sided ETPs. And to my surprise, there are more people who don’t care about the paper quality than those who do. That I find mysterious…is the “fancy pen and stationery movement” more a US phenomenon?

Weigh In!

So that’s my preliminary data. There’s no plan to produce a European version yet, but if you have an opinion on this leave a comment. In fact, all comments are welcome.

More news as events warrant!