peneconomics Lamy followup misses the point

Jonathon Deans has posted some controversial stuff about Lamys future prospects and their current situation and competition. Many people (me included) have been critical of his points and the way he apparently comes to his conclusions. His latest followup seems to address some cherry picked feedback, but in my opinion avoids or misses the most important points. Here are my thoughts on what he has written.

Twsbi may have a real advantage when it comes to the US market, where both the Eco and Safari are roughly the same price, but Lamy hugely outperform in Europe where the price difference is more like 2:1 (even 3:1 in the UK). This is absolutely true and I’m afraid it reflects a bit of sloppiness on my part, and not specifying the market that I was discussing.

Deans makes pretty broad statements, like Lamys premium offerings not being successful and in earlier posts he claimed that the Eco would outsell the Safari (at least for some time). That makes it sound as if he is speaking about Lamys whole business. If he is looking at isolated segments of the market (enthusiasts, geographically…) he should clarify that. But that makes some of his statements (Lamy premium pens failing) even less sound.

[…]Twsbi […] haven’t really invested in European distribution yet. Once they do, their costs should fall, and we should see them become more competitive.

IF they do. IF they CAN. Again, he makes it sound like a certainty that we just need to wait for. If he has any info on that, tell us. If he doesnt, this is wishful thinking.

Ed raises a point on Twitter that comes up now and then, when he points out there’s no data or sources in the Lamy post. As regular readers have probably noticed, that’s standard for this blog even though I understand it can be frustrating for those who want to delve deeper.

Yeah, it’s frustrating alright. Not only for people that want to delve deeper, but mostly because it shows that many of Deans assumptions are baseless (which doesn’t mean they are wrong, we just can’t know), and arguments he builds on them become more and more strange. If he is aware of that I don’t see that in his posts, they read as if he presents assumptions as facts.

Nowadays, academic economics is largely about data, statistics, diagrams, etc and it becomes impenetrable to anyone without a master’s degree. While there are good reasons for this, it also means that economics is often inaccessible to the general public. As this blog is all about making economics more accessible, I decided that I wouldn’t use any equations, any statistics, any diagrams, nothing that would prevent someone with time and interest from understanding any posts.

Thats condescending. Never underestimate your audience. And not showing data, not talking about data, makes it look like you don’t have data. Deans has admitted to me that he doesn’t, and later in this post he dances around the fact but comes close to saying it, too.

The problem is that, even if one retailer or one brand decided to give you access to all of their numbers, it still wouldn’t necessarily be enough to make the kinds of certain judgements that Ed seems to be seeking.

Deans either doesn’t get it or he’s dishonest. It’s not about judgments his critics are seeking, it’s about the judgments HE is making without having data.

Lamy could open the kimono but without Twsbi’s data, it’s really hard to say much at all. […]

Deans should take this paragraph to heart.

My approach then is what’s known in economics as methodological individualism: you think about individual behaviour, either buyers or firms, and try to figure out what’s driving them or why they might do certain things. Thanks to the blogs and forums there’s often plenty of insights available with which to form hypotheses about general phenomena.

The plural of anecdote is not data.

[…]it’s for me to describe what I believe is happening, […]

If Deans is being honest here, if this is not just appeasement, he needd to work on his writing. I read his beliefs regularly stated as facts.

[…]where Lamy fans have had their feelings hurt and have grown critical. And that’s fair enough. There’s an idea called status politics, which claims that some people will closely identify with something — be it a brand, an idea, a lifestyle, a sports team, anything — and want to see it raised in social status. They react strongly against anything which they perceive to lower its status. So you might believe that the homeless lack status and therefore you’ll support any policy which raises their status, regardless of the actual costs and benefits.

Condescending and defensive. Branding critics as fans comes close to an ad hominem fallacy, since Deans are not talking about their points, but about a mechanism that could make them reflexively defensive.

My favorite pocket notebook

There is a pocket notebook that offers great quality, lots of pages, is cheaper and more easily available than the competition in Europe, and almost nobody is talking about it. Well, that’s a shame. Let me tell you what you are missing out on.

Why pocket notebooks?

Pocket Notebooks
The pocket notebook in its inofficial but de facto format of 14cm x 9cm is defined on the market by Field Notes and Moleskine Cahiers.
As the name implies, this format is very portable, not too small and in an aspect ration that’s close enough to more regular notebooks or writing pads to be instantly familiar and comfortable. It’s been adopted by many smaller manufacturers that have been carried by the popularity of the format. .Word, Calepino and others have quickly gained popularity and success in the enthusiasts market. Accessory manufacturers have reacted and many like NockCo have tailored their products towards this size.

My use case

So what am I looking for in a pocket notebook? I mostly use fountain pens, so paper quality is a concern. Digital ink has been spilled on what “FP friendly” means in the context of a pocket notebook, especially about the absorbent qualities and the resulting drying times. My position is pretty much this:
If you have the time to use a fountain pen, you have the time to wait for the ink to dry.
I am using these tools for the superior experience and the paper I use is a big part of that. Get the best paper you can and write with a gel pen if you are in a hurry.
I would prefer to carry a single notebook. My Raydori (or Timbori) comes close to that ideal, but even that is getting too fuzzy for me lately. I flip-flop between a Raydori with 2 books and a Nock Co Fodderstack XL on my person and a Sinclair in my backpack.
Finally, availability is an issue. A notebook that isn’t readily available in Europe/Germany for a reasonable price is not an option.

And the winner is…

Clairfontaine Pocket Notebooks
Why aren’t more people singing the praises of Clairfontaine pocket notebooks?
You get the amazing 90gsm paper that will hold up to any ink in any nib that you could possibly use on the go. No feathering, no bleedthrough or showthrough, reasonable drying times.
And they are huge!
96 pages make them flexible enough to be my only notebook for the day, even if I have to work on several different subjects and projects. They are attractive and well made, and you can find them at big online retailers for less than 2€ per book with short delivery times. Get a pack of ten, put a spare in your backpack, order new ones when the stash is running out.
The one downside that I can think of is that they only come squared or ruled. Blanks and dot grid would be welcome additions to the product line.

The competition

So what is disqualifying the other pocket notebooks for me?

Moleskine Cahiers

Moleskind Cahier Pocket Notebook
The Mole is everywhere. You can’t escape them. So in a pinch, you can get a pocket notebook in pretty much every town center bookshop. You can get them in a variety of 3 (bland) colors and they come ruled, squared and blank. The paper is… bad. Not as bad as it’s made out to be sometimes, but I get the feeling that Moleskine is using especially cheap paper for these smaller books. The pages in the back are perforated. Interesting, but not that useful for me. Cahiers are competitively priced at 2-3 Euros per book, and they offer only the “standard” 48 pages that you find in most pocket notebooks.

Field Notes

Field Notes
The O.G. pocket notebooks. They put a spin on the blandness, they examplify this simplicity that gets so often mistaken for sincerety nowadays, and I have to admit that they look pretty cool. They offer the colors editions. These have been hit or miss for me. The paper varies from version to version, and even with the best ones it’s not great. 48 pages. Standard, but tiny compared to the Clarifontaines. But the worst part is that they are very rare in Europe, so they are expensive and a hassle to import. Lately I’ve become burned out by the special edition. I was never a subscriber, but most of the seasonal editions in the last years where either disappointing to me, and when I got one I liked I found it harder to use them, spoil them, than I thought.

Make your own

I have been making my own notebooks in the past. I got card stock for the covers, got nice paper, printed a dot grid on them. I ordered Tomoe River paper and cut it to size. I got tools to do all this…
It’s a hobby. It’s fun. But it takes so much time. It makes a mess, and since I don’t have a workshop, basement or garage, that mess and cleaning it is somewhat more inconvenient. The flexibility to get exactly what you want is nice, but it’s not worth the hassle.

All the other books that I am aware of seem to fall in line with either the Moleskine Cahiers or the Field Notes. They are either complicated and expensive to get, offer the standard 48 pages or use paper that is less than ideal.

Conclusion

So there you go. Clairfontaine pocket notebooks in their different designs are fulfilling my needs for paper on the go pretty much perfectly right now. Flashier designs and more absorbent paper seem to be selling points for users with different needs, but I’m not tempted so far. If you know of a brand of books that offers what I’m looking for tell me in the comments, I look forward to checking them out!

What others say about the Clairfontaine Pocket Notebooks:
Clairefontaine 1951 Collection Notebook Review by Jeff Abbott on penaddict.com
Clairefontaine Pocket Notebook Review by Cody on thepenhaul.com
Review by Azizah on gourmetpens.com
Ed with a counter point to my use case

How to separate the integrated nib of a Parker 50 Falcon from the feed

So this happened a while ago

I got a spare nib, but since the Parker 50 has an integrated nib and the feed is glued in there, I couldn’t figure out how to change it.

Research didn’t bring up much except for this thread on fountainpennetwork.com. User Mookli describes how he cooled down the section with liquid nitrogen. The feed of the plastic contracts more than the metal of the nib and grip, thereby separating the two parts.

Great advice, let me run into the pantry to get my liquid nitrogen…

I managed to find an alternative. I sprayed the section with chewing gum remover that is supposed to freeze gum and other stains of similar texture for easy removal. Applying a healthy dose from the spray can cooled the material down enough to achieve the same effect.

So if you are looking for a way to repair a Parker 50 Falcon nib and to remove the nib, remove the feed, separate them or replace them, I hope this helps. Godspeed.