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The strange absence of certain products in America

For the last several days I have been trying to find some nice, simple paper and envelopes for writing letters on in the traditional way--personal notes by hand with a pen. Now in Britain I could go into any local newsagents or stationers and buy a Basildon Bond pad and matching envelopes for pocket change ( www.basildonbond.com ). But over here in America, it seems that no such thing is to be found.

Firstly, you don't find newsagents or stationers like you do in England. There are greeting card shops, big office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot, or bookshops like Borders or Barnes & Noble. Secondly, there is not ordinary letter writing paper, there is Stationery with a capital S. Decorated, customized, pre-printed, elaborate and ridiculously expensive sheets of paper or note cards. Crane ( www.crane.com ) comes closest to having reasonably priced plain and simple notepaper, but finding shops that stock it is hard and it's still expensive, more so if you buy on-line.

Anyone have any thoughts on where else to look?
Permalink Ian Boys 
August 7th, 2005
http://www.katespaperie.com/ Hmm. Oh look, they carry Cranes. Looks like they're an exclusively New York thing, but you can go online too.

Try some place that sells nice pens. Art supply stores, like http://www.pearlpaint.com/ for example.

http://www.samflax.com/ is overpriced, but does stuff like fancy pens, stationery, and journals. They were the first place I saw moleskine books.

I'm sort of surprised Staples doesn't carry this stuff. If they don't, it must be because of demand. Printer paper & business envelopes must be what we "make do" with.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 7th, 2005
Your links seem to illustrate my point. Notice how Kate's Paperie and Sam Flax have really expensive and elaborate things, and a quick browse of Pearl Paint shows plenty of drawing and sketching pads but nothing much in the way of simple writing paper.

Staples might have something; I may take a look tomorrow having exhausted so many other places. But from recollection they have mainly printer and photo paper and business-type supplies (no shortage of 8 x 11 1/2 stock and envelopes of course).

What's really puzzling me is what I am looking for should be a commodity, something you can pick up for a few dollars most anywhere.
Permalink Ian Boys 
August 7th, 2005
I understand why you say it should be a commodity, but it's fallen out of demand. I can't think of any broad demographic that would write letters by hand. The proliferation of cheap and instant communication (phones, cell phones, computers), combined with the ability of computers to do somewhat professional typesetting means that the only reason to write a hand written letter would be nostalgia, or preference, which people usually pay a premium for.

Your mourning the passing of cheap, readily available stationery is similar to complaint that rhythm & soul revivals typically have all the original singers, but new modern sounding session musicians with thick guitars, booming bass and heavy drums. Aside from the songs themselves, few of these revivals ever sound like you're listening to a band in the 60's.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 7th, 2005
Where are you Ian?

Try this:

http://www.johndickinson.eu.com/usa.asp
Permalink trollop 
August 7th, 2005
"The following office product suppliers stock John Dickinson Stationery.

Office Depot
Office Max
Staples
etc."
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 7th, 2005
Yes, I've seen this stuff at Office Depot and Staples. Even KMart carries it, but for all you might have to look around. It's not a big demand item, its specialty, which accounts for the higher cost.
Permalink Rich Rogers 
August 7th, 2005
Levenger carries a lot of this kind of stuff:

http://www.levenger.com
Permalink Kyralessa 
August 7th, 2005
You might just want to try Kinkos. They carry a ton of paper, and can usually direct you to a local paper supply store. I know in Tampa and Charlotte thats XPEDX, but might be worth a shot.
Permalink Cory Foy 
August 7th, 2005
I suspect those smallish stationary stores can be found near universities. You know, selling colorful textured paper that's not as big as 8 1/2 x 11, and other unusual stuff.

I'm not sure though.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 7th, 2005
OK, drawn a blank. I think it must be a cultural thing. All that shops like to offer are correspondence cards, or "stationery sets" containing fancy notepaper with borders and motifs. Plain but good quality paper in sizes like 6" x 9" or 7" x 10" that will take an ink pen without smudging might as well be made of pure unobtainium. It must be traditional for people to write their thank you notes and love letters on cards these days.

(I took a look at the Levenger web site, but all they appear to have are correspondence cards printed with various motifs at $58 a pack.)

Thanks everyone for your suggestions.
Permalink Ian Boys 
August 7th, 2005
Find the oldest stationary store around... or maybe an office liquidator... or goodwill... or an antique shop?

Or an old elementary school?

It's certainly supply & demand... You can call up Cranes or some such and ask.

Or search for "Fountain Pen Paper"

http://www.pendemonium.com/stationery.htm

Not too expensive...
"Tablet, plain, 23 LB, 5.75 x 8.25, 50 sheets per pad
$3.50"

And yes, thank you note are almost always written on cards AFAIK. When they're written at all.
Permalink mb 
August 7th, 2005
Get a paper cutter and make your own.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 7th, 2005
... you lazy bastard.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 7th, 2005
You can still buy correspondence size stationery by weight in various colours, I can always send you a lump of it by air mail if you want.

Personally, I doubt I'll ever have need of it my hands just won't write legibly and they hurt too much after only a few lines.

So my daughter got a printed letter from me whilst she was at Guides camp last week, her mother did the hand written ones.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 8th, 2005
What MarkTAW said. There's plenty of kinds of 8.5 x 11 paper out there, so buy what you like and cut it in half. Speaking of Kinko's and such places, they might even be able to do this for you or loan you a paper cutter.
Permalink Kyralessa 
August 8th, 2005
We have a drawer full of of A5 reams acquired (what, 15 years ago?) for a job that went sour. Bigger than Postit, too small to be printer fodder, it's a very handy size for all sorts of stuff like shopping lists, thank you notes, areyouintonightfordinner?s to sleeping teenagers.
Permalink trollop 
August 8th, 2005
I have a paper cutter. It was cheap, and it works great.

When I was young, we always had foolscap octavo sized paper laying around for various letters we needed to write. Nothing lengthy, but maybe a note to the school about why I was absent or something. It came in an unlined pad, and we had lined paper we put underneath that shown through to keep our lines straight... not that that helped me much, my handwriting was atrocious.

But all this stuff, including the stenography pads, slide rulers, and various other trinkets, I usually regarded as relics of another age.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
i got my writing paper at staples, no problem.
Permalink Kenny 
August 8th, 2005
Thing is Mark - those "relics of another age" are available at local shops within walking distance of more or less everyone in Britain.

Which is, I think, Ian's original point.
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 8th, 2005
Try walmart, costco, shopco, Kmart, target, etc. They should all have looseleaf and notebook paper on hand, especially right now (back to school season). You can probably get everything you need for less than a pound.
Permalink Joel Coehoorn 
August 8th, 2005
It's true, people do use cards for most every kind of handwritten correspondence there is nowadays. And there isn't much.

Here in Britain thank-you notes are considered a form of punishment for small children who receive presents; the idea that they could be written by adults as a means of expressing thanks has come to seem developmentally inappropriate, like still believing in Father Christmas at the age of thirty-five.

When letters are written, they are written on cards, in ball point pen. People seem to think that using cards is *required* somehow, and they go out on special expeditions just to buy a single thank-you card. If they think they have to go to that much trouble, no wonder they hardly ever write the notes; it must be easier to have that vague miasma of guilt hanging over them for months at a time.

Paper in general may be easy to find here, but it's usually very lightweight. I also made the mistake of ordering cream-coloured envelopes in boxes of 500, and cream-coloured writing paper is comparatively *hard* to find, in any weight. I usually end up having to special-order that too. If I had my time again, I might go for plain white.
Permalink Fernanda Stickpot 
August 8th, 2005
I buy blank cards to write in, but I've bought nearly every design available in the country, and soon I'll have to start painting my own cards so that I can write in them.
Permalink muppet 
August 8th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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