The Best of Bindery

Part 3 – The growing and lucrative market for diaries, notebooks and planners

After over 40 years in this business, not much surprises me. One exception, however, would be the growing market for high quality, personalized diaries, notebooks and planners with digital embellishments. John Letts produced the first commercial diary in 1812 in the UK. Today, Letts of London is a multinational company supplying over 22 million diaries worldwide! Individuals from all walks of life, as well as successful businesses people, use these products. Corporate printed diaries can reflect a unified brand. Colourful pocket diaries make ideal gifts – the list of uses seems almost endless. Also, the huge choice of cover materials, along with cutting-edge digital short-run finishing technology, offers greatly flexibility to designers – including affordable and personalized covers and even custom-printed pages.

You need to look no further than the Italian company Moleskine as proof of this phenomenal success. A Moleskine is a branded diary, notebook, or planner – and it sold over one billion dollars worth of books in 2016! That year the company grew by 20%. Furthermore, global year-over-year growth for the notebook market is 4% to 5%. So why, in the age of tablets and smartphones, do these classy printed creations remain so popular? The reasons are somewhat complex, but the biggest reason is people’s desire to experience a “tactile feeling,” plus a need to personally engage, along with a natural urge to be creative.

The majority of Moleskine books are hard-covered, smyth sewn (groups of folded pages called signatures are stitched together using binder thread), have ruled or lined pages, include an elastic closure, come in various sizes, are usually the same thickness with the same paper, and have rounded corners. A visit to any major bookstore and a chat with the manager will inevitably reveal that its diary/notebook/planner section is growing steadily – and the most popular item is always Moleskine.

Taking advantage of this market

I believe, from everything I’ve seen and read, that the diary/notebook/planner market will keep growing. How is this information useful to a commercial printer? Remember the old cliché “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Many corporations are now customizing Moleskine books and/or books from its competitors. This includes everything from simply buying a few hundred books and foil stamping, embossing or debossing a corporate name on the front cover, to printing the corporate name on every page, numbering the pages, colour-staining the head, foot and face of the book, replacing the cover to match a client’s corporate colour, and even including a coloured envelope in the back cover – or not.

In my experience, a commercial printer with a tight budget can produce exceptional, high-end diaries, notebooks and planners with classy tactile and visual qualities similar to Moleskine or any of its competitors. For example, you can buy any number of standard covers of similar material, then screen print colours similar to that of Moleskine or its competitors, if you like. What might be better is utilizing current “book of one” technology and state-of-the-art finishing processes. This will allow you to foil stamp, emboss, de-boss and add other special effects that give these popular products even more value. Bottom line: diaries, notebooks and planners are definitely worth investigating as new, higher-margin revenue streams. To my knowledge, there are at least six binderies in Ontario that can produce these, in addition to other excellent binderies in provinces across Canada.