Pricing is tricky. Everyone could have an opinion about what your thing costs.
Even if you price perfectly, some people would be happy to pay double while others will think you're expensive garbage—while on sale, no less.
We see this a lot in our own office. To our pleasure, plenty of customers (the overwhelming majority) have great Code&Quill experiences and consider their notebooks invaluable.
But we also see consistent comments—on our Facebook ads, for instance—from people who can't see the point because they're just as happy with a $2 bargain-bin notebook.
For that person, that logic is sound. If you'd be happy with a $2 notebook, why spend $20?
Despite what some claim, we know our notebooks aren't overpriced for what they are. Still, the skeptics' line of thought does beg a fair question: why would you willingly spend $20 on one notebook?
This article lists some of the reasons we—and our customers—can offer as answers. Sure, we're biased here, but we were people who'd buy $20 notebooks before Code&Quill was even a thing. (And not because we were swimming in money.)
Judge a Book By Its Cover
1. Our notebooks are roughly 10 times prettier than a typical notebook. No one ever stopped mid-conversation to ask about a Five-Star, but we've been interrupted plenty of times while holding a Code&Quill.
2. Our notebooks can make YOU look 10 times prettier (give or take). Accessories matter—no matter who you are, male or female. The attractiveness of the accessories always transfers, in whole or part, to the person carrying them. It's not just the nice appearance of things, either, but what you can guess about the person as a result—and a classy, understated notebook makes anyone looking guess "sophisticated."
3. Our notebooks are more likely to be taken seriously from the beginning—especially by their owners. It's way easier to get attached to something, to invest and actually care about a personal possession, when that possession is both attractive and durable. That way, it holds your interest and it will stick around. In Code&Quill's case, the covers are the main reason your notebook can stick with you for a long time.
4. The cover isn't just cosmetic; it's functional. A Kevlar vest is mighty expensive—but it stops bullets way better than a flannel shirt. Our covers are "awfully serious" for notebook covers—but they last way better than thin, glossy cardboard. And they lay flat!
5. The packaging is part of the Code&Quill experience—and we think you'll appreciate the difference. Presentation always matters. Whether someone is given a ring they'll wear for the rest of their life—or just served their dinner any night out at a nice restaurant—it's the first sight that's most memorable and meaningful.
We don't advertise our packaging much in advance (on purpose) because we want that to be a fresh experience for customers. Many people have said that our packaging is part of what makes our notebooks great gifts.
Thinking of someone who'd love using the world's best notebook?
Grab them one!
(How) You Get What You Pay For
6. We use better paper than most notebook-makers bother with. A typical spiral-bound notebook will have paper in the 50-60 GSM (grams per square meter) range. Our closer competitors, like Moleskine, come nearer to 80 GSM. Our paper is 100 GSM, so it's heavier and smoother and less likely to tear.
7. Notebooks like ours aren't as simple to make as people think. It's just a bunch of paper bound together! you say. But look closely and you'll see how the manufacturing process is really a handful of manufacturing processes in a row.
We'll go into more detail in a future blog post, but to give you an idea: the paper alone has to be cut, printed, cut again, cornered, folded, and formed into signatures before being sewn into the binding. Meanwhile, the binding (and cover, and patch, and so on) each have to be made separately—and THEN brought together into a notebook.
8. Notebooks like ours aren't as cheap to make as people think. Having read the above, it probably won't shock you to read that, no, our notebooks do not cost us "pennies" to make, even overseas. They're something of an investment, even direct from the factory—and that's not including packaging, quality control, shipping everything from the factory halfway around the world, or everything to bring it to market (which is still quite a bit).
9. Notebooks like ours aren't as simple to sell as people expect. This isn't a complaint, just a reality you might not consider about brands like ours: if you're aware of our brand and seriously considering our products, you're in a relatively small group of people.
This is why we're thrilled to "find our people" — 90+ percent of people don't care about notebooks and never will. Then, to make it harder for us, the 10-or-fewer percent who DO care are scattered far and wide. Sure, maybe you technically "found" us, but it took a surprising amount of effort (and some resources) to spread ourselves to the places where you could find us—and that's daily work for a lot of people like us.
10. Relative to most goods, we're still manufacturing in "small batches." The misconception that our notebooks would cost "pennies each" to manufacture might persist because of what educated consumers know about economies of scale—that companies, especially big ones, can produce goods more cheaply the more they can manufacture at one time. The same consumers understand that this means better profit margins (and/or more competitive pricing). This is all generally true—in fact, it's Econ 101.
The only "but" is that Code&Quill is still small, relative to the world of manufacturing and its standards for pricing—which just means we're further away from being able to pass along manufacturing savings. (That's the economics of small-batch anything.)
Hop on the Bandwagon
12. We've been liked from the start. Not in the sense that we won any popularity contest—but rather, in the sense that we were started with crowdfunding. Paper to the people! (Check out our original Traveler/Origin Kickstarter campaign here and our second Monolith Kickstarter campaign here.)
13. We stick close to customers as we adapt. We're always looking for feedback and ideas, whether they're for existing stuff or not. Customer feedback is what prompted our first product redesign; it's driven a lot of our blog and social media efforts; it's a big influence in the development of new goodies.
We actively seek out and reward helpful feedback, so chime in whenever!
14. Certain pockets of people LOVE our stuff for their own particular reasons. For example, we've been very popular with programmers, designers, and other technical people because of our classic split page layout. They speak highly of the design in general, but they fall in love with the features that help them think.
15. Our notebooks, and the community supporting them, help people cross interests and think about their work in new ways. Not only do niche specialists like programmers think more deeply in writing, but most any person with a Code&Quill can think more broadly. Features like the slightly-wide dimension, specialty page layouts, lay-flat binding, and paper quality really do relax a lot of minds.
Put Your Money Where Your Mind Is
16. If we care about something, we want it to do more than the bare utilitarian minimum.
If you just wanna write and just need something to write on, by all means—spend a buck, get a notebook somewhere. To some people, this might be the more responsible way to think, and we can’t entirely argue with that. But if that’s the case, let’s name the value at play: you want something utilitarian, something with nothing extra. We’re Americans, so we believe that kind of purchasing is your freedom—but with the understanding that you probably don’t care much about the cheap thing you’re buying.
17. If we care about something, we can’t AFFORD for it to break down when we need it.
Like we said above: if you just wanna write and just need something to write on, by all means—spend a buck, get a notebook somewhere. But this is a very fleeting, short-term thought… if you plan to keep that notebook for weeks or months, or maybe even years, do you think a $1 spiral-bound notebook with flimsy Bible paper and a cardstock cover is gonna last?
More power to you if it does, but realistically speaking, a notebook like that is not meant to last. And frankly, if you know the notebook won’t last, you know that what’s written in it won’t last, either.
18. People are identified by where they invest (not just money, but time).
We talk a lot about Elon in this house, but let’s consider something: aside from his drive and apparent genius, he’s also ballsy as hell. Why? Because after making enough millions in his 20s (from the sale of PayPal) to “IDGAF” well past the sunset of his life, he invested practically every penny into his new ventures. THAT’s how you know this guy is serious: he’s sharp, hard-working, and he’s willing to put all his money where his mind is—even if it’s his multi-million fortune. According to his employees, he’s relentless and exacting to a fault—but they rarely feel shafted because, for as long of hours as they work, Elon’s in there working even longer. In other words: he’s taken 1000% seriously because he has invested EVERYTHING, both his time and his vast fortune, into what he does.
Same principle with each thing a person owns: the money and time you put into something tell the world how much you care. If you spend $20+ on a good notebook, that says something about your priorities.
19. “Functional” is cheap, “luxury” is expensive. (And mostly because of supply, not artificial inflation.)
You can buy a brand-new KIA for, like, $10K. That’s a super cheap car—opposite of fancy, but it’ll get you there (which is the root purpose of a car). Conversely, examine a Porsche, which might cost (conservatively) $100K, or ten times as much as a KIA. Does that mean a Porsche is ten times as useful? Nope—not according to the root purpose of a car. But that’s WAY different from saying the Porsche is overpriced.
The Porsche is 10x as expensive because it contains countless features which are not necessary, but which enhance the experience—and the Porsche is more expensive not merely because it's self-important, but because it's that much more expensive to make (see #8 above). Half of it is engineering effort: it’s just a vastly superior machine, in terms of power and precision. The other half is extra polish: everything from hand-sewn leather seats to the Bose sound system to the automatic windshield wipers. Consider that, in extremely small-scale and loose terms, Code&Quill is a Porsche notebook to Five-Star’s KIA notebook.
20. This one stings a little, but it's true: presentation is half of your credibility, and in the case of your notes, the paper/notebook itself is half of your presentation. This is not to say that you must buy expensive things to be a serious person in life. In fact, our favorite stories from history are the underdog, poor-man, just-nail-the-damn-parchment-onto-the-church-door types. Einstein was a genius no matter what he chose to write on.
Having said that, let's agree on two things:
(A) Zany genius "madmen" like Einstein would get the public credit they deserve faster by putting on socks, tucking in their shirts, and tidying their notes a little.
(B) Other notable figures—like Thomas Jefferson, perhaps—are so well-known and important in history in part because they understood the value of presentation and perception. The Declaration of Independence is famous for its style, not its originality of thought. (For that matter, so is Jefferson... he died in debt largely because of the aristocratic appearance he "needed" to maintain.)
Let's Do Some Math
21. One of our notebooks costs way less—per hour of use—than many other kinds of fun, hobbies, or vocational practice. A 200-page notebook could easily take you 50-100 hours to complete. Not only is that a conservative estimate for many of our customers, but that's only the time spent filling the notebook. '
So—in this one sense only—our notebooks really do cost pennies at a time.
22. Similar to #1: you're probably going to enjoy using one of our notebooks roughly 10 times as much, and that's where you'll sense the difference. It'd be enough to say it's a handsome, durable, highly functional notebook—but it's also way more fun to use than a bargain-bin notepad.
There's a reason people smile while driving Ferraris, and it's not because they're driving on better streets than the Fiats; it's because they're driving the same streets with much greater joy and precision.
23. Most of us spend money which is, by comparison, patently stupid. Ever gotten a parking ticket because you were unlucky (and too lazy to drive 100 more feet to find an open spot)? Well, there goes $30. That's a Code&Quill and a half—in a merciful city.
How much have you spent on drinks out... that you didn't even finish? (You get it.)
24. If you want a notebook that houses something very important, it's much easier to justify, no matter how miserly you are for everyday notebooking needs. This one you can fill out for yourself, if it applies to you.
25. Our company creates free stuff to assist and amuse people just like you... whether you buy one of our notebooks or not. For this last reason, we get to cheat a little bit—because if you've read this far, you've probably proven us right!
Ready to make the best investment you'll make all day? Power your creative brilliance with the best creative tools available to you — check out the Code&Quill store here.