The Pen Addict 100

Every day without fail – podcast on my morning commute, TV shows or movies in the afternoon. Not today. No way …not today. Today my podcast feeds were regularly refreshed, and with the episode downloaded, the afternoon commute was podcasting gold all the way.

Why the change? Well, today was a special day – The Pen Addict podcast hit episode 100, and for a podcast about pens, that is something.

Easily my all time favourite podcast – the path to which was simple: What? People write all these blogs about pens? Wait…what? There is a podcast about pens as well? Game over. Thus, my entry point – May 2012, episode 12.

As some of the international replies trickle in from my InCoWriMo efforts in February, it is a great reminder that although those within this global (yet somehow close) community love pens, we love the people holding them more. Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley are truly two of the best, and deserve our heartfelt congratulations on reaching this milestone, having lost none of their passion or enthusiasm over the past 2 years doing the show. As much as Myke’s intro’s have been truly memorable, today’s closing remarks are worth more than all of them put together, and surely echo the sentiments of all listeners.

Did we tune in for the cool giveaways (and they are cool) from the episode? No, and most fans of the show would probably quite happily have paid to listen. It was to be part of something special, something to be celebrated. Cheers boys, and I look forward to entering the giveaway for the Karas Kustoms Spartan shield, commemorating #penaddict300.

In the mean time, I recommend heading over to Teespring and ordering a #penaddict100 limited edition, orange (of course) T-shirt. They come in F, M, B or Stub – for those with a shorter torso (or maybe just your regular sizes).

A truly great show from two truly great blokes. Thanks Brad and Myke, well done.

Pen Innovation – All Done?

IMG_4386A recent episode of The Pen Addict podcast touched on innovation, with host Brad Dowdy questioning whether certain categories of the pen market had been “solved”. That is, whether innovation on particular market segments had ceased (namely your ballpoint/gel ink end of the market). As far as my thoughts are concerned on this particular topic, I think it is probably a fair question. The answer? Probably yes. Is this a bad thing? Probably no.

A knowledge base

At it’s core, the pen industry is probably no different to any other. At some level, there are “standards”, which provide an overall frame of reference (to both experts and those less so). For example, when recommending a pen better than the average 99c bulk buy office stick, many might suggest a Uni-ball Jetstream, Pilot G2 or Uni-ball Signo 207. (We could debate all day about precisely which is better, and I have previously given my thoughts on this). Another example might be the popularity of the Lamy Safari as an entry level fountain pen.

Without a certain amount of stability (some may read – lack of innovation) in these “go-to” recommendations, the pen landscape in this particular segment would be constantly shifting, and recommendations moderated: “well, you could try a Jetstream however they have recently changed the …….. so I’m not quite sure if they write the way they used to”. The “standard” or well-known frame of reference would no longer exist.

Innovation or simply variation?

How you define innovation will go a long way towards answering this question for you anyway. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to innovate, is to:

Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products

If we are talking about better versions of the same product, new and exciting products, or simply variety in a typical segment of the market, then your answer on the innovation question will likely be different. The many variations in design, materials, nib sizes and inks available to fountain pen enthusiasts (along with after market possibilities such as converters and nib grinding) typically provide an endless array of choice for the consumer. To me, this is not necessarily innovation, simply variation, customisation, and choice, with many pen lovers going down the road of fountain pen experimentation (and often obsession), even if the starting point was gel inks and rollerballs.

Also, innovation generally occurs at the “pointy end” of an industry, and much of what is considered innovation at a manufacturing level is often concerned with better production techniques, efficiencies and overall productivity. Do these changes necessarily mean anything different for the consumer? Sometimes in the form of price point, possibly a better product, however often there may be no real discernible difference.

Conclusion

Essentially, in many ways, I don’t necessarily believe there is a great deal of innovation occurring in pens, regardless of the market segment we are talking about. However, I equally believe this is not detrimental to either the market itself nor the consumer. What we do have is endless variety in the marketplace, from a few dollars for a consistent, good quality gel ink pen, up to a few hundred dollars (plus) for a fountain pen – with many variations in between.

The good old gel ink standby or the customised fountain pen? Entirely up to you, however I guess if you prefer gel inks and rollerballs, that will be where your searches take you. Or perhaps an early foray into fountain pens. Regardless of which, many discoveries will be made on the back of reviews or blog posts on pens, with many of those pens compared to those that have remained unchanged for some time, and are therefore familiar to you (which is exactly why we need them).

At the end of the day we are after a consistent and familiar writing experience with a little bit of choice as to how we achieve this. If products are created simply to “make something new” without this philosophy at the core, I’m not sure that is the way to go. After all, surely no-one here wants to write with a “multi” fountain pen.

Update – Nock Co. Kickstarter Project

This is an update to a post from earlier this month about Nock Co., and their Kickstarter project aimed at raising funding to manufacture high quality, hand made pen cases. At the time of writing, only 58 hours remain, with the project guaranteed to be funded on Wednesday, October 30, with things having gone pretty well to this point – currently at an amazing $70,000+ of the original funding goal of $5000.

As a backer set to receive one of each model manufactured, I will be waiting with much anticipation in January when the shipping date rolls around.

This would be a great time to get in before the initial funding period ends, both to give the boys at Nock Co. a bit of a kick along, and to guarantee yourself some pretty smooth merchandise once the manufacturing is complete.

For a look at what is on the way, head to the Kickstarter page, or to Nock Co. on the Web, Instagram, or Twitter.

Looking beyond the current fund raising, on a recent episode of the Pen Addict podcast, Brad Dowdy, aka The Pen Addict and co founder of Nock Co., remarked how keen he was to get through this initial phase and get the cases manufactured, as there are already a lot more great ideas for future Nock Co. products.

Cannot wait for those!

Nock Co. Kickstarter Project

Many pen-obsessed folk similar to myself have been waiting for the day to arrive when Nock Co. launch their Kickstarter campaign seeking funding to manufacture a series of high quality nylon pen cases. The project is now live – so get cracking!

Images: Nock Co. Kickstarter page
Images: Nock Co. Kickstarter page

In a post published on this blog back in June about my four favourite podcasts, you may recall The Pen Addict with Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley was an inclusion in this list. For those who listen to the podcast, read the Pen Addict blog, or follow Brad on Twitter, the launch of this Kickstarter campaign will come as no surprise, however the email advising of the start to the campaign was a most welcome arrival in my inbox.

Brad has teamed up with Jeffrey Bruckwicki of Old Fourth Tailoring to design and manufacture pen cases (all hand-made in the USA), and in a nice touch, we see notebook case integration into some of the designs as well. The two appear to be a great fit (pardon the tailoring pun), and have created some fantastic designs (those pictured above are just two of many available) which you really should check out for yourself, as any attempt at describing the products to you in words will not do the cases justice. Depending on the model, the cases are either lined or unlined, and come in some cool launch colours (including a limited edition colour on a particular model that will only be available through this launch project).

You needn’t take my word for it that many are interested, with the $5000 funding goal being met within the first hour, and (at the time of writing) the project now supported to the tune of over $27,000, the numbers speak for themselves. All bar one ($25) of the 10 funding levels are still open, with 28 days left to run in the campaign. I understand the money raised will be used for additional manufacturing equipment which bodes well for the company in the longer term.

Enough from me – go check out Nock Co. on Kickstarter and be sure to watch the video outlining the project.

What’s that? Oh yes…sorry – my backing? That would be “All the Cases” at $75.00 (which is a steal for what you will receive). Told you I had been waiting for this day.