International Paper People: an interview with Christian Mähler

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christianChristian Mähler is the founder and co-author of Notizbuchblog, a blog for German-speaking paper lovers. Here, he talks about local paper culture and a few of his current obsessions.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up in a small village with the Celtic-inspired name Theley. After finishing university I moved to Karlsruhe in 1999, because I found my first job there. The city and the job were that great that I stayed until today.

What’s cool about where you live?

Karlsruhe is a fantastic city. It’s famous in Germany and maybe in Europe because the highest courts in Germany, the Federal Constitutional Court and the Federal Court of Justice, are located here. In addition, we have a famous university (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) and a lot of well-known companies are located in Karlsruhe.
I really love the calm and serene character of the city, the green and nature even in the city centre, the high-tech character inspired by the students of the universities and a lot of tech companies. There a quite good restaurants around and you can enjoy life easily.

And last but not least: you are close to great other places: France with the Alsace wine region, the Black Forrest, river Rhine, and cities like Freiburg, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Stuttgart and Frankfurt.

When and how did you get hooked on notebooks?

In retrospect, I think my grandfather inspired me. He was not a professional book binder, but he bound some small books for me from time to time. During the years in school, I always used to draw and note in calendars and notebooks (I kept most of them, some are more than 25 years old). In university, I started my first diaries. And in 2009 I started the Notizbuchblog – just for fun. It quickly grew to the most visited blog about journals, notebooks and the world around in the German speaking market. Today it is more than a spare time activity although I don’t try to monetize it actively.

What are a few of your favorite notebooks, and what are you doing with them?

Well, that’s changing over time. So, please do not take my current selection as the ultimate answer to the question what’s the best notebook ever.

I currently use three notebooks:

  • a X17 A4+ for business (blank paper, although I prefer dotted paper) ā€œ I write minutes in it, to-do lists, ideas, designs, sketches, any type of notes
  • a Leuchtturm1917 (A5, blank paper) ā€œ as a diary and as a personal tool to structure my thoughts and ideas
  • a nuuna (A6, brandbook) for business when I’m attending conferences or other events with a lot of people and the need for mobility.

Nevertheless, I like books from small book binders and from manufacturers who put all their passion for paper in their products.

What’s unique about your local stationery culture? (I think of Germany as a place where quality paper is commonplace and Schreibwarenläden exist in modest-sized cities…)

That’s true, quality paper is common place, but you get a lot of mainstream stuff with minor quality, too. I can’t really compare the German market to a lot of other markets. There is a large market for brands like Moleskine, paperblanks and Leuchtturm1917 because they are able to find large distributors. If you are looking for more individual books, you can find some of them in the paper stores of a city with the size of Karlsruhe. But you have to be really fanatical about notebooks and invest some time to find excellent quality by small manufacturers in the web. There are some online stores with a great selection, but I have the impression that the English speaking internet offers much more variety (and visibility to the market) than the German one.

What you can find easily are writing instruments as fountain pens. In Germany,you can find some global players for all kinds of writing instruments as Lamy, Faber-Castell and others.

What do you like to do when you’re not putting pen to paper?

Actually, I have a real-life job as Director of Software Development for a local software company, one of my jobs, for example, is building complex logistics software for the cloud. My family is most important to me. I like cooking, yes. And my blog Notizbuchblog takes a lot of time, but even more I like reading, reading and reading. I read a lot.

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