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Thread: BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?

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    Senior Member calamus's Avatar
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    Default BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?

    An old news story, but better than spam! Makes me wonder what current trends look like, given the anemic post-lockdown economy.

    Why are fountain pen sales rising?
    By Steven Brocklehurst
    BBC News Magazine

    You might expect that email and the ballpoint pen had killed the fountain pen. But sales are rising, so is the fountain pen a curious example of an old-fashioned object surviving the winds of change?
    For many people, fountain pens bring back memories of school days full of inky fingers, smudged exercise books and piles of pink blotting paper.
    But for others, a fat Montblanc or a silver-plated Parker is a treasured item. Prominently displayed, they are associated with long, sinuous lines of cursive script.
    Sales figures are on the up. Parker, which has manufactured fountain pens since 1888, claims a worldwide "resurgence" in the past five years, and rival Lamy says turnover increased by more than 5% in 2011.
    Online retailer Amazon says sales so far this year have doubled compared with the same period in 2011. They are four times higher than 2010.
    Stationery giant Ryman has seen a 10% increase in fountain pen sales over the last six weeks compared with the same period last year.
    But the rush to fountain pens is not part of a wider handwriting boom. Sales of ballpoint pens are stable.
    Instead the fountain pen is a classic story of how an object's status is affected by waves of new technology.
    Fountains pens once ruled, but by the 1960s the perfection of ballpoint pen technology established a remorseless rival. It would have taken an optimistic soul then to predict anything other than extinction for the fountain pen - a trip to the technological graveyard alongside the quill pen or the mangle.
    But they didn't die. The way people think about them has changed and is still changing.
    "The relationship we have with a fountain pen is changing from it being a working tool towards more of an accessory," says Gordon Scott, vice-president for office products at Parker pens in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
    "People want the memory of a fountain pen in a contemporary pen."
    Somehow, the fountain pen became a luxury item and found a niche.
    If a president signs a treaty, they don't do it with a Bic Cristal. If you give a loved one a pen, your thoughts might be more fountain than ballpoint.
    It is the stuff of graduation presents and good luck on your first day at work.
    And those who buy them for themselves are making a very self-conscious choice. They are saying: "I want to write in the old way."
    Daily Telegraph readers recently created their own appreciation society after one letter writer asked: "When did you last see someone using a fountain pen?"
    The question prompted a wave of heartfelt testimonies from fanatical fountain penmen.
    The fountain pen has had to deal with both the ballpoint menace and the general threat to handwriting from the rise of email and other electronic messaging types.
    But for the aficionados, an iridium nib is a statement.
    They are "simple and honest" in a world governed by ubiquitous modern computer technology, says Martin Roberts, of online pen specialist The Writing Desk.
    "There is a McDonald's on every High Street but it does not prevent people from enjoying good, simple, home-cooked food."
    In the early years of the ballpoint threat, fountain penmakers tried price wars and innovation but failed to stem the tide. What stemmed it was a hardcore of affection.
    When the typewriter makers fought their last-ditch battle against the personal computer, they failed. Gimmicks such as electronic screens or automated liquid paper dispensing were no match for the attacker.
    But the fountain pen found a way.
    Sharon Hughes, a buyer for John Lewis, says people relish returning to solid, traditional objects to make sense of a difficult and complex world.
    "They are an old-fashioned thing but people like the personal touch. It is nice for things to be handwritten and not having everything via email," she says.
    According to Eva Pauli, from German manufacturer Lamy, the digitisation of everyday life has led to a change in writing by hand.
    "Writing is becoming more and more exclusive and personal. This will probably be the reason that some people speak of a comeback of the fountain pen," she says.
    "From our perspective, it has never really gone. In many European countries, the students continue to learn to write by hand with a pen."
    Doctors, lawyers and teachers have long used them to bestow an extra layer of respectability to official documents.
    In the world of business too, a good fountain pen can be seen as declaration of intent.
    Dragons' Den regular Peter Jones is thought to favour a Yard-O-Led Viceroy, which sells for about £500.
    And Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar's adviser in the BBC series The Apprentice, is often seen chewing on the end of his Lamy pen as he takes notes on the misadventures of candidates.
    In an interview with the Daily Express he said: "I'm not one for ostentatious treaty-signing type pens but I do think in business making an effort with the little things sends out a signal that you are serious about what you are doing."
    Others argue that writing "properly" is connected to standards of etiquette and politeness.
    But not everyone is a fan of fountain pens.
    If you're writing on a Post-It Note or a clipboard or filling in a form today, you'll probably use a ballpoint. To a vast majority, fountain pens are an affectation.
    It used to be the case that schools forced pupils to use them. That has long fallen by the wayside.
    One headmaster at a school in Stockport even made headlines because he banned GCSE pupils from using fountain pens over concerns it would affect their exam performance.
    But there are still traditionalists who associate them with a disciplined learning environment.
    Bryan Lewis, headmaster of The Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville junior school in Edinburgh, requires that all written work in the final two years is completed using a fountain pen.
    He admits it is difficult for 10-year-olds brought up on the latest computer technology to get to grips with fountain pen writing but says the practice is part of children "aspiring to be excellent".
    "Life is about challenge and hard work and we are doing children a disservice if we let standards drop," he says.
    And does Lewis use one himself?
    "I have been using a fountain pen all morning to write school reports," he says.
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
    (What are you laughing at? Just change the name and the joke’s on you.)

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    Default Re: BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?


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    Default Re: BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?

    Thank you for sharing this story, Calamus

    Making the world a more peaceful place, one fine art print and one handwritten letter at a time.

    Paper cuts through the noise – Richard Moross, MOO CEO

    Indiana Jones used a notebook in the map room, not an app.

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    Default Re: BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?

    A few years ago I was talking with a younger adult at a pen show about why they like fountain pens, and their first comment was, "It isn't digital." The second was that they can put any color ink that they want in the pen.

    In the last 3 years I've had a lot of "family" pens sent in for repair. In the past the pens might have been sold. Today more are being repaired because it reminds them of a family member, and because they want to use them.

    The article itself is over a decade old. With the seismic shift in lives in the last 3 years, I wonder what the pen market is like now.
    Last edited by Ron Z; July 13th, 2023 at 09:22 AM.

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    Default Re: BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?

    An interesting article and thought provoking. Many of us will recognize the points being made such as it sends a signal to others that you are serious about the written word and/or your work. My working life was surrounded by people who only used fountain pens and they maintained the same color ink for years, a signature in the wrong colored ink would be questioned as to its validity.

    I like the idea of children using fountain pens as part of the growing up process and if I had young children around me then I would be only too pleased to sit around the table with them and practice handwriting or short stories.

    John at Write Here! in Shrewsbury tells me that Lamy pen sales were well up because school girls come in to his shop and they each buy a Lamy pen in a different color and they swap caps to show that they are best friends forever.

    There is also the story of the late Queen going to a charity function with Prince Philip, she was asked to sign something as the press looked on, she said to Philip, pass me your fountain pen and he replied that he hadn't brought it, 'I told you to bring it' was the stern reply. The reporter from The Sun tabloid newspaper stepped up and offered the Queen his pen, she took it but with the comment, 'Oh dear, its a ballpoint'.

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    Default Re: BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?

    The word 'fanatical' was in there. 😜
    My other pen is a Montblanc.

    And my other blog is a tumblr!

    My eBooks. Because why not.

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    Default Re: BBC News: Why are fountain pen sales rising?


    It was probably me.

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