Writing a Novel with Rocketbook?

I’m always looking for the best way to keep up with my writing while traveling. Did I say traveling? Okay. Fine. I meant hiking. The idea of hiking a long trail hasn’t left me, but the thought of coming home and finding a tower of handwritten material waiting to be typed? **shudder** Ask me about the comparative weight of Bluetooth keyboards.

So, about a week ago, when Rocketbook brand reusable notebooks were on sale, I caved in and bought one.

I went for the size closest to what I usually write in, and the cheapest color. (It happened to be teal, that day.) It was an impulse buy.

The way it’s supposed to work is this: Write something. Take a picture with the Rocketbook App. See the written thing miraculously transformed into typed text. Wipe the page clean, and start over.

I’m not sure if I should talk about my previous handwriting to text experiences. They weren’t good. They also weren’t all that extensive. A college acquaintance had a pen. (And a doting grandmother who gave him the pen. It was expensive.) The pen wrote on special (non-reusable) paper with tiny dots so it could keep track of where it was. And, all of the technology was in the pen. The pen did not last past the first notebook.

Rocketbook is a lot cheaper. (I got mine for about fifteen dollars, on sale.)

Beyond that? Well, I’m not having a lot of luck with it.

It does not like my handwriting.

As in… it really, really does not like my handwriting.

It started out by taking my letter I and translating it el. After that, it got weird.

And here, I thought I was being careful with my penmanship.

A couple of really bad test runs later, I headed back to the internet for help… advice… commiseration. Anything.

Ah. It is possible that engineers have a different idea of “writing” than I do. What they actually mean is hand-printed words can be converted to text, and may the alien overlords help you, if you so much of think of doing anything so avant garde as writing in cursive. (Silly me. I thought that was what handwriting **meant**.)

By this time, I’m making a mental note of all of the engineers I have ever known, so that I can find the one furthest away and mail the damn notebook to them. I hope it eats them.

I printed a couple of pages–by hand–in my best one-letter at a time, first-grade writing.

It did better. I got enough text to sorta have an idea of what was supposed to be there. And some odd formatting. (I had to remove all the returns between individual lines.) It doesn’t do paragraphs, apparently. The first round took me longer to clean up than it would have taken to just type it in the first place.

The second round… with concentration and focus… was maybe a little better than that.

The thing is touted as being good for the environment. That might be true, if you just look at paper being used. If you add in the pen, which is a Pilot Frixion (the only brand that works with the Rocketbook) I have trouble coming up with the same math. Since I’m currently using fountain pens that refill from a bottle, it feels like a step backward to buy a plastic refill cartridge every time.

I don’t love the pen. It’s not something I would buy for any other reason. And since it’s the ONLY pen in the house that will work, I’ve spent a lot of time looking for it. The “paper” is… weirdly slick? It’s not like writing on real paper. It’s not pleasant.

If this weren’t an impulse buy, I could have printed out some pages and tried the app for free. If you’re planning on getting something like it, you should definitely do that. (I thought that information was particularly well-buried, tbh.)

I’ll hold off on sending it to the engineer, but I’m still not sure the portability outweighs the downside.


  1. Lita


    Sounds like a nightmare! Won’t be buying one of those any time soon 🙂

    • Reply

      It really would be just about The Dream, if it worked, though. Since the tech is in the app, I’ll probably try again later. I’ll let you know if and when it gets to the point that I think it might be useful.

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