We live in a world where convenience is the driving force behind most of what we do every single day. We talk to our friends through Facebook instead of making the effort to meet them face-to-face, we commute in near silence to prevent us from having to speak to a stranger and we microwave our meals to prevent us having to go to all the effort of spending 30-minutes to prepare a meal which would actually nourish us. It’s for these same reasons that ballpoint pens have become more popular than fountain pens too, although there are other valid reasons for this popularity including productions costs and ease-of-use for children and senior citizens for example.
But how do fountain pens and ballpoint pens weigh up against each other in a Battle Royale of writing instruments? Let’s take a closer look to find out more.
Unlike ballpoint pens a fountain pen can cost several thousand dollars so they’re a more upmarket writing solution straight away. In fact some fountain pens cost so much they’re almost better seen as an investment than a writing tool. The reason why this type of pen costs more is because they’re designed to be used over and over again for years or even decades, which means that a fountain pen needs to be manufactured to a higher quality standard than any ballpoint pen would ever require.
Your fountain pen can also become a reflection of who you are as a writer with a variety of nib sizes and a dizzying variety of inks available to you. This means instead of just using a blue or black ballpoint or rollerball pen you can choose a fine, medium or broad fountain pen nib and an ink to suit the specific occasion you’re writing for. Because you’re going to all the effort of choosing a nib style for your fountain pen this also means that you’ll put the extra effort into your penmanship, which is something many people just don’t bother with anymore.
A fountain pen will require regular maintenance to keep it working as smoothly as possible but owning a fountain pen also makes a very strong statement about how much you value the written word and on top of that all high quality fountain pens have that that little bit of “magic” to them which just makes them a joy to use.
The ever functional fountain pen has been around for a lot longer than most people think with the first patent dating back to 1888 but the first usable ballpoint pen wasn’t available until around 1910. Instead of using a nib like a fountain pen a ballpoint pen instead has a small metal ball rotating in a socket and supplying a steady stream of ink to the paper in front of you. Ballpoint pens have won a lot of fans over the years because they’re less messy and temperamental than some fountain pens and from a teachers point of view it just makes more sense to not have kids messing around with bottled ink in class. It’s also easier to teach any kid how to write with a ballpoint pen as opposed to a fountain pen.
What really appeals to people about ballpoint pens is that there’s zero maintenance required because even if you do have a cartridge-based ballpoint the only thing you need to do is replace the cartridge when it runs out of ink. There’s no using distilled water to flush the ink reservoir of old ink or clearing debris from the ink feed channel to keep the ink flowing to the nib. You simply pick up a ballpoint pen and start writing.
But the magic of writing is lost in the convenience of a ballpoint pen and when you’re limited to a single “nib” style and also limited to just black, blue or red ink (and you have to change the entire pen to use a different color ink) you’ll find that a ballpoint lacks the charm of a fountain pen and there are certain styles of writing that you can only achieve with a fountain pen – a ballpoint is physically not capable of creating the same flow of ink or character forms on paper.
Ballpoint pens do serve a purpose but they are ultimately boring at their core.
Both types of pen have their own place in our modern world and the ballpoint, due to it’s simplicity of design and use, won’t be going anywhere any time soon. But fortunately the loyal legions of fountain pen fans around the world have assured their continuing place in this modern world of ours too.