I found this sketchbook at Lee’s Art Shop in Manhattan and was intrigued by the concept: the Canson 180° Sketchbook promises to open completely flat, thanks to a unique binding.
When you first spot this on the shelf, you might think it’s a fairly typical Moleskine-ish notebook– the black pseudo-leather textured cover, the 3.5 x 5.5″ size, the paper band with branding info encircling it. But when you look closer, you’ll note a couple of differences. First there’s the binding. Instead of wrapping around the spine, the front and back covers are totally separate, each attached only to the endpapers of the notebook. The spine exposes a black tape covering the sewn signatures.
The idea is that without the extra spine material in the way, the notebook can easily open completely flat. Other notebook brands also claim to open flat– and in terms of being able to get into the gutter between the pages, many do. But their bindings don’t let them really sit flat on a surface. See below for an example– the Handbook Artist Journal (first photo below) can provide a flat 2-page drawing surface pretty well, but look how the binding bulges out. In comparison, the Canson notebook is much easier to use, especially when you have it open to the middle pages, as shown in the 2nd two photos below:
The other major points of distinction between this and other similar notebooks are that it has a magnetic tab closure on the side, and grey endpapers. I love the grey endpapers, but I hate the tab closure. I’m sure some people will find it handier to use than an elastic, but I’ve never liked this kind of closure, on Filofaxes or wallets or any other notebook. There’s just no good way to get rid of it and it gets in the way. In other ways, this is a pretty standard notebook, though it lacks the ribbon marker and back pocket that others have. It’s almost the exact same size as a pocket Moleskine, shown above and below for comparison.
As for the paper, this is marketed as an “art book” or sketchbook. The paper is bright white and has a slight tooth to it, which makes it nice to use with pencil. It feels good with all other pens too, even fine point roller balls, although you do hear a bit of scratchiness with these. But given the 96 GSM paper weight, I was expecting it to be a little bit more substantial and was disappointed when I saw how much show-through there was– almost the same as Moleskine paper, though bleed-through wasn’t quite as bad. The paper is made in France, though the notebook is assembled in China.
The list price for this sketchbook is $10.99, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I paid. For the quality of what you get, I think that’s fair. Oddly, Amazon sells these for $19.78, but Blick has them discounted to $6.99, which is a very good deal. Larger sizes are also available: Canson 180 Degree Hardbound Sketchbooks. I”m sure a lot of people will find these a nice sketchbook option, but I hope they’ll beef up the paper a little. If a sketchbook that truly lies flat is your highest priority, these do deliver on that promise!