Talking to Strangers About Notebooks

I was on the train the other night and took out my notebook to jot something down. The woman sitting next to me, with whom I had not exchanged a word up til then, said “Oh wow, that’s so nice to see that you are using a paper notebook! You never see anyone writing in an actual notebook any more!”

I thought that was a bit overstated– I don’t see that many people writing notes on public transportation, but I do see some, and I see people using paper notebooks all the time at my job. My seatmate and I continued to chat a bit about writing and reading on paper vs. on screens, and at one point she took out her own planner to jot down a book I’d recommended. It was a pleasant conversation.

Does this ever happen to you? Do you get into conversations with strangers over the fact that one or both of you are using notebooks? Please share your stories in the comments!

Sideshow Press Note Pad Folio

Here’s a notebook that sent me into a wave of nostalgia: the Note Pad Folio from Sideshow Press.

The pressboard cover reminds me so much of various notebooks I had as a kid into my college years. I had a blue report cover made of this material, with a spring-action clip inside. I also had similar ones with the same kind of metal attachments you see in the Sideshow notepad, except that they were positioned along the spine, to hold 3-hole punched paper. And my freshman chemistry lab notebook in college had a cover made of this same board, but in brown. Why don’t more notebooks feature covers like this? It has a color variation that is very pleasant, a smooth texture, and seems fairly durable, though I seem to remember that it stained easily if it got wet.

Sideshow has some other nice looking journals and notebooks too, including these:

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Review: LatLon Notebooks

Here we have another Kickstarter project that I decided to support at a modest level. When I saw the design of the LatLon notebooks, I thought it was quite cool-looking, and an interesting concept. Each notebook has a letterpress printed cover featuring the contour lines of the elevation of an island or glacier or the surface of Mars. They include the coordinates of the location, therefore the LATitude and LONgitude of the brand name. It’s a simple idea, but very nicely executed, with the contour lines and slight color contrast of the printing making a beautiful design and a pleasing texture.


Apart from the design, these are pretty standard in terms of format– 3.5 x 5.5″, staple-bound, very similar to Field Notes, Moleskine Cahier and various others, including the Furrow Books notebook I reviewed just recently. Blank or squared pages are available– I got the grid pages, where the lines are thicker than Moleskine’s– you can see the dot printing in the lines, making them seem less sharp.


The paper is very smooth and feels great to write on– a similar feel to Moleskine paper. Performance is good with fine gel ink pens, but otherwise show-through is average to a bit worse than average with some pens. Bleed-through is a bit worse than average with fountain pens.


I am happy I have these notebooks in my collection, but I don’t think I’ll be buying more. The design is gorgeous, but otherwise they are very basic and don’t offer anything extra beyond the competition, yet they are priced quite a bit higher– individual notebooks are $7, or you can get 3 for $15 or 6 for $30. (And I think even this is a sale price marked down from the original cost.) That does not include shipping from Iceland. As far as I know, LatLon’s online store is the only place to buy them.

Notebooks With Embroidered Science Illustrations

These notebooks have an unusual design combo: vintage science, math and medical illustrations embellished with embroidery:

“Since we last checked out Athens-based Fabulous Cat Papers (previously) they’ve released a whole new series of notebooks that incorporate vintage science/medical illustrations printed on Japanese paper with hand-stitched embroidery. The notebooks come in a variety of sizes and options for blank, ruled, and graph papers.”

Source: New Japanese Paper Notebooks Featuring Vintage Science Illustrations Merged with Hand-embroidery | Colossal

Moleskine Monday: Paper Weights Revealed!

Moleskine has always been rather cagey about revealing the actual weight of their paper, unlike rival notebook makers such as Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Fabriano and many others who specify their paper weight in GSM (grams per square meter). GSM isn’t the only factor in how a paper performs, but it’s a good indicator, as thicker paper will usually have less show-through and bleed-through.

A while back, I linked to this blog post, which does a very detailed analysis to arrive at an estimated measurement of Moleskine’s paper weight. The author Steve DeLong just updated it to let everyone know that he’s been proven right! Moleskine released the information below about their various paper types (this actually dates back to February 2014, but I guess we didn’t notice at the time!):

Paper and item guide.

70 g/m² – 47 lb paper


The classic, ivory-coloured Moleskine notebook paper, suitable for dry media, pencils, ballpoint pens.
Items: Music Notebook
100 g/m² – 68 lb paper


A heavier version of the notebook paper. Appropriate for fountain pens and dry media, pencils, charcoal, pastels.
Items: A3 Plain Book
120 g/m² – 81 lb
sketch-grade paper
Smooth, ivory-coloured paper. Ideal for sketching and drawing with pencils, charcoal, fountain pens, markers.
Items: Sketch Album
165 g/m² – 111 lb
sketch-grade paper
Pigmented directly in the pulp itself, this paper guarantees colour stability and resistance to eraser and marker use. It supports all dry media, pencils, pastels, charcoal, fountain pens and markers.
Items: Sketchbook, Japanese Album, Storyboard Notebook
200 g/m² – 135 lb
watercolour paper
Cold-pressed watercolour paper with cotton for better water absorption on both sides of the page. Created exclusively for Moleskine, it is suitable for watercolour washes and supports large quantities of water.
Items: Watercolour Album
200 g/m² – 135 lb
black paper
This multimedia paper makes the perfect base for photos, scrapbooking and collages, as well as drawings with bright-coloured pencils, pastels, gel pens and Moleskine fluorescent and metallic inks.
Items: Black Page Album, Black Page Japanese Album

The surprises here for me were that there is an in-between 100GSM weight used in the A3 plain notebooks, though it makes sense that the very thin standard paper might not hold up well at that size. I was not too surprised to see that the softcover Sketch Album has lighter weight paper than the regular hardcover Sketchbook, Japanese Album and Storyboard notebooks– I bought a Sketch Album a while ago and have had it in my queue to review, and my first impression of it was that the paper seemed lighter. It will be interesting to do some actual tests now knowing that it really is a different weight.

Thanks to Steve for the heads-up about Moleskine’s press release!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Neko

This week’s addict is Neko, a 14-year old living in Canada who emailed me this submission:

“I’ve been crazy with your site, like forever, and I think it’s going to become a habit. I, too, collect bunch of random notebooks ever since my mom gave me a girly pink diary.

This picture is my smaller notebooks. You see a dear dumb diary book which I turned into a scribble book and I put a cat head on Jamie Kelly. Yeah, I’m that crazy.


I’m planning to be a writer someday, so these are mostly my writing notebooks.
Unfinished, really terrible stories. 😀


Entry from fourth grade. Free to read it. After all, I’m planning to publish it. ( just joking)


I also love black and white composition notebooks!


I currently have 120 notebooks. Those poor trees…”

I really love submissions from younger notebook addicts. I am always amazed at their creativity and how prolific they are in filling their notebooks. And 120 notebooks by the age of 14?!? I wonder how many Neko will have at my age! Thanks for sharing your addiction, Neko!

Hand-Embroidered Notebooks

That’s not just an image of embroidery, it’s actual stitching:

“Check out these hand-embroidered notebooks that feature designs ranging from anatomical and natural to geometric and macabre, then try to make your own!”

Source: Hand-Embroidered Notebooks Are Almost Too Pretty to Use | Make:

Einstein’s Notebook

Thanks to a tip from a reader named Raymond, I can share these images of a notebook that belonged to Albert Einstein:

“Einstein’s search for general relativity spanned eight years, 1907-1915. … sometime between the late summer of 1912, when Einstein moved from Prague to Zurich, and early 1913. … [Einstein kept a notebook that was] found among his papers when Einstein died in 1955 … a small, brown notebook containing his private calculations from just this time. This is the Zurich notebook.”

See more at : Einstein’s Zurich Notebook


Review: Furrow Books Notebook

Furrow Books was a Kickstarter project over a year ago, started by Aaron Zeller of the Zeller Writing Company. (They sell many popular brands of pens and notebooks, as well as other writing accessories, including their own handmade wooden items such as wax seal handles.) I decided to become a supporter at a modest level so I could try out one of their notebooks and received this “Founding Supporter” limited edition.

Furrow Books01Furrow Books02

This is not one of those projects that claims to reinvent the notebook. Furrow Books offers a basic staple-bound notebook with plain pages, in pocket and large sizes. The pocket size is your standard 3.5 x 5.5″ size, similar to Field Notes and Moleskine Cahiers, among others. So what are the points of differentiation?

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First of all, these are made in the USA. The design is understated and attractive, with plain front covers. Normally, they are white with a tan belly band, but the Founding Supporter version I received is an interesting dark green/light green combo.  (Only 1500 of these were made, and each is hand-numbered.) Instead of making you choose between lined, dotted, squared or plain pages, these notebooks only offer plain pages, but each comes with an insert card printed with lines on one side and a square grid on the other. You can slip it behind the page you’re using and see enough of the lines to use them as a guide.

Furrow Books10Furrow Books07Furrow Books06

The paper is a very cool shade of white, so much so that my Signo pen with white ink looks rather yellowish on the page. The paper has visible fibers and is not rough, but not super-smooth either. Show-through and bleed-through are about average, with some feathering from fountain pens.

Furrow Books09Furrow Books08

At $9.99 for a 3-pack of pocket notebooks, these are priced in line with other comparable items, while offering the insert card as a nice little extra. There is nothing earth-shattering about these notebooks, but that is just fine with me. If you want a nice minimal design and a USA-made product, they’re a great option. It looks like the only retailer right now is Zeller Writing Company’s online store.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Quick & Curious

This week’s addict was spotted on Tumblr via the Moleskine Lovers page, who reposted the original from Quick and Curious:

Gotta love a nice tidy drawerful of notebooks.

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