A while back, I wrote a post mentioning Ecosystem notebooks. Someone at Ecosystem actually noticed, and even though I more or less trashed their whole brand identity, they were kind enough to send me a sample so I could actually review the quality of the product. (Now that’s good marketing.)
So, let’s take a look…
The basic package is very similar to other notebooks on the market– size is supposedly 3.5 x 5.5″, though it’s actually slightly larger. I measured it as 3 11/16 x 5 5/8″. The paper band runs vertically, similar to the Rhodia Webnotebook, rather than horizontally like Moleskine and Piccadilly.
The back cover features the usual stamped logo. In the photo below, you’ll also notice that the elastic is quite thick and substantial, as is the ribbon marker. It feels as though it would be more durable than the thinner ones on most other notebooks. You can also see a bit of the cover texture below. The notebook is softcover, but a bit stiffer than a Moleskine, and the cover material has less texture to it. Again, it feels a bit more substantial than the softcover Moleskine, which tends to get beat up on the corners pretty quickly.
The inside front cover is a bit more decorated than other brands. You get a bit of information about about the notebook, and space for your name and contact info. It also notes that there is a unique ID number inside the back cover, which can be used to trace the owner if the notebook is lost.
I rather like the leaf pattern in the background– I love books with fancy endpapers, and I wish more notebooks were made that way. It’s like having a jacket with a really cool lining: style that is for your own enjoyment, not just to flash around to others. I’ve actually customized notebooks with pasted-in endpapers when giving them as gifts, but as far as I’ve seen, TeNeues Coolnotes is the only brand that really has fun with that space.
The fun leaf pattern continues on the inside back cover, where the standard expanding pocket also appears.
Here’s a closeup of that identification number. I wonder how much this feature will really be used– if someone found a notebook would they really bother to go to a website to reconnect it with its owner? And wouldn’t it be simpler for all concerned for the owner just to put some form of contact info inside the front cover? Maybe some people don’t want their contact info to appear there, but if you’re concerned about privacy, why would you be registering the notebook with Ecosystem in the first place?
This is about as flat as the notebook will easily open– not as flat as Moleskine or Piccadilly. You can sort of see below that every page is perforated, which is a nice touch many other brands don’t have. The perforations are quite fine, and I don’t think pages are likely to come loose unintentionally unless you really, severely abuse the notebook and bend it right on the perforations a lot.
As for the paper, it’s pretty smooth– not as smooth as Clairefontaine or Moleskine, but smoother than at least some of the Piccadillies I’ve used. And it performed much better than average in terms of holding up to bleed-through.
But the paper ended up being the main reason I will probably not actually use this notebook. When I first saw the paper, I noticed that the squares were a lot smaller than most graph paper notebooks– only 1/8″, rather than the more typical 3/16″. The lines also seem a bit dark, and the overall effect ended up being really distracting when I wrote in the notebook. Maybe I’d get used to it, or maybe it would be better if I used thick pens all the time, or had larger handwriting, I don’t know. But if the unlined paper has the same texture, I think I’d be quite happy with it. The notebook has 192 pages, and though the paper weight is not specified, I’d guess it’s probably 80 gsm, as it bulks up about the same as a Piccadilly.
Ecosystem notebooks are available in quite a few options: small and large sizes, hard cover, flexi cover or cahier-style, various colors, and lined, plain or graph paper, as well as planners. They also offer some insert booklets like calendars and to-do lists that can be tucked into the back pocket, adding a bit of Filofax-like customizability to the notebooks– this is a great touch, though the notebook I received doesn’t seem built to accommodate extra pages like that without starting to appear really overstuffed. (Moleskine’s planners that come with the little index page booklets are made with a bit of extra room in the spine so the covers will still lie flat.)
The small notebooks retail for $9.95. So far, I believe they’re only available at the Ecosystem website or in Barnes & Noble, though I believe I heard somewhere that they were going to be expanding their retail distribution. Given that this is a US-made, 100% post-consumer recycled paper product, with specs comparable to or arguably better than a Moleskine, this seems like a very good price.
So, bottom line, it’s actually a very nice notebook and a good value, and their eco-friendly, local manufacturing is very admirable. But I can’t help saying it: their marketing still drives me nuts!