Zequenz is a Thai notebook brand. (Interesting tidbit: their parent company, Zenith Paper, started out making traditional Mulberry paper products.) When I first saw their notebooks, I have to admit I wasn’t that excited– they looked kind of like the thicker sizes of the Miquelrius Flexible Notebooks, and also a lot like a notebook I have kept in my office for years and never really used. But then I noticed a difference that for me was very key: Zequenz has a “mini” size that is a perfect 3.5 x 5.5″. Yes, size matters! But what about other factors? Well, let’s take a look at the samples the company sent me, but just to cut the suspense a little, I’m going to say right up front that this is one of my favorite notebooks I’ve reviewed.
First impressions: I love the look of these notebooks. The embossed logo on the front is subtle and attractive. The notebooks come shrink-wrapped, and there is a small flexible magnet tucked onto the front cover. It’s a nice touch– you could keep it with the notebook to mark your page, though that might be a bit awkward… or stick it on your fridge. Each notebook also comes with a little brochure about the company, with the usual hyperbolic verbiage about creativity, writing your life story, blah blah blah!
Zequenz notebooks come in black and a very nice shade of red, in 4 sizes, and in plain, lined, and squared pages. (According the the brochure, there is also a “note-sketch” version with pages lined on one side and blank on the other, but I haven’t found that actually offered for sale anywhere.) The rounded corners are precisely cut– in fact, everything about these notebooks feels very precise. I love how the lines are so exactly aligned, and the way they curve at the rounded corners.
Zequenz’s main way of differentiating themselves from the competition is their claim to “360º” flexibility. The notebooks are bound in such a way that the rounded spine is completely flexible without pages falling out. I’m not quite sure how they achieve this, but my sample does seem quite sturdy and tugging on a single page pretty hard didn’t detach it from the binding at all.
You can fold the cover completely back, and roll the notebook into a tube. Most people probably don’t need to put their notebooks inside tubes very often, but it’s nice to know it’s an option… and of course it will adapt to a pants pocket too. After bending the notebook, it recovers its shape pretty well if you bend it again in the other direction, as shown in the “after bending” photos below.
Immediately after rolling:
After bending back and forth a couple of times:
Shown below immediately after bending completely back. After sitting flat for a few minutes, the page gap and the slight bend in the cover were no longer visible.
The Zequenz is similar to a softcover Moleskine (shown in comparison photos above), though slightly thicker and narrower. The oilcloth exterior is glued to the inside front cover material, which is very slick and smooth, almost plastic-y. (You really have to let any writing here dry thoroughly if you don’t want it to smear a bit.) Softcover Moleskines tend to start to split at the corners– it will be interesting to see if Zequenz’s tougher inside front cover material will help prevent that from happening.
There is no branding anywhere inside the notebook, and no lines where you’re supposed to put your name. Everything is just very plain and minimalist– just covers and paper. No bookmark, no elastic closure and no pocket.
The inside front cover is glued to the first page in such a way that it doesn’t open quite all the way, but beyond that, the notebook really does open 100% perfectly flat.
The paper is a bright white, not creamy at all. The photo above shows how different the color is from a Moleskine– the graph paper squares are slightly smaller, too. The Zequenz paper feels great to write on– nice and smooth and all my pens worked well on it. My fountain pen didn’t dry immediately, but only my wettest markers bled through, and show-through was minimal. My pH test pen showed the paper to be acid-free. I couldn’t find any information about the “green”-ness of the paper, so I’m guessing they aren’t making any particular efforts not to kill trees.
One important note: when I was checking to see what the paper weight was, I noticed that the plain paper notebooks seem to have 100 gsm paper (and fewer pages), but the squared and ruled, which I did not test, only have 70 gsm paper and may perform differently. (See this review at Office Supply Geek for pen tests on a squared paper Zequenz notebook.)
Bottom line, this is a very high quality notebook– precision manufacturing, good materials, and nice design. But what is that extra edge that makes this one of my favorite notebooks? Honestly, it’s a combination of those factors and the size– the larger notebooks are great, but it’s the mini size that makes my heart go pitter-patter. This notebook had such a high adorability factor for me that I carried it around with me for a while after I got it, and even kept it by the bed at night so I could have more opportunities to fondle it. It just feels great in the hand, and the absence of the outer elastic and ribbon marker and pocket means that there is absolutely nothing to disrupt the perfect size, shape, symmetry and simplicity of the notebook.
But on the flip side, the lack of closure and pocket concern me a bit. As discussed on the Facebook page recently, an elastic closure and pocket are good, practical things to have and I’ve gotten used to having them. I really want to try using the Zequenz as my daily notebook, but I’m worried that I’ll miss those handy extras. It will also be interesting to see how the Zequenz notebook stands up to extended use– will the pages really stay in the binding? Will the corners stay tightly glued? Will the soft cover get beat up and bent and curled from not having an elastic to hold it down? We’ll see… I think what I’ll probably do is try the Zequenz as a daily notebook while also carrying a 2nd notebook of some other brand that has a pocket, and I’ll post a follow-up review to see what the Zequenz looks like after being used. But I also wonder whether the company could incorporate some of what makes these notebooks special into a hardcover model with an elastic and pocket, for people who just can’t give those features up and don’t need the soft cover flexibility.
At this point, Zequenz notebooks aren’t widely distributed in North America but you can buy them from Amazon via the Notebook Stories store. Not quite all size and paper style and color combinations are available, but I have 22 styles listed– for some reason, only 10 show up when you search “Zequenz” in the main Amazon site, so do check both places. At $9.99, the mini size isn’t super-cheap but I think the value for your money is very fair and certainly in line with Moleskine’s pricing. I know Zequenz is trying to expand their distribution and I hope they are successful, as I think these notebooks would be a great addition to any stationery store shelf!
As for that giveaway… 3 lucky winners will each get a Zequenz notebook! Here’s how to enter:
On Twitter, tweet something containing the words “Zequenz” and “@NotebookStories.”
On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and post something containing the word “Zequenz” on my wall.
On your blog, post something containing the words “Zequenz” and “NotebookStories” and link back to this post.
The deadline for entry is Friday December 10 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!