I’d noticed Michael Roger’s Decomposition books in several stationery stores– they’re a clever twist on the traditional composition book, but made with recycled paper. I hadn’t realized at first that the company also makes some other very cute notebooks in the 3.5 x 5.5″ size that always sets my heart a-flutter. When I spotted their small cork-covered journals and Dispatches journals, I had to contact the company and beg for a sample. And look at all the goodies they sent!
The decomposition books have such fun covers– I’d noticed that composition books in general seem to be breaking away from the traditional mottled black and white design into other crazy colors and patterns, not all of which I find appealing. But I like these– a sort of faux wood grain, a topographical map design, a leafy green pattern… even the black and white looks more like leaves & flowers. Most of the samples I got are college-ruled, but one has lovely squared paper. It’s not that easy to find composition books with blank or squared paper instead of lined. The inside covers of these books give you all kinds of fun facts about their eco-friendliness, as well as some cool illustrations and phrases in foreign languages. I noticed that the 4 samples I was sent weren’t all the exact same size– not a big deal but the inconsistency might bother me if I was a big composition book user and wanted to have a whole shelf of these. I didn’t do full pen tests on these but the paper seemed okay– it has a bit of what I think of as “that recycled paper look,” where you see some little threads throughout the paper, and the feel of it isn’t super smooth, but it’s not unpleasant to write on and I didn’t have any major bleeding or feathering with the pens I tried.
Then there’s the Landmade cork notebook– this is such a cool, unique material for a notebook cover. I was surprised to see that this is considered an eco-friendly, sustainable material– I’d heard there was a cork shortage and that’s why you see more and more wine bottles with artificial corks or screw tops. But in this case, the cork is a layer of bark that can be harvested repeatedly without killing the tree. It’s a very thin slice of cork that is glued to the boards of the notebook, which are a subtle metallic gold underneath. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and it really is beautiful. The texture is soft and a little uneven due to the holes in the cork. I worried that this might create edges that could easily catch on something and tear off the cork– it seems pretty sturdily glued, but I don’t know how it would hold up after extensive use.
Finally, we have the Dispatches notebooks. I love the postal motif on the wrapper, and I love the classic, plain look of the notebook underneath. I’m surprised more notebook makers don’t use this combination of paper wrapped boards and a cloth-covered spine– Cavallini used to make some like this in the early 1990s but I haven’t seen too many others recently.
The small size really is lovely– they’re just a hair smaller than a pocket Moleskine so they feel very pocketable, though the covers are not flexible at all.
The notebooks are very simple– plain inside the front and back covers, no expanding pocket. There is a ribbon marker. The company name is printed on the back rather than stamped. They open nice and flat. The elastic closure is not very long, so it’s quite tight. I love the texture of the brown paper cover– it looks great plain, and would also be fun to doodle all over with a Sharpie.
My only disappointment with these is the very deep cover overhang, which is just my personal issue that doesn’t bother everyone. It does mean, however, that the interior page size is a lot smaller than in other notebooks that are the same size on the exterior. I found it very noticeable here, as it was with the Tops notebook I reviewed a while back.
The notebooks come in plain and lined versions, which are narrow-ruled with fairly dark lines. The paper is a creamy color, very similar to the Moleskine shown here (in the middle below) for comparison.
I did my full battery of pen tests on the small Dispatches notebook with unlined paper. Results were similar to a lot of notebooks I’ve tried– the paper feels nice and smooth and most of my pens performed very nicely without bleeding or feathering. The paper isn’t super heavy, though, so there is some show-through, comparable to a Moleskine.
This would be all I’d have to say about it except that while flipping through the notebook, I noticed that some of the pages in the front had a noticeably less smooth texture. I tested one of these pages too and my pens didn’t feel quite as nice. In a few cases you can see the difference– just a slightly less sharp line. (Both pages tested showed the paper to be acid-free.) This kind of paper variation isn’t totally unheard of– I’ve had Piccadillies that also had some inconsistency. It probably wouldn’t be a big deal to most people… but it’s a bit disappointing for those of us who are obsessive notebook freaks, of course!
If your local stationery shop doesn’t carry Michael Roger products, a few styles are listed in my Amazon store, or you can order them from the Michael Roger online store… or you can try to win one of the 3 prize packages I’ll be giving away. Each winner will get one composition book and one Dispatches or Landmade notebook.
You know the drill! Enter in one of these ways:
On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and post something containing the word “Michael Roger” on my wall.
On your blog, post something containing the words “Michael Roger” and “NotebookStories” and link back to this post.
The deadline for entry is Friday February 18 at 11:59PM, EST.
Winners will be posted on Facebook and Twitter. Good luck everyone!
And thanks again to the folks at Michael Roger for providing such a bonanza of samples!