Review: Piccadilly Softcover Notebook

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This is another notebook I bought about 3 years ago and then immediately shelved. When I first examined it after buying it, I pretty much hated it. I bought it because it was cheap and I’d never tried a softcover Piccadilly, though I’d liked using some of their hardcover ones with graph or plain paper. But this softcover notebook only comes in lined paper, which I really don’t like using. The reason I hated it, though, is that when I took off the shrinkwrap, I realized that the elastic was so incredibly tight that it was warping the whole notebook. The whole thing seemed stiff and warped and dented by the elastic, and I was just so disappointed by the quality that I’ve been putting off reviewing it ever since.

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But a funny thing happened when I did decide to review the notebook. I started opening it and closing it and bending it, and just turning it over and over in my hand. I bent the spine back and forth, flexed the covers, and tested all my pens in it. And somehow by the end of all this, I had gone from thinking the notebook was a piece of crap to wanting to buy a whole bunch of them, if only I could get them with unlined or squared paper.

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The stiffness I initially disliked is due to an extra layer in the cover that sort of makes these notebooks almost a hybrid between a hardcover and a softcover. It makes the notebook thicker and chunkier, and it seems like it would be much sturdier than the Moleskine softcover notebooks (shown below next to a softcover reporter-style Moleskine).

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The notebook feels great in the hand, as it’s the perfect size and heft. And because it’s a softcover, there’s no annoying cover overhang, just a nice little brick of paper. Below is a comparison to a hardcover Moleskine:

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It does seem like the layers of the cover could start to become unglued– one corner is already coming apart a bit, but it’s in a spot that has been stressed by the tight elastic.

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The paper is ok but a bit thirsty. If you stop for 5 seconds in one spot with a fountain pen, you get a pretty big blotch that soaks through to the next page. It felt good to write on with all my usual pens, but there was more bleed-through than average. Show-through was about average.

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There’s something about knowing how cheap these notebooks are that makes me more willing to forgive certain flaws. The Piccadilly softcover feels like it could be a scrappy little notebook, not precious, not perfect– just something you can beat up and abuse and still enjoy even if it starts to fall apart. But you may disagree– I showed this notebook to a friend and asked her what she thought of it. She said she didn’t like it because it felt stiff and cheap, but when I told her how cheap it actually was (typical retail price $3-5), she said “Oh! Well in that case…” and agreed that maybe it wasn’t so bad.

It all depends on your personal priorities and preferences. If you are a fountain pen user and very picky about paper, it may not be the best choice. If you don’t live near a store where you can buy these in person after checking them over for defects, Piccadilly may not be for you. But for someone like me, the definition of a perfect notebook is more about size and shape and the absence of a cover overhang. I can tolerate almost any paper that feels good with a fine-point rollerball as long as it’s not lined or with overly dark graph paper lines. If the Piccadilly softcover came in squared or plain or dot-grid paper, I’d be searching stores to see if I could find good ones without too many flaws. I’m still surprised at how quickly I went from loathing this notebook to seeing it as a potential new favorite.


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6 Responses to “Review: Piccadilly Softcover Notebook”

  1. I have a Picadilly hard cover that I hated at first, but now I really like it and I’m thinking I’m going to miss it when it’s all filled up.

  2. Hi Nifty! From the looks of it, this is one of our first soft covers, we have spent alot do time improving these over the last few years. The newer versions, which have a silver belly band, should be a bit better also, they can be foundn in a couple of different colors at B&N right now.

    Glad you like it, we try hard to make sure our products are a good balance of high quality at unbeatable prices.

    Your reviews are great, we always enjoy reading them 🙂


  3. I recently reviewed the Piccadilly in a larger A5 size and I was surprised at the quality of the book for the price. Yes, there are some drawbacks but when doing a cost comparison with other black notebooks, the Piccadilly is a great alternative.

    On the Piccadilly site, they are listing some blank and grid options so you may get your wish.

  4. I hugely prefer Piccadilly to the similar but ridiculously overpriced Moleskine. I have at least a doze Piccadillys of different sizes and types and love them.

  5. There’s a bunch of Piccies on the shelves now at my local B&N and, surprisingly, at the local Hastings bookstore. B&N has them (Essentials, softcovers, and Primos, three sizes and some colors of each) at a substantial discount; Hastings (Essential models only) are MSRP. Selection and prices, of course, will vary on your location and market size.

    If you are a member of B&N’s customer club, you can sometimes receive coupons that can be used on top of the already silly low prices.
    Happy shopping!

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