I’ve been wanting to check these out for a while, and it seems they are finally more widely available. I picked up a set of 3 small dotted notebooks at Paper Presentation on West 18th St. in NYC. They also had the large size, and ruled and plain paper versions in both sizes. I’ve read that they are also being sold at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store and Exit 9, a fun gift shop with locations in Manhattan and on Smith Street in Brooklyn.
My 3-pack cost $5.95 before tax– cheaper than Moleskine cahiers. But are they a good alternative to Moleskine? Let’s dive right in and find out!
First impressions: the 3-pack comes shrink-wrapped, and within that the 3 notebooks are wrapped in a single paper band. They have a plain paper cover with a stitched spine, very similar to the Cahiers. (Not smooth like the Moleskine Volants, one of which is shown here for comparison. The Volant is also slightly wider.) I like the colors they come in, a variety of muted shades– mine were a dark red, blue, and black. I saw other styles that came in lighter grey and green shades.
The front cover has an embossed rectangle– for some reason, I really liked this. It made me think of some old red-bordered labels I had as a kid, and I thought how nice something like that would look pasted into that rectangle… more on that later, though.
The back cover has the WritersBlok name on it, in the way most other notebook brands label themselves these days.
When you open up the notebook, you’re right into the paper– no cover page asking for your name and address. Inside the back cover, there is a pocket. There’s a little info sheet tucked in front of it, noting that some of the proceeds from these notebooks support literacy programs such as 826NYC, which cleverly disguises itself as the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store. And it includes a nice message:
Writing is good exercise. It’s good for your mind in the same way that riding a bike is good for your legs. It’s a way to communicate, capture a thought, grow an idea. It helps you think, be more creative, and….it’s fun. And these are things we think are good and good for you…
The insert also helpfully points out that Kikkerland Design is located on “WETS” 127th Street in New York… hmm, wonder where that is?
I was also mystified by this little piece of paper in the back pocket. I thought, well, the pocket is kind of tightly glued down at the edges, maybe they’re afraid people won’t notice it’s there if they don’t stick this little thingie in it? The little thingie was tacked down lightly with a tiny bit of adhesive, but it was easy to remove.
How about the paper? I was so pleased with the first impression of the exterior of these notebooks that I almost forgot to try writing in one! Unfortunately, this started to burst the bubble a bit. The paper is pretty thin. It just doesn’t have as nice and smooth a feeling when you write in it, and the pens I tried showed through quite a bit, and the Uniball Vision Micro feathered somewhat.
I also noticed that the dot pattern on one of my notebooks was somewhat askew– if you look at the photos above, you may notice that the paper band was askew around the set, which was no big deal, but I started to notice even more asymmetry. One notebook’s spine stitching was a teensy bit crooked, and all of them seemed to curl up a bit at the lower right corner, I guess due to the way the pocket is attached.
And here’s the final bit of crookedness that really bothered me: you know that little slip of paper in the pocket? I finally noticed that the paper band mentioned an “optional use label” and realized that’s what it was! It took me forever to actually be able to pick the backing off this flimsy little sticker to place in in the embossed rectangle on the front cover… and when I did, I was really disappointed, especially after my nostalgia for my nice old labels! On these, the edges aren’t square, and frankly, it looks like I stuck a piece of masking tape on there.
The downside to these notebooks is definitely the quality. The edges had some uneven cutting, the details mentioned above were crooked, and the paper feels thin. But I like the colors and design, and it’s great to have a dotted paper option. For a very inexpensive, made-in-China, we’re-donating-proceeds kind of item, I guess I shouldn’t complain but I must confess I was hoping for something that would excite me more. Oh well– I’m sure other opinions will differ. Has anyone else tried these yet? What are your thoughts?