Moleskine Monday: Le Petit Prince

Here’s another cute commemorative Moleskine, perfect for any fan of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s timeless classic Le Petit Prince (or The Little Prince in English):

There’s even a charming video:

For sale at Moleskine Asia now and at Amazon as of May 1, 2011.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Shane

Here’s another addict who was kind enough to email me a great collection of photos of his notebooks and some thoughts about them:

I have been journaling for 20 years now and always in search of the perfect  journal that fits my style and interests. I thrill when I find a superhero journal particularly with a nostalgic cover. Peanuts journals come in a close second, but still need that nostalgia factor. I use my journals for Bible study, prayers, recording memorable events, funny things my kids say, memories my family has created and just plain how I’m feeling about myself and life. If my house was on fire, after my wife and kids, I’d save my journals!

Here they all are. I’ve filled over 50 of them. The bottom row are waiting for me to get my hands on them (empty).


This spiral bound notebook was my very first journal, started on January 1, 1991.

These are some that are waiting for me, and some of my favorites. The Pacman and Snoopy are Moleskine limited issues. The Mickey Mouse was one I picked up at Target just recently, 5.99, probably still in some stores if you hurry. Thought it was fun.

Some favorites.

More favorites.

And here’s their home in an old corner bookshelf my mom gave me when I moved out on my own.

Thanks for sharing this colorful collection, Shane!

Review and Giveaway: Tom Bihn Field Journal Notebook

One of the benefits of writing this blog is that I find out about interesting products I would otherwise never hear about. One such product is this Tom Bihn Field Journal Notebook, which the manufacturers sent me to review. It’s a neat little notebook and bag all in one!
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The bag is about the size of a large hardcover book (approx. 8″ x 10″ x 2″). It has small handles so you can carry it like a brief case, or you can use the detachable shoulder strap. If you have the strap on your shoulder or around your neck, the notebook can be comfortably propped up against your stomach in a convenient position for writing.

There’s a zippered pocket on one side, and an open pocket on the other. A double zipper wraps around to the spine of the notebook so it opens fully. Inside, you get several pen slots and a pocket big enough for an iPhone on one side.

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In the middle you have the loose-leaf rings, which can actually be rotated to make the notebook work better for lefties.The whole loose-leaf mechanism is attached to a plastic backing, which is in turn stitched into the bag itself very securely.

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There are a few rings where you can attach a key ring or other items. The materials and construction seem really sturdy– this seems like a bag that can take a lot of abuse, so it would be perfect for anyone who needs to take notes or sketch while hiking, camping, bird-watching or any other outdoor activity. With the extra pockets, you could easily throw in some watercolor paints and granola bars. Clip a water bottle to the strap, and you’re all set for a day out!

The standard package for this bag includes a little ruler, a key strap, one rigid plastic divider page and one package of recycled paper. But I got a few extra goodies with my sample (normally sold separately):
Two extra packs of paper!

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Extra rulers and a Tom Bihn luggage tag! But wait, there’s more! (No Ginsu knives, though…)

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A pen pouch, an extra plastic divider page, and a mini-wallet, which has cork on on side! (Between this and the Michael Roger cork journal, I’ve been totally won over by the amazing beauty of cork.) I love the hooks these extra pouches attach with– they rotate in all directions.

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I decided to open and test the package of Crane’s Crest 100% Cotton paper, which has a nice cream color and a micro-perforated edge. It’s a little toothier than I was expecting, so it’s great with pencil, but not the kind of super-smooth surface I prefer for most of my pens.

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Show-through is about average– on the back side of the paper, a watermark is slightly visible, and I thought the surface seemed somewhat smoother. With the micro-perforation, this paper would be great for doing sketches in the field that can then be easily saved elsewhere. The paper is acid-free. I did not fully test the other paper packs I was sent, but I tore a corner off the plastic and tried my favorite Uniball Signo RT 0.38 pen, which seemed to write very nicely. The looseleaf rings are a standard size, so you could use any 5 1/2 x 8 1/2″ paper if you don’t like the Tom Bihn offerings.

Tom Bihn is a Seattle-based company making a variety of bags and accessories. This seems to be the only bag they offer that is a notebook. The sample I was sent is all black, but they offer a variety of other colors. At $75.00, it’s definitely a bit of an investment, but for a refillable notebook that will last forever, that seems like a decent value– and considering this is also a bag, I’d say that makes it a great value! You can order one online here, or you can take a shot at winning the sample I was sent! I was very tempted to keep this bag for myself, but I’m giving away the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle shown in the photos above to one lucky randomly selected winner from entries submitted in these ways:

On Twitter, follow Notebook Stories and tweet something containing the words “TomBihn Field Journal” and “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page and post something containing the word “Tom Bihn Field Journal” on my wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Tom Bihn Field Journal” and “NotebookStories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday February 25 at 11:59PM, EST.

Winners will be posted on Facebook and Twitter. Good luck everyone!

Book Review: Writers and Their Notebooks

Don’t you love the cover of this book? How could that not make a notebook fan want to read it! It certainly sucked me in, and the publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy. (Which actually has a slightly different cover, with a much cooler old-school fountain pen instead of the purple one shown here!)

For Writers and Their Notebooks, Diana M. Raab asked a wide variety of writers to talk about how they use their notebooks and journals, whether it be to record things seen and overheard, or as a journal of daily life, or for drafts of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. As Philip Lopate says in the foreword to the book, “Freedom is a frequent theme in these pages. The freedom to try out things, to write clumsy sentences when no one is looking, to be unfair, immature, even to be stupid. No one can expect to write well who would not first take the risk of writing badly. The writer’s notebook is a safe place for such experiments to be undertaken.”

The book perhaps could have been titled “Writers and Their Journals,” as the contents are divided into the sections “The Journal as Tool,” “The Journal for Survival,” “The Journal for Travel,” “The Journal as Muse,” and “The Journal for Life.” Yet not all these writers keep journals in the usual sense of the word. Mark Pawlak talks about keeping a “poetic journal,” containing observations, place names, and words and phrases founds on signs and regional newspapers, among other things. He sees the poetic journal as analogous to an artist’s sketchbook, but rather than being merely a piece of preparation for a finished work, he sees the journal as “a literary genre, distinct from the journal as workbook.”

Interestingly, many of the female writers in this book mention that their journaling habit started when they were kids, with the typical lock-and-key pink diary given to little girls or other types of notebooks where they wrote all their secret thoughts. This is always dismissed as not being “serious” and the writers move on to other sorts of writing that seems more “real.” Why do male writers never seem to recount these sorts of early experiences? Written introspection just isn’t as encouraged for boys, for some reason, but what happens in the meantime to turn so many young men into writers?

Aside from recollections and advice about the habits of writers using notebooks, many of the contributors describe their favorite tools. Not surprisingly, many have strong preferences for certain types of notebooks and pens, and rituals for storing them:

Ilan Stevens: “They are usually Mead Composition books, 100 sheets or 200 pages, 9 3/4-by-7 1/2 inch / 24.7-by-9.0 cm, wide ruled…. Whenever a Mead Composition book is complete, I store it away in a special place…. I make sure to date the first page….”

Katherine Towler: “My journal notebooks are lined up on a shelf in a corner of my office, under the edge of my desk. There are more than fifty notebooks of all shapes and sizes collected over the years.”

Kathryn Wilkens: “…I bought another hardbound journal, which measures 12 1/4 by 7 1/4 inches and has the word Record written on the cover. Many journalers prefer to write in spiral notebooks, but I like the permanence of a bound book. A notebook would make it too tempting to rip out a page after making an error.”

Lori Van Pelt: “I use a simple spiral-bound, college-lined notebook, writing whatever comes to mind…. My pens vary, although my hand feels most comfortable with a felt-tip or gel-ink pen. Sometimes I sharpen a pencil or two and scribble away.”

Kyoko Mori: “An ideal notebook for a journal is a “blank book” with a pretty cover: marbled paper, art-deco designs, stenciled stars or flowers. A blank book is smaller than the speckled composition book and easier to carry around.”

However, the writing tools considered as “journals” in the book aren’t solely paper-based. Tony Trigilio talks about using a blog as a form of journaling and experimentation and rehearsal. Sue Grafton’s “journal” that she keeps for each of her novels is a “a document on my word processor that I call “Notes” or “Notes-1.” And Michael Steinberg says “As a rule, I’m not the kind of writer who records his thoughts or expresses his feelings in a journal. Only infrequently do I use a notebook to explore ideas for future writings. Usually, when a thought comes to me, I scribble notes on random scraps of paper or Post-its.” (But he has kept journals while traveling.)

There are so many different perspectives in this book, I think there is something for any writer or notebook-keeper to enjoy and be inspired by. There is also an appendix with some exercises designed to help spark creativity in your journaling, and a list of suggested further reading. My only regret is that there are no photographs of all these writers’ notebooks!

The Expensive Smythson Notebook

Yet another attractive notebook posted at A Continuous Lean. This one caused quite a firestorm in the comments, when someone questioned the ethics of paying $109 for a notebook while children are starving in Burkina Faso. (My take on it: on some level, no, spending $109 on a notebook is not justifiable in our world, but neither is pretty much anything else done by those of us in developed countries. We all find our own ways of living with that.)


Read more at Wanted & Acquired | Smythson Notebook | A Continuous Lean..

Moleskine Monday: Amsterdam

I love this collaged Amsterdam City Book:

See more at 01 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Tracy

This week’s addict has provided lots of info about her collection:
The Stack:

I took a picture of each of the journals, included purchasing information (if any), and a little about each. Starting from the bottom:

Sheet Music Journal

Duchessa Music Notes
I bought this journal from Barnes and Noble. It’s my my current journal and I love that it has a lot of lines (that are college ruled).

Cork Journal

Cork Journal
The one on the right is a real gem. Its cover is made of cork – a real unique material! I have yet to write in it, but I am so excited to. The paper quality is akin to moleskine paper, and the lining of the pages are college ruled – a real rarity. It’s size is 5 x 7, and has about 70 leaves, or 140 pages.

The one on the left (sits at the top) I use as a memo notebook: Dispatches Journal

[Note: These are the Michael Roger journals I just reviewed!]

Green and Turquoise Journals

I bought these two from Barnes & Noble a couple years ago. They’re made out of bamboo paper and were pretty cheap – I bought one on clearance.

Newspaper journal

I can’t find a brand, but I found it at a unique gift shop. I believe it was made in India, as the cover is an Indian newspaper.

Recycled paper Journal

Recycled Paper Journal
I can’t wait to get to this journal next! It’s a journal full of mismatching and recycled paper. Even though I bought the one in the link, if you browse her shop, I believe you can find another one that is very similar.

Paperblanks Stained Glass Window

Paperblanks Journals
I love the coptic binding, and the stained glass window design is gorgeous. My only complaint – lines are wide rule.

Blue Swirls Journal

I bought this journal about ten years ago at Borders, so I doubt they carry it any longer. I love the blue foil edges and the antique-looking spine.

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Cahiers and Volants – pretty standard issue.

Paisley Print

This paisley print journal I bought at Barnes & Noble about three years ago, and haven’t seen any since. I

Flower Stitch


This one I also purchaed at Barnes & Noble, about two years ago. This was my first unlined journal – took some getting used to.


Wow, that is quite a collection! Lots of colors and textures and patterns. Thank you for sharing, Tracy!

Why Ming Stopped Using a Moleskine

I bookmarked these posts ages ago: Why I stopped using a moleskine (part 1) and (part 2).
I’m always fascinated by the different ways the Moleskine brand has imprinted itself on people, and the passion it can inspire. And as with all great passions, when the love affair ends, equally strong feelings are experienced.

Ming recalls his first Moleskine, given to him by his mother and used while traveling:

I was sold. And by the end of my 3 week trip to England my new found friend and I would have shared so much.

You know how you get when you just come back from a place, every time some one talks to you, becomes an invitation to repeat some exagerated story about how your trip went! Well you are not alone, for months I went on and on about my trip with my dear hard covered travel buddy.

In those months and a few months beyond that I must have forced hundreds of people to buy moleskines of their own, I believed in my Italian friend.

Ming’s Moleskine “had become part of my identity, and psyche. It was more than a notebook, it was a testament to my creativity, a fashion statement, a mark of quality.

The reason so many people stop sketching or taking notes would often be the inability to find a suitable replacement. Notebooks go out of fashion, or out of stock. but moleskines could be found in their shiny shrink wrap anywhere in the world.

Now I knew that no matter what the little leaflet in the back says, that the moleskine’s artificial legacy was manufactured. Yet I was happy to play a long.

Ming’s disillusionment comes when the cover of a softcover Moleskine tears away from the spine, and he decides he can’t rely on their quality. He also sees them as having become too ubiquitous, and losing their air of exclusivity– they no longer have that elusive appeal that’s not obvious to the uninitiated. “A Moleskine diary for everyone. For everyone?” he asks. “Since when was exclusivity for everyone?”

I guess that’s the fine line many exclusive brands have to be wary of– how do you give your fans the feeling of being in an exclusive club while trying to open that club to as many people as possible? If you’re not careful, the magic can suddenly disappear, as it did for Ming. As of the writing of those posts, he’d switched to Muji notebooks and an iPhone.

Review & Giveaway: Michael Roger Notebooks

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 Twitter, tweet something containing the words “@Michael_Roger” and “@NotebookStories.

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!

Piccadilly Pricing.. and Problems?

I’ve been thinking about Piccadilly notebooks lately, as things have been changing in the retail landscape for them.

Piccadilly has mainly sold their notebooks (by which I mean their Moleskine-like “Essential Notebooks“) exclusively in Borders stores. They are stocked in the bargain section rather than with the rest of the stationery products. As far as I know, the pricing has always been $3.99 for the Small notebooks, $5.99 for Medium, and $7.99 for large. There were some occasional issues with quality, but the company made efforts to address them, and the notebooks are a great value compared to other brands. Many Borders stores seemed to have difficulty keeping them in stock.

In the meantime, Piccadilly has (on and off) offered the notebooks to consumers directly through their website. When they were first introduced, they charged $4.99 for a small notebook. Then there was a period where they stopped selling online but they later reopened the online store selling their notebooks at the full suggested retail prices: Small $6.95, Medium $9.95 and Large $12.95, with some offers of discounts or free shipping with larger purchases. Just recently, they have lowered their online pricing to match the bargain pricing offered at Borders stores: Small $3.99, Medium $5.99, Large $7.99. Shipping is a flat $3.99.

But what will happen now? Borders has been having financial difficulties, and as I write this, it looks like they’re in the final stages of preparing a bankruptcy filing. I wonder how much money Piccadilly is owed by Borders, and whether the company can survive having their exclusive retailer go bankrupt? If you’re a Piccadilly fan, now might be a very good time to stock up…