Review: LatLon Notebooks

Here we have another Kickstarter project that I decided to support at a modest level. When I saw the design of the LatLon notebooks, I thought it was quite cool-looking, and an interesting concept. Each notebook has a letterpress printed cover featuring the contour lines of the elevation of an island or glacier or the surface of Mars. They include the coordinates of the location, therefore the LATitude and LONgitude of the brand name. It’s a simple idea, but very nicely executed, with the contour lines and slight color contrast of the printing making a beautiful design and a pleasing texture.

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Apart from the design, these are pretty standard in terms of format– 3.5 x 5.5″, staple-bound, very similar to Field Notes, Moleskine Cahier and various others, including the Furrow Books notebook I reviewed just recently. Blank or squared pages are available– I got the grid pages, where the lines are thicker than Moleskine’s– you can see the dot printing in the lines, making them seem less sharp.

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The paper is very smooth and feels great to write on– a similar feel to Moleskine paper. Performance is good with fine gel ink pens, but otherwise show-through is average to a bit worse than average with some pens. Bleed-through is a bit worse than average with fountain pens.

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I am happy I have these notebooks in my collection, but I don’t think I’ll be buying more. The design is gorgeous, but otherwise they are very basic and don’t offer anything extra beyond the competition, yet they are priced quite a bit higher– individual notebooks are $7, or you can get 3 for $15 or 6 for $30. (And I think even this is a sale price marked down from the original cost.) That does not include shipping from Iceland. As far as I know, LatLon’s online store is the only place to buy them.

Notebooks With Embroidered Science Illustrations

These notebooks have an unusual design combo: vintage science, math and medical illustrations embellished with embroidery:

“Since we last checked out Athens-based Fabulous Cat Papers (previously) they’ve released a whole new series of notebooks that incorporate vintage science/medical illustrations printed on Japanese paper with hand-stitched embroidery. The notebooks come in a variety of sizes and options for blank, ruled, and graph papers.”

Source: New Japanese Paper Notebooks Featuring Vintage Science Illustrations Merged with Hand-embroidery | Colossal

Moleskine Monday: Paper Weights Revealed!

Moleskine has always been rather cagey about revealing the actual weight of their paper, unlike rival notebook makers such as Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Fabriano and many others who specify their paper weight in GSM (grams per square meter). GSM isn’t the only factor in how a paper performs, but it’s a good indicator, as thicker paper will usually have less show-through and bleed-through.

A while back, I linked to this blog post, which does a very detailed analysis to arrive at an estimated measurement of Moleskine’s paper weight. The author Steve DeLong just updated it to let everyone know that he’s been proven right! Moleskine released the information below about their various paper types (this actually dates back to February 2014, but I guess we didn’t notice at the time!):

Paper and item guide.

70 g/m² – 47 lb paper

 

The classic, ivory-coloured Moleskine notebook paper, suitable for dry media, pencils, ballpoint pens.
Items: Music Notebook
100 g/m² – 68 lb paper

 

A heavier version of the notebook paper. Appropriate for fountain pens and dry media, pencils, charcoal, pastels.
Items: A3 Plain Book
120 g/m² – 81 lb
sketch-grade paper
Smooth, ivory-coloured paper. Ideal for sketching and drawing with pencils, charcoal, fountain pens, markers.
Items: Sketch Album
165 g/m² – 111 lb
sketch-grade paper
Pigmented directly in the pulp itself, this paper guarantees colour stability and resistance to eraser and marker use. It supports all dry media, pencils, pastels, charcoal, fountain pens and markers.
Items: Sketchbook, Japanese Album, Storyboard Notebook
200 g/m² – 135 lb
watercolour paper
Cold-pressed watercolour paper with cotton for better water absorption on both sides of the page. Created exclusively for Moleskine, it is suitable for watercolour washes and supports large quantities of water.
Items: Watercolour Album
200 g/m² – 135 lb
black paper
This multimedia paper makes the perfect base for photos, scrapbooking and collages, as well as drawings with bright-coloured pencils, pastels, gel pens and Moleskine fluorescent and metallic inks.
Items: Black Page Album, Black Page Japanese Album

The surprises here for me were that there is an in-between 100GSM weight used in the A3 plain notebooks, though it makes sense that the very thin standard paper might not hold up well at that size. I was not too surprised to see that the softcover Sketch Album has lighter weight paper than the regular hardcover Sketchbook, Japanese Album and Storyboard notebooks– I bought a Sketch Album a while ago and have had it in my queue to review, and my first impression of it was that the paper seemed lighter. It will be interesting to do some actual tests now knowing that it really is a different weight.

Thanks to Steve for the heads-up about Moleskine’s press release!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Neko

This week’s addict is Neko, a 14-year old living in Canada who emailed me this submission:

“I’ve been crazy with your site, like forever, and I think it’s going to become a habit. I, too, collect bunch of random notebooks ever since my mom gave me a girly pink diary.

This picture is my smaller notebooks. You see a dear dumb diary book which I turned into a scribble book and I put a cat head on Jamie Kelly. Yeah, I’m that crazy.

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I’m planning to be a writer someday, so these are mostly my writing notebooks.
Unfinished, really terrible stories. 😀

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Entry from fourth grade. Free to read it. After all, I’m planning to publish it. ( just joking)

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I also love black and white composition notebooks!

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I currently have 120 notebooks. Those poor trees…”

I really love submissions from younger notebook addicts. I am always amazed at their creativity and how prolific they are in filling their notebooks. And 120 notebooks by the age of 14?!? I wonder how many Neko will have at my age! Thanks for sharing your addiction, Neko!

Hand-Embroidered Notebooks

That’s not just an image of embroidery, it’s actual stitching:

“Check out these hand-embroidered notebooks that feature designs ranging from anatomical and natural to geometric and macabre, then try to make your own!”

Source: Hand-Embroidered Notebooks Are Almost Too Pretty to Use | Make:

Einstein’s Notebook

Thanks to a tip from a reader named Raymond, I can share these images of a notebook that belonged to Albert Einstein:

“Einstein’s search for general relativity spanned eight years, 1907-1915. … sometime between the late summer of 1912, when Einstein moved from Prague to Zurich, and early 1913. … [Einstein kept a notebook that was] found among his papers when Einstein died in 1955 … a small, brown notebook containing his private calculations from just this time. This is the Zurich notebook.”

See more at : Einstein’s Zurich Notebook

 

Review: Furrow Books Notebook

Furrow Books was a Kickstarter project over a year ago, started by Aaron Zeller of the Zeller Writing Company. (They sell many popular brands of pens and notebooks, as well as other writing accessories, including their own handmade wooden items such as wax seal handles.) I decided to become a supporter at a modest level so I could try out one of their notebooks and received this “Founding Supporter” limited edition.

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This is not one of those projects that claims to reinvent the notebook. Furrow Books offers a basic staple-bound notebook with plain pages, in pocket and large sizes. The pocket size is your standard 3.5 x 5.5″ size, similar to Field Notes and Moleskine Cahiers, among others. So what are the points of differentiation?

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First of all, these are made in the USA. The design is understated and attractive, with plain front covers. Normally, they are white with a tan belly band, but the Founding Supporter version I received is an interesting dark green/light green combo.  (Only 1500 of these were made, and each is hand-numbered.) Instead of making you choose between lined, dotted, squared or plain pages, these notebooks only offer plain pages, but each comes with an insert card printed with lines on one side and a square grid on the other. You can slip it behind the page you’re using and see enough of the lines to use them as a guide.

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The paper is a very cool shade of white, so much so that my Signo pen with white ink looks rather yellowish on the page. The paper has visible fibers and is not rough, but not super-smooth either. Show-through and bleed-through are about average, with some feathering from fountain pens.

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At $9.99 for a 3-pack of pocket notebooks, these are priced in line with other comparable items, while offering the insert card as a nice little extra. There is nothing earth-shattering about these notebooks, but that is just fine with me. If you want a nice minimal design and a USA-made product, they’re a great option. It looks like the only retailer right now is Zeller Writing Company’s online store.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Quick & Curious

This week’s addict was spotted on Tumblr via the Moleskine Lovers page, who reposted the original from Quick and Curious:

Gotta love a nice tidy drawerful of notebooks.

Pete Doherty’s Prison Notebooks

What does a jailed rockstar write in his notebooks? Take a look:

 

“Feel like dropping some cash for a personal peek into Pete Doherty’s head? Dreams can come true: Doherty’s prison notebooks are now on sale.

You can pick up the Babyshambles and Libertines star’s Prison Journal for £4,250, or his Notebook for £4,750. Both instalments are on display at Peter Harrington bookstore on Dover Street.

Pictures from the NME back in 2009 give a clue of what to expect from the hand-scribed tomes: doodles, letters, lyrics and guitar chords all feature in the heartfelt editions.”

 

Source: You can now buy Pete Doherty’s prison notebooks | Music News | Crack Magazine

Review and Giveaway: New Kikkerland Writersblok Notebooks

I’m very excited to be posting one of the first reviews of a brand new notebook line from Kikkerland. I reviewed their first Writersblok notebooks several years ago. Since then, they have introduced additional notebook designs, but these latest ones are the best yet!

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These notebooks are quite a departure from previous Writersblok products. At first glance, they seem to fit the typical model of an all-black hardcover notebook with the usual ribbon marker and elastic closure, but there are some interesting differences here. First of all, compared to previous Writersblok notebooks, they have a totally new look to their packaging.

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The next major point of difference is the pocket notebook sizing– instead of the typical 3.5 x 5.5″ size, or even Leuchtturm’s 3.5 x 6″ size, they decided to emulate the sizing of Apple’s iPhone 6 for the pocket notebook, and the iPad Mini for the large size. writersblok 2015.21

The large notebook at approximately 5.3 x 7.8″ didn’t strike me as very noticeably different from the 5 x 8.25 large Moleskine format, but the pocket format of an iPhone 6 is 2.64 x 5.44″ so these notebooks seem very slim and sleek, very pocketable. The front of the notebooks call out the idea that the corresponding Apple device will “fit inside”– I couldn’t actually test this out, but I don’t quite believe it will really work without the covers being all bent and distorted. But I like the idea that you could tuck your iPhone or iPad under the notebook’s elastic and have them fit together as a tidy little package.

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When you first handle one of these notebooks, you’ll notice the leather smell– they’ve used bonded leather for the covers of both the hardcover and softcover versions. It is “real” leather, though it’s gone through some processing. The covers have a nice feel to them. I was very intrigued by the construction of the hardcover notebook– usually, the leather-like material is wrapped around a piece of cardboard and you can see on the corners how it’s been gathered and tucked in. The Writersblok notebook cover seems more like a single piece, with no evidence of wrapping, but near the spine, there is a cut that allows it to flex open and there you seem to see cardboard underneath. I think this cut is meant to prevent the corners by the spine from wearing out, as they so often do on other brands. It didn’t seem to me like it would weaken the cover but it will be interesting to see how it stands up to use. The notebook does open quite flat.

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Both hardcover and softcover versions have some cover overhang.

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It’s almost more noticeable on the softcover, perhaps because I’m so used to softcover notebooks not having that at all. It’s not as thin a soft cover as most– it has some substance to it, while still remaining flexible. It gets dented a bit by the elastic closure.

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Both versions have a somewhat rounded spine. The two photos below show the hardcover Writersblok and a Moleskine for comparison.

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The other nice touch is the addition of perforated sheets in the back– these add a horizontal perforation so you can easily tear out a half sheet.

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The paper itself is smooth-ish– not as super-smooth as some but it worked nicely with most of my usual pens, with nothing feeling scratchy. Show-through was about average, bleed-through was perhaps slightly worse than average, and there was some slight feathering with fountain pens.

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Bottom line: it’s a good notebook, and a welcome addition to the landscape even if the paper may not totally wow everyone. I am so picky about my preferred notebook sizing, I wasn’t expecting to like the pocket size. I’m even resisting upgrading my iPhone because I prefer the size of my 4S to the 6. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how natural the pocket Writersblok felt in the hand, and the slimness of it is rather elegant. I think a lot of people will enjoy having something a little narrower than slips into a pocket more easily.

These are available in the pocket and large sizes, hardcover and softcover, and with lined or plain paper. The large size is $13 and the small is $10, which is a good value vs. other brands, especially since part of the proceeds goes to literacy programs around the country, including 826NYC,  a nonprofit organization in NYC dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

You can buy them at the Kikkerland website now (with free shipping in the US for orders over $15!), and they should be in more stores soon, including these:

Lockwood Design Store in Astoria & Lockwood Jackson Heights, NY

Powell’s Books, Portland OR

And if you’re feeling lucky, enter my giveaway for extra samples!

Three winners will be chosen randomly from entries received in these ways, and each will receive one notebook:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Writersblok @kikkerland @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @kikkerland

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Kikkerland page and post something containing the words “Writersblok” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Kikkerland Writersblok” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday September 25, 2015 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.