Here’s an interesting Asian notebook from a brand that I spotted via Instagram. I saw the Front brand name pop up once or twice and wondered if it was a trendy new brand, but I also thought the notebook just looked nice. From there, it took a bit of internet detective work to actually find a way to buy one, but I’m glad I succeeded, via AliExpress!
The full name of the company is Shenzhen City Front Industry Co. Ltd, and they are a China-based maker of various stationery products, mostly for business use, but with a few notebooks more directed at personal journaling. These notebooks seem to be intended only for the Asian market, as the packaging is almost entirely in Chinese (as far as I can tell). Despite the English brand name Front, the company’s website is also primarily in Chinese, but they do have some English information.
I don’t even remember exactly what caught my eye about this notebook, other than it being a brand name I’d never encountered. But I probably noticed the leather look to the cover, and the very minimal overhang. When I first received my notebook, I was certainly happy to see these features! The cover is supposed to be “bonded leather,” which contains some element of real leather– to me it just seems like fake leather, but not in a bad way. I did notice a strange smell when I first opened the package, but that was a few months ago and it went away quickly. The packaging was a simple shrinkwrap, with a small sheet of brand information tucked in. The Front brand name is very subtly stamped on the front cover, and the back cover is stamped with a model number.
I would call this a flexi-bound notebook– it’s a bit more substantial than a softcover, and it does have the slight cover overhang like a hardcover, but there are no stiff boards. The notebook bends easily enough to be comfortable to carry in a pocket.
The page edges are dyed brown, so the exterior seems very sleek and minimal, even though it is thicker than average for this size notebook. It is said to be A6 but it is 90 x 140cm. A pocket size Moleskine is shown below for comparison.
Inside, the endpapers match the dark brown color. The slim ribbon marker is also brown. There is no space for writing your name anywhere. There is no back pocket or elastic closure.
The pages inside (146 sheets/292 pages) are very straightforward– other than 15 sheets of plain paper at the back, which are perforated for removal, the entire notebook is lined pages with a subtle header where you can add the date. The header has tiny tick-boxes for the seven days of the week, each noted by a letter. As with the Stalogy notebook, these are in quite small print and might be hard for some people to read. Similar to the Nolty diaries, there are dots along the top and bottom of the page so you can draw vertical lines if you wish. The lines are spaced at 8mm and the dots are spaced at 1cm. The lines don’t extend to the end of the pages. At the base of each page (except for the removable ones) is a small Front logo. I usually don’t like lined notebooks, or having logos on the page, but in this instance it’s all subtle enough not to bother me. The notebook opens quite flat.
The writing experience is pretty great. The paper is creamy off-white and quite smooth. It will bleed and feather a bit with a heavy wet fountain pen if you are pressing down to flex the nib, though my Pilot Falcon actually didn’t bleed with flexing. A few other wet inks feathered slightly. But it is otherwise great on bleed-through and a little better than average on show-through. I would call this fountain pen friendly with the caveat that you can’t push it too far. With fine point gel ink pens, it’s a dream. (A few of my lesser-used fountain pens were dried up when I started my test page, so I re-inked for truer results.)
Despite the difficulty in finding a source for this notebook, it didn’t end up being terribly expensive– my total for this one item from AliExpress was $11.29, with free shipping. (Other colors and sizes are also available.) At some point, I will use this as a daily notebook, and if it holds up well, I’m sure I’ll buy a few more. There’s something about it that I just love– the monochromatic simplicity, the soft feel, the lack of overhang. Add in the paper performance, and it really makes it a great find. I can see why some owners of Front notebooks have found them worth Instagramming!