Tag Archives: hardcover

Moleskine Monday: My Collection

I haven’t done many Moleskine Monday posts lately… and it’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my stash of spare Moleskines. For those who haven’t read other posts where I’ve talked about how I feel about the Moleskine brand, here’s an abbreviated version:

Late 1990s/early 2000’s— not too long after Modo e Modo introduces them, I start seeing Moleskines in stores, and receive a pocket Sketchbook as a gift. It re-awakens my slightly dormant notebook fetish and I start using them for occasional notes and drawings. But I’m not totally obsessed because I’m still really into Palm Pilots. During this period I think I once bought 2 sketchbooks while on a 3-week business trip, and it made me feel like a crazy hoarder.

Mid-late 2000’s— the softcover Moleskines are introduced and for some reason, I fall head over heels in love with the pocket size squared softcover. It’s the first notebook I’ve truly filled from cover to cover. I start this blog and allow myself to wallow in full-on notebook adoration. (Palm Pilots are over, the iPhone isn’t as exciting, and I turn back to notebooks to satisfy my life-long need to fondle something small and rectangular.) My love affair with the softcover fades, but I am using and buying lots of hardcover Moleskines and other similar notebooks such as Piccadilly, HandBook Artist Journal, and the many others I’ve written about here. The Moleskine brand has exploded. They’re everywhere. They’ve become a bit of a cliché, perhaps, but I still love them. I settle into a habit of simultaneously using a pocket squared or plain notebook for daily list-making and journaling, and a pocket sketchbook for drawing and watercolors. (My other routine notebook is a small Moleskine cahier or Field Notes that I use for my French class.) At some point during this period, they stop putting the Modo e Modo name on them, and start using only “Moleskine” in all their branding. They also change their US distributor from Kikkerland, who used to be mentioned on the packaging, to Chronicle, who is not. At this time, I maybe stockpile half a dozen Moleskines, a few Piccadillies, and a couple of HandBook Artist Journals.

Early 2010’s— Moleskine’s rapid growth seems to have led to declines in quality and changes in how they’re made. They are introducing new products at a dizzying pace and focusing more on bags and wallets than notebooks. There’s too much cover overhang, they’re less refined, the paper is thinner– they’re just not as nice. But there still isn’t any other brand that quite meets all my preferences for daily notebooks. When I buy Moleskines in a store, it’s only after inspecting them very carefully to see if they are good ones. Sometimes I find older stock from batches that were better made. I would guess that at this point, I might have hit about 20 unused Moleskines stashed for future use.

Mid- 2010’s— I can’t find good Moleskines in stores anymore.  I have to send in quality complaints about a couple of notebooks ordered online– the company sends replacements, but they aren’t much better. I’ve had it. In February 2014, I post Moleskine Monday: I May Never Buy a New Moleskine Again. But I also turn to the internet and start searching for older stock that still has the Modo e Modo name on it, and once in a while, I hit the jackpot, especially on eBay. I quickly realize that I can only buy Moleskines if I see a photo of the actual notebook, not a standard product shot which may be out of date. Whenever I see the older-looking belly-bands (someday I’ll do a post on how their design has evolved over the years), I snap them up if I can get them for a less-than-outrageous price. I start building up my stash of spares, which by August 2014 includes 37 assorted Moleskines that I would potentially use as everyday notebooks/sketchbooks. After a while, it’s grown quite large and I start trying to track my inventory in a spreadsheet, but I don’t do a great job keeping it up to date. Last time I updated the spreadsheet, the total count was 132. I decide to cut back a bit on my eBay browsing, as I’m running out of room to store all my notebooks!

Now— below are some photos of my stash, which is stored in shoe boxes, some under-bed plastic boxes, and in piles on shelves. Whenever I look at some of the really nice old ones with their perfect corners, I get all pissed off all over again, knowing that somebody once figured out how to make the perfect notebook and then they turned it into crap!


I also had a whole drawer-full in my office, until I started working from home. I’m counting just my actual Moleskine branded notebooks for the purposes of today’s post, though I also have a bunch of similar non-Moleskine notebooks earmarked for potential daily usage someday (as opposed to things that are fun to have in my collection, but not planned to be used). Here’s the count:

56 pocket sketchbooks. (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

55 pocket squared (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

12 pocket plain

30 pocket ruled (I normally don’t like ruled notebooks but on a couple of occasions I bought large lots of mixed paper styles. Since they are old ones with good paper and good overall quality, I’m willing to use one occasionally just to stretch out the lifespan of my inventory.)

Other pocket size: 1 storyboard, 1 music, 1 info book, 1 plain softcover, 1 address, 2 Japanese album, 2 ruled reporter, 1 squared reporter

Large size: 1 Voyageur, 1 large sketchbook, 1 large squared

I have not counted any “cahier” or Volant thin notebooks, as I have a few of those mixed in with various Field Notes and other similar stapled or stitched-spine notebooks. But the quantity is very small, just a few I’ve been given.

A few of the sketchbook, squared and plain ones are more recent models that I will use as a last resort. The info book is all crooked and defective, and I’m not quite sure why I’m even keeping it. But the count ends up at over 166 Moleskines, over 150 of which I am likely to potentially use on a day to day basis. (I haven’t counted the sketchbook and squared notebooks I am using now, or any of the dozens I’ve already filled.)

So… I know I’m a little crazy. My partner, who has to live with notebooks constantly arriving in the mail and taking up way too much of our limited space, definitely thinks I’m a little crazy (but also knows there are far worse vices). But the question remains, is it enough? 56 sketchbooks divided by 3 a year is a little less than 19 years, and I’ll only be about 67 years old at that point. The squared ones, if extended with the plain and ruled notebooks, will last up to 32 years, when I’ll be 81. I can probably ease off buying any more of those (unless I spot any really good cheap ones!) but I think I’m allowed to buy some more sketchbooks. Yay!


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.

Flying Tiger Notebooks

Flying Tiger is a Danish design store — they’ve recently opened a location in New York, and when I checked it out recently, I found that they have some amazingly cheap notebooks!
They have colorful composition books for only $2:
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There are also 3 sizes of hardcover journals, 4×6″ for $1, 6×8″ for $2, and 8×12″ for $3.
They come in a variety of solid colors and patterns.
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It seems like the kind of store where the products are frequently changing, so it will be interesting to see what other notebooks come along over the next few months…

Review: Metro Notebook

I bought the Metro notebook about a year ago, at artsupply.com. I think I had just stumbled across it while browsing around and searching for notebooks, and I was intrigued because it looked like a standard little Moleskine-clone and the price was really low, only $2.48 (plus shipping). They are no longer available on that site, and I haven’t seen them anywhere else. Before you get all frustrated thinking there’s a nice cheap notebook out there and I can’t tell you where to buy it, let me just say it’s no great loss! The Metro notebook wins the prize for being the WORST NOTEBOOK I’VE EVER REVIEWED ON THIS SITE! (So far, anyway…)


Pretty harsh, huh? I’ve reviewed notebooks that had a few quality issues. And I’ve reviewed many notebooks that weren’t really my cup of tea, but I could at least appreciate things about them that other people might like. But this notebook should have been exactly the type of notebook I love, except that it failed miserably in pretty much every respect. Let’s dive in and explore the atrocity!


As I said, it’s a standard made-in-China Moleskine-clone: pocket sized, black cover, elastic, ribbon marker, and expanding back pocket. Pretty much the same size as the pocket Moleskine shown next to it for comparison, just slightly shorter. There’s no branding inside, and the Metro name is stamped on the back cover in metallic ink.


The minute you pick it up, you start to notice the crappiness– the cover material has a shiny, cheap feel to it and shows some wrinkles and dings. The printed-on logo is already wearing off. The cover overhang is all over the place– completely cock-eyed with the pages sticking out slightly at the bottom on one side and the cover sticking way out on the top on one side.


The corners are not exactly rounded, as they’ve just folded them with one little tuck that leaves them kind of angled. When you open to the inside front cover, you can see glue stains along the edges (they are hard to see in these photos, but very noticeable in person), and the glue is coming loose.


The notebook does not open very flat as it does not have sewn signatures– it is perfect-bound, with the pages cut and glued together at the spine.


The pages are a yellowish creamy color– to me it looked like the kind of yellowing that can come from acid aging the paper, so I was surprised to see my pH test show that the paper was acid-free. The paper is a bit less smooth than a Moleskine, and perhaps a bit thinner (no weight is specified). The pens I tested worked fine for the most part, with a bit of feathering from the Accu-Liner, and some spread when I held it in place for 5 seconds. But showthrough and bleedthrough were worse than usual.


The paper in this notebook is not great, but it shines in comparison to the shoddy construction around it. I suppose it’s somewhat to be expected for a notebook that was so low-priced, but I was still kind of amazed at just how bad it was! I would be interested to know if any readers have bought one of these with better results. As a notebook enthusiast and addict, I can usually find something to like or appreciate about almost any notebook, but the Metro really has no redeeming qualities! I feel like I have to keep it in my collection just for comparative purposes, but I’ll have to bury it somewhere I won’t come across it often. If you love notebooks the way I do, you know what a pleasure it can be just to fondle a really nice one– the opposite is true as well! It’s almost painful for me to look at and touch this deeply disappointing, badly made notebook.

Verdict: Do not waste $2.48 or even a penny on the heinous, awful Metro notebook!!

My Inventory of Spare Notebooks

As you might imagine, I have a lot of notebooks stashed in various places. I have boxes of them under beds and in cabinets and in drawers. They are at home and at the office. They are pretty much everywhere! Lots of them are old ones that I have used. Lots of them are new ones that I have not used. Because of this blog, I have a number of notebooks that I never intend to use, though I do try to give a lot of those away. But what about the ones that I do intend to use? I had kind of lost track of how many I had squirreled away, so I decided to get a handle on it. Hint: there are a lot!

I am rather anxious about running out of notebooks that meet my criteria for regular daily use. What if they just stop making ones I like? It could happen. And what about Moleskine’s decline in quality? I’ve been so dismayed at the way they make their notebooks now that I’ve been buying up older ones whenever I spot good ones. For a notebook to make the cut as a daily companion, it has to be approximately 3.5 x 5.5″ or smaller, with plain, dot grid or squared paper. It has to feel good to write in, and feel good to hold. I prefer that the cover be plain, but I’m open to variations as long as the overall aesthetics are pleasing. In addition to the “daily use” notebooks, I am also including the kinds of sketchbooks that I tend to use regularly for assorted drawing and painting, which have to be the same size, with sturdy plain paper. (I am not counting larger sketchbooks, which I do sometimes use, but much more rarely, so I don’t stock up on them much.) After going through my various piles, here’s my current inventory of notebooks with potential for daily use and regular sketching:

  • 20 squared hardcover Moleskines
  • 2 plain hardcover Moleskines
  • 15 Moleskine sketchbooks
  • 2 HandBook Artist Journals
  • 36 assorted other hardcover or softcover notebooks from other brands, including Piccadilly, Pen & Ink and others
  • 37 assorted staple-bound or stitched-spine cahier-style notebooks, from brands such as Moleskine, Field Notes, Doane Paper, Calepino, etc.

I was surprised that I only had 2 unused HandBooks left, as I had quite a few of those at one point. But the main thing that struck me after compiling this list is that I need to start using those cahiers more! I tried to use one for household notes like room measurements and furniture measurements at one point, thinking it would be helpful when shopping for some new furniture, but that project sort of fizzled out. I toy with the idea of using these small notebooks for single subjects or projects, or for drawing and doodling. They are lightweight and easy to carry, so I keep thinking I should be using them for listmaking, or for sketching when I don’t want to carry a daily notes notebook plus another hardcover sketchbook. I could even try carrying a few at a time bundled into a Traveler’s Notebook-style cover. I could be stretching out the lifespan of my nice old Moleskines if I used more of these cahiers.

Since I tend to use about 4-6 notebooks a year on average, including sketchbooks, the 75 non-cahier spares I currently have may only last about 12 years, or until I am about 57 years old. God forbid that I run out of good notebooks just a few years before I’m ready to retire!!! And I am very healthy (knock on wood) and have a family history of longevity, so I may need notebooks until I’m in my early to mid 90s. I can’t just say “oh, I’m sure I’ll have enough.” Proper planning is key. If my usage shifted to 2-3 full-size notebooks and 1 cahier a year, I’d be all set for about 30 years, til I’ll be 75. Assuming I keep blogging and paying attention to new notebooks that hit the market, I am likely to add some other acceptable notebooks to my collection during that time, so I may not have a shortfall until I’m even older. It still makes me a little nervous to imagine living out the final years of my life with only inferior notebooks to scribble in… and you always hear horror stories about people’s stuff being stolen when they’re in nursing homes… so I guess I will just have to keep collecting more spare notebooks to get me through!


Review and Giveaway: Miro Notebooks

Miro has been around for a few years now, but their product lines have evolved since I last reviewed some Miro samples in late 2012. Let’s take a look at another generous assortment of more recent samples sent to me by the company:

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Miro’s hardcover journals at first glance seem very similar to many others on the market, but they do offer some nice variations, including colored page edges and different paper weights as seen below.

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I’ll be taking a close look at the pocket sized black notebook below. One immediate difference jumps out right away– Miro has chosen to make their pocket notebooks in a 3.25 x 5.5″ size, just a bit narrower than then standard size favored by most of the competition. Beyond that, the exterior of the notebook is pretty typical– small logo on the bottom back cover, but there’s also an additional stamped logo on the spine. The spine is a bit more rounded and soft than most Moleskines these days, which are more squared-off. I like the rounder spine, and I think it can tend to be less liable to tear at the corners. The notebook comes with a barcode sticker on the back, but it peeled off easily without leaving any sticky residue. The cover overhang is pretty typical– a bit more than I would like.

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Below, the Miro notebook is shown with a pocket size Moleskine for comparison. The narrower shape makes it a bit more pocketable, though many people may miss the extra writing space.

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Inside, you get a logo and a spot to write your personal details. This example also had a small tear in the front endpaper near the spine– it doesn’t affect the usability of the notebook at all but I was a little surprised it would slip through their quality control. The page layout is rather odd– a gap runs down through the lines near the spine on both sides, one line in the middle of each page is thicker than the others, and the top line of the page is dotted. (When I first reviewed Miro notebooks a couple of years ago, they had various options for plain and squared paper but now it seems that most of their notebooks come in lined only, except for the large size being offered in lined or plain.) But the double ribbon marker is a great feature, and I like that they are a bit thinner than usual.

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The pocket in the back is a bit different from most of the competition. Rather than an expanding pocket that runs the length of the cover, there’s just a small glued-on corner pocket where you can tuck a few things. And really, just a few– it’s a small pocket with a pretty tight little opening. A full sized pocket would have been more practical, and more attractive, as the current design allows the dark color of the cover to show through the endpapers.
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The paper held up pretty well with my usual pens. Show-through and bleed-through were about average– given that I was testing the 100 GSM paper, I would have expected it to perhaps perform even better, but paper weight isn’t everything. Fountain pen users should be very happy, though–both of mine went on smoothly with no bleed-through or feathering.

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I also tested the 90 GSM paper in one of the other notebooks (the larger one in the photos below). It’s definitely different– not quite as smooth, not as creamy a color. Definitely more show-through and bleed-through, though fountain pens still worked nicely. One benefit to the 90 GSM paper is that the fountain pens were totally dry when I swiped my finger across them after 5 seconds of drying time. On the 100 GSM paper, they were still wet and smeared at 5 seconds, taking more like 10 seconds to fully dry.

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I didn’t do a thorough review on the rest of the products, but they’re a nice variety of styles. Cahier-style stitched spine notebooks with chalkboard designs:

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Wooden and felt covered wire-bound notebooks:

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And even a bookmark:
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You can buy these and various other notebooks at the Franklin Mill website. Some are also available on Amazon, and in various local stationery shops, though unfortunately there is no retailer list on the website.

And of course I’m doing a giveaway for a lot of these extra samples! I’ll randomly select 4 winners from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Miro Journal @thefranklinmill” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @thefranklinmill.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Franklin Mill page and post something containing the words “Miro Journal” on the Notebook Stories wall.

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

The deadline for entry is Friday July 25, 2014 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.

Review and Giveaway: Notes and Dabbles

I was excited to discover this new brand, as I’m always looking for nice, basic notebooks with simple extra touches that differentiate them from the pack. I really liked the look of Notes & Dabbles’ cloth-covered notebooks as well as the leather-look hardcovers and softcovers, so I immediately wrote to the company to request samples. They very generously complied! Look at all the goodies:


My immediate favorites were the softcover notebooks. They are a really nice size that just fits nicely in the hand, and in the pocket. You can see below that they are noticeably smaller than a pocket hardcover Moleskine. Though all the notebooks I received are supposedly 90 x 140 mm, these softcovers are actually 87 x 137mm– I’m not complaining, though. The red and dark navy covers are pleasing shades, in a somewhat glossier cover material than other similar notebooks I’ve tried. The covers have an extra layer of reinforcement that stiffens them a bit and hopefully would prevent corners from curling with prolonged use. The brand is stamped on the back cover. Inside the front cover there are lines for contact info. Inside the back cover, there is an expanding pocket, with an extra little slot where you can tuck a business card. There is an elastic closure but no ribbon marker. The last few pages are perforated. The notebook opens nice and flat.


The paper is very similar to what you’ll find in a Moleskine– nice and smooth and a pleasure to write on with fine point gel ink pens. Unfortunately it is a bit worse than average in terms of show-through and bleed-through, and fountain pens seem to feather out a bit.


Given the somewhat too-light paper, this would not be something I’d want to use for heavy-duty journal writing or as a sketchbook, but it would be a great daily jotter to throw in a bag or jacket pocket. I really love the size and feel of this notebook, and couldn’t tear myself away from the sample as soon as I’d unpacked it!

The cloth-covered notebooks have true 90 x 140mm sizing on the outside, though there is a bit of cover overhang so the book block within is about the same size as the softcover notebook. I love clothbound covers on notebooks like the HandBook Artist Journals, and wish they were used more. I also love colored page edges. The black covers with yellow and orange edges are a bit bright but fun. The grey is nice, but I’d prefer it with a different contrasting color than blue. My only disappointment with these was the construction– the spines are very loose, as if the cover was sized to have a thicker book block inside it. The extra material tends to bulge out unevenly and it just looks a bit sloppy. These also have the back pocket with the business card slot, and a nice bonus feature: two ribbon markers, in colors matching the rest of the notebook.


The pen-loop notebooks were my least favorite of the batch– for one, I personally never use pen loops and I generally don’t like the way they throw off the clean edges of a notebook. But it did seem like a clever concept to put the loop on the spine instead of the edge where the notebook opens– since it’s elastic, it sits pretty flat against the spine and is a lot less obtrusive when you’re not using it. The construction of this notebook is rather unusual (though not unique, as the Fabio Ricci “Goran” notebook seems to be almost identical). The hard leather-look front and back cover each end in a line of stitching near the spine, and the spine is made of cloth in a contrasting color, with the black elastic pen loop on top. I don’t love the white with blue or pink color combos, though there are more attractive black and grey versions also available.


All these notebooks are available in plain, lined and dotted page versions, and also in larger sizes. Notes and Dabbles doesn’t seem to have US distribution yet, but keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates about retail availability. And in the meantime, I’ve got lots of samples to share with some lucky readers!

I will send two notebooks each to 5 lucky winners from entries received in the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Notes & Dabbles” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories .

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Notes & Dabbles page, and post something containing the words “Notes & Dabbles” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Notes & Dabbles” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday May 2, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.

Review and Giveaway: Victoria’s Journals

I had never heard of the brand Victoria’s Journals, so I was very happy to receive a huge assortment of them from the company, which is based in Hong Kong. Wow– lots of variety and some unusual designs. Let’s take a look! (To see larger versions of the thumbnails below, click through to see the original on Flickr.)

Here’s the whole collection:

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Big ones, small ones, elastic closures, magnetic closures, snap closures, colorful covers, plain covers. They really run the gamut! I’ve shown the various groupings below next to a pocket size Moleskine for size reference.

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I picked a couple favorites to review in more detail. First, a chunky pocket size notebook under the Copelle brand. You’ll also notice a similar black one in the photos above, in a larger size.

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I really like the size and shape and the uncovered cardboard cover. It’s reinforced with an extra layer so it’s quite sturdy. The binding is an unusual construction, designed so it opens flatter. There’s no inside pocket but you do have a ribbon marker, though it is glued into the back cover rather than into the spine of the notebook at the middle of the pages. This means it gets pulled out a bit whenever you open the back cover. The elastic closure on this notebook is also unique– it’s about an inch wide and seems very sturdy. Unfortunately it’s really awkward to use– not practical at all. I am seriously tempted to try to cut it off so I could actually use this notebook, as even tucking it around the back cover leaves an annoying bulge.


The pages inside have a dot grid, which does not go all the way to the edge of the page. The paper is nice and smooth and feels great with fine tip pens. I don’t know the paper weight but it feels more substantial than most, and my usual pen tests also bear that out– show-through was a little better than average, and bleed-through performance was great, with even the dreaded Super Sharpie not soaking through too much. I think fountain pen users will really like this paper. Another cool feature is that the last 8 pages of the notebook have blank, perforated pages, which are not only perforated at the gutter, but across the middle of the page.

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Very handy if you just want to give someone a phone number without wasting a whole page. Bottom line, I really love this notebook but I hope they redesign that big wide elastic!


Then we have this medium-size Venzi notebook.

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According to the paper band, this was made exclusively for the National Bookstore chain in the Philippines. This is very similar to a softcover Moleskine, but has lovely red-dyed edges and a matching red elastic. The cover has a nice feel, and the notebook is quite flexible. There is an expanding pocket in the back, but no ribbon marker. The paper inside is blank, in a creamy off-white. According to the label, it’s 70 GSM, and it feels a bit thin. The pen tests produced quite a lot of show-through, and the Accu-Liner and Super Sharpie bled through. The other thing I noticed about this notebook was an unusual smell, perhaps from the dye they use on the edges? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and I didn’t think it was a horrible odor, but it was pretty noticeable when I first opened the notebook. But otherwise, I quite liked the notebook as a nice basic softcover with a fun twist to the design. I’m not sure if the Venzi collection is available outside the Philippines but I would live to try more of them, as I am always looking for nice, basic Moleskine alternatives in my favorite 9×14 cm / 3.5 x 5.5″ size, and they have some intriguing options on their website, though they only seem to offer ruled pages.

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Of the other notebooks, the most appealing to me was a boxed one that is very similar to the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. A leather cover encloses 3 stitched notebooks, each meant to be used for a different purpose: Time has undated calendar pages, Work is lined, and Personal is blank. These titles are embossed into the covers of each cahier but so lightly that it’s very hard to see in the photos, or in person, for that matter. The notebook also comes with a page of stickers you can use to create tabbed pages.

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I also liked the look of the “Cahier d’Exercise” notebooks, which come in two sizes, though the stitched binding is a bit impractical as it prevents them from opening flat.

Victoria’s Journals are available in various retailers around the world (see their Where to Buy page). But of course I am also doing a big giveaway with these samples if you want a chance to try them for free!

I will select 4 lucky winners from entries received in the following ways:
On Twitter, tweet something containing  “Victoria’s Journals” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow  “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page , and post something containing the words “Victoria’s Journals” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Victoria’s Journals” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

On this post, comment about how much you want to try a Victoria’s Journal and what you’ll fill it with!

The deadline for entry is Friday September 6 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.

Review & Giveaway: Palomino Luxury Notebook

The kind folks at Pencils.com sent me a couple of samples of their Palomino Luxury Notebooks. I was excited to try these, as they looked like they were adding some interesting tweaks to the typical notebook, and because I had seen that they were being made in collaboration with the Turkish brand Fabio Ricci, one of whose notebooks I picked up in Istanbul and quite liked. The owners of Palomino seem to be following in Moleskine’s marketing footsteps by trying to create a distinctive brand identity, tying the Blackwing pencil brand to a historic legacy. But in the case of these notebooks, they are selling them more on the basis of being a higher-end, better quality notebook than the competition. From the Palomino Brands website:

“Each notebook features 160 pages of acid-free, 90 GSM paper and a hardbound cover.

Tastefully designed to combine modern technology, premium materials and traditional artisanship perfected by generations of Turkish printers and book binders, these notebooks have the look and feel of elegance that has long defined the Palomino brand.”

So let’s take a look…

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The Palomino Luxury Notebook stands out at a glance because of the orange spine and the debossed motif along the edge of the front and back covers. As you can see from the comparison below, it is slightly bigger than a pocket Moleskine, though both are supposedly 3.5 x 5.5″. The cover material is slightly smoother and glossier than a Moleskine, a bit more leather-like. The notebook feels very solidly constructed and substantial and the extra details give it a feel of quality. One little thing I noticed is that although the cover is thicker than that of a Moleskine, the rounded corners of the cover are very neatly tucked in– this is something that is frequently sloppy on other brands of notebooks, where they don’t take the time to properly trim the black cover material so it will wrap tightly around the board underneath.

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The only downside to the exterior appearance is that the orange spine seems to be painted on with something that starts to show hairline cracks when the cover flexes. Over time, I’m not sure if this paint would start to flake off. (But the spine does bend nicely when the notebook is opened– it seems stronger than a Moleskine spine, and less likely to start tearing at the corners.) You’ll also notice that the cover overhangs the pages by quite a bit, which is a pet peeve of mine.

Inside, there’s a space for your name and other details on the inside front cover– why the name is set apart from the other lines, I don’t know. Inside the back cover is a paper expanding pocket– it’s a bit skimpy in size, and lacks the cloth reinforcement in the sides that many other brands have.

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Inside, the paper is smooth, but a bit less so than some other brands. Oddly, a few of my pens seemed to “skid” a little on the surface, not sure why, but it was mainly the fountain pens. The lines go all the way to the edge of each page. All my usual pens worked pretty well with better than average performance on bleedthrough, and about average levels of show-through.

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You can buy these journals at Pencils.com or via Amazon for $12.95, the same list price as a pocket Moleskine. I think it’s a great value. Many of the “luxury” features of this notebook are design elements that may or may not appeal to your personal preferences, but there is definitely a level of quality and attention to detail here that is a cut above some of the competition. Medium size is also available, in lined or plain paper. Pencils.com also sells other Blackwing Luxury Notebooks in medium and large, with lined, plain and squared paper– the non-Palomino ones have plain black exteriors and may be preferred by some who don’t care for the orange spine.

And since I have an extra sample, here’s our exciting giveaway! I will select one lucky winner from entries received in the following ways:
On Twitter, tweet something containing “@pencilscom” and “@NotebookStories, and follow “” and “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page  and the Pencils.com page, and post something containing the words “Palomino Luxury Notebook” on the Notebook Stories wall.

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

The deadline for entry is Friday May 31 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.




Review: Rebel Arts Notebook

Here’s a neat little notebook that I picked up at the DIA Beacon shop, which was an interesting place to look for notebooks, as some of them seemed to be shelved in amongst all the art books, according to whatever artist made them.

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In this case, the artist is Shepard Fairey, who is best known for his iconic Barack Obama poster. Oddly enough, Fairey’s name appears nowhere on the notebook– if I hadn’t seen it described on other museum store websites when I did a search for more info, I would never have know he designed the cover image.

The notebook has a small, pleasingly chunky shape to it. It’s a tiny bit shorter than a pocket size Moleskine, but quite a bit thicker. Unfortunately, there is more cover overhang, so the pages inside are smaller. The corners of the notebook are quite sharp and square, not rounded off at all. The binding doesn’t allow the notebook to lie totally flat.

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I love the clothbound cover and the image on the front, which seems to be printed into the cloth itself rather than glued or stamped on. The endpapers are also very cool. There is no other branding on the notebook. It’s also quite stripped down in terms of not having a ribbon marker, elastic closure, or back pocket.
The paper inside is a bit rougher than most, with almost a lined texture to it. I thought it might feel a bit scratchy with some of my fine point pens, but it didn’t– all my pens wrote nicely on the paper, though there was some feathering and bleed-through with a few, and I would say show-through was worse than average.

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The $12.95 retail price seems right in line with other notebooks of this quality, though some people might think it should include the usual ribbon, elastic, and pocket. Black and green versions are also available. I’ve seen them for sale at McNally Jackson bookstore in NYC, and various museum stores also seem to carry them.