Tag Archives: maps

Review and Giveaway: Writersblok 2017 Planner

Writersblok is heading in some exciting new directions lately. I reviewed their most recent notebooks here. Now they’ve expanded the product line to include a planner for 2017. Let’s take a look!

From Kikkerland’s website:

“Keep all of your master plans safe and on schedule with this beautiful recycled leather Writersblok Planner. Back pages feature exclusive subway maps of New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, redesigned solely for Writersblok planner. Also includes gorgeous and useful reference sheets. Part of the proceeds from Writersblok goes to literacy programs such as 826NYC in New York City. 826NYC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.”


The exterior design is very similar to the notebooks– plain black cover, with an attractive removable wrapper with branding info.

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Inside, you get a nice assortment of planner layouts– annual, monthly and weekly, etc., so it should be adaptable to bullet journaling. The layouts are nice and clean, with attractive touches of color.

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In the back, you get some cool bonus material, including a nicely designed weights and measures conversion page.

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There are also a couple pages for key contacts– nowadays most of us keep contact info only in our phones. I’m guilty of that too but keep hearing horror stories of people who lose their phones and can’t remember any numbers when they are trying to meet up with someone, so writing these down is a good habit to get into.

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The transit maps are very cool, although the one for New York is overly optimistic about 2nd Avenue subway– only a small section of it is planned to open by the end of 2016 and the rest of the T line isn’t even funded. But it’s fun to fantasize about how great it will be someday! The other cities included are London, Tokyo, and Paris.

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There is also a world time zone map, but I spotted an error in its color coding– it seems like the key to the GMT offsets is off by an hour, at least based on the places whose timezones I am familiar with. NYC should be -5, not -4. London and the rest of England should be in the 0 zone, not the purple +1 zone. And France, Spain, Germany, etc should be +1. The lines and the numbers on the key are correct, it’s just the colors that are misleading, so the map is not unusable, just a bit misleading. (Kikkerland has said they’ll fix it in next year’s version.)

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A ribbon marker and back pocket complete the package. At 6×8.25″ to match the size of an iPad Mini, and with a lay-flat binding, this will work well both on the desktop or in your bag.

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You can buy the Writersblok planner at a 30% discount off of the regular $20.00 price with promo code NS16 via the ad link in the upper right corner of this site. Or you can try your luck in my giveaway for a free sample! I’ll select two winners from entries received in any of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Writersblok 2017 Planner @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 2017 Planner” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Kikkerland Writersblok 2017 Planner” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday August 26, 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.

Note: Kikkerland provided me with these samples free of charge, and are an advertiser on this site, but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Naomi Leeman

This week’s addict is a designer and illustrator who has filled many Moleskines with collages from her travels, among other things:

“For the past several years, I’ve keep a sketchbook that I use for everyday notes, ideas, lists, sketches, as well as travel collages.  I carry it with me everywhere and, recently, it has been filling up with new Japanese words I’m learning!  Whenever I travel, I add collages of each city I visit.  You know all those maps, brochures, and ticket stubs you collect while traveling?  I have always hated throwing all that information away; I have this irrational desire to hang on to it all because I’ll want to look at it again one day!  Of course, I never actually look at it again, so I’ve decided to save some of it in my sketchbooks by cutting it up and making collages. ….  Between sketching and collaging, I’m sure my collection of black Moleskine notebooks will continue to grow.  Filled with good memories, preserved for the future.”

Read more and see lots more collages at: Travel Collages — Naomi Leeman

Shopping for Notebooks at Book People

I recently went to Book People, a great independent bookstore in Austin, Texas. They have a huge selection of gift items and stationery, including lots of notebooks from Moleskine, Leuchtturm, Miquelrius, Michael Roger, HandBook, Paperblanks, Rhodia, Field Notes and many more.

Here’s what I had to snag for myself, as I’d never seen these in a store before:

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It’s not the most practical notebook, but I loved the design! A variety of map designs were available. Some were only on the front cover, but others had maps both front and back. The edges of the paper are rough-torn and seem like they’ve been dipped in something to artificially age them. The overall effect is quite attractive, though I’m a little worried that the binding won’t be very durable. There is no branding anywhere on the notebook, so I have no idea who makes them. BookPeople’s price label says “Worldbuyers Blank Books” but a Google search hasn’t turned anything up.

The other new discovery for me was some Field Notes-like 3-packs of notebooks in themes for Grumps and Introverts. A fun gift item for sure! They’re made by Archie McPhee.

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Moleskine Monday: My Collection of City Notebooks

I’ve always been a fan of Moleskine’s City Notebooks. After noticing that they seemed to have scaled back their list of cities quite a bit (Moleskine Monday: Did the World Just Get Smaller?), I’ve been snapping up other cities wherever I can, often at good discounts off the original list price. Here’s my collection thus far, as well as some details about how they fit into my travel plans:

Have Visited Have Visited More Than Once Used Moleskine City Book Intend to Visit in Next 12 months
Amsterdam x
Boston x x x
Chicago x x
Dublin x
Florence x
Frankfurt x x
Hong Kong
Istanbul x x
Lisbon x x
London x x x x
Los Angeles x x
Montreal x x
NYC (home) x x  x
Paris x x x
Philadelphia x x
San Francisco x x
Toronto x x
Venice x
Wash DC x x x

As you can see, my desire for these notebooks is not entirely practical–I’d like to say I’m going to visit all of these cities in the next few years, but it’s not likely to happen. (There are a few cities on this list that I don’t have a strong desire to visit, but I love to travel and can’t think of too many places that I wouldn’t go to if I had the chance! Except maybe Russia, given recent events.) I’ll be lucky to hit maybe 3 or 4 more new cities beyond my plans to go to Paris and Amsterdam this fall.  I think the City Notebooks are most useful when you visit a place regularly and want to keep track of favorite shops, restaurants and destinations there. I used to visit London regularly for work, but was no longer doing so when I first bought my London notebook. Now I may be going there more often again, so I’m glad I’ll be able to use my notebook more to record everything I love about this wonderful city. Other than that, though I have family in the Boston and DC areas, I don’t use the notebooks when I visit there, mainly because I don’t spend much time in the city itself. Paris will be my next repeat visit with a City Notebook.

My strategy when using these is to keep them handy while planning the trip, and jot down ideas from newspaper and magazine articles, advice from friends, and top destinations from travel guides or websites. I have found myself planning itineraries and using the translucent sheets to map out where I plan to walk. I love being able to discreetly refer to a map in a little black book rather than being an obvious tourist flashing a guide book. I’ve found that the maps have most of the info I need, but they are a few years out of date– most old European cities probably don’t have too many changes in their street maps, but transit options may be slightly different.

I know City Notebooks also exist for Zurich, Moscow and St. Petersburg, but beyond that, I’m not sure if there are any others I’m missing in my collection. Does anyone know?

Famille Summerbelle Map Notebooks

These look cute… I love the intricate designs, which seem to be based on cut paper!

Find out more at Discover our new notebooks! – Famille Summerbelle.

Matthew William Robinson’s Sketchbook

Design Sponge has some great “sketchbook sneak peek” posts. This was one of my favorites, for the way it shows the thought process behind an artist’s work. Here’s what Matthew William Robinson’s finished work looks like:

And here are some pages from his sketchbooks. There’s nothing perfect and pretty about them, they’re more about thought processes and explorations:

Read more at Sketchbook Sneak Peek: Matthew William Robinson | Design*Sponge.

Review: Bound Custom Journals

I’ve had my eye on Bound Custom Journals for a while. The company was launched in 2011 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, inspired by founder Joel Sadler’s desire for a customized travel journal. The result is pretty extraordinary: a website where you can build custom notebooks page by page, with all manner of page templates and maps. Joel offered me a chance to test-drive the whole process… so let’s see how they turned out!

First the process of creating your notebook:

I went to Bound’s website and clicked “Build a Journal.” First you select your notebook format, linen-wrapped flexibound, staplebound, or vegan-leather flexibound. You then select a cover color, and are presented with a wide variety of page types to select from. The site keeps track of how many pages are available to be filled in the notebook. You can select one lined page followed by 3 blank pages if you want, or 43 daily log pages. I was thinking at first that you’d have to select the pages in signatures, but not so– it is truly flexible. The only time the program dictates how many pages are required is with maps, for obvious reasons. There is even customization within customization– you can not only select lined pages, you can decide how wide you want the line spacing to be, and whether it runs vertically or horizontally. The only thing that might be a problem for some people is that the daily, weekly, or monthly calendar pages force you to choose a date range, rather than allowing you to insert a certain number of undated pages.

It’s quite fun to play around with selecting pages. You can be totally random about it, but where it can really come in handy is for a journal devoted to a specific project or trip. Say you’re planning a trip to London: you could select a London map, then calendar pages for the date range of your trip, then contact pages for people or places you want to visit there, a checklist for sights you want to see there, and some Tic Tac Toe and Hangman pages to pass the time on the plane. Or say you’ve just started a small business designing clothes. You could select clothing template pages for onesies, hoodies and t-shirts to sketch out your designs, wireframe pages to design your website, storyboard pages to plan out a video advertisement, and calendar pages where you plot out all the things you need to do to get your business up and running by a certain date.

The possibilities are endless. But once you’ve settled on your pages and filled your journal, you review your selection, decide if you want to order more than one in the same layout, check out, and in about a week, they’ll be shipping your lovely custom journal. They say they make these journals one at a time, by hand, in the USA. I don’t know how they manage it, but it works!

Now for the finished product:

Here’s the two I ordered, also shown with a pocket Moleskine for size comparison.


I love my little 3.5 x 5.5″ staplebound journal, known as the Bound Memo. I mean, I really really love it.


It’s your typical cahier-type notebook, with a sturdy paper cover. The paper is EXCELLENT. It’s smooth and feels great to write on. Pens don’t feather out, and it performs extremely well on show-through and bleed-through. I think it stood up to my Super Sharpie better than almost any other notebook I’ve reviewed, even though it feels relatively thin.


I love the pastel colors available for the cover, though it would be nice if black was also an option. There’s a nice little logo on the cover, a minimal spot on the inside front cover to write your name, with plenty of blank space for more. The edges are precisely cut. The recycled paper shows some visible fibers.


The London and Europe maps are handy and readable. Some major London landmarks are noted on the map, including various industrial parks and shopping centers, which surprised me a bit. The printing throughout is not super-sharp– it’s comparable to what you could get out of a good-quality office printer, which is fine with me, except for one thing: the grey borders around the map make it hard to see certain streets– Moleskine’s City maps are designed the same way, but the grey border has more transparency and sharpness so you can still see what’s under there, and I think there is a bit more overlap at the edges, where Bound’s maps seem to have no overlap at all, meaning you could lose a street that happened to fall exactly at the edge.


The inside back cover has some info about the brand and the design. I don’t really need to know what typeface is used, but that’s fine. All in all, it’s a great little notebook. At $10 for one 48-page notebook, it’s expensive, but for the customization, quality, and being made in the USA, it’s worth it.

I also ordered the original Bound Journal.


This one starts off with one strike against it due to my own peculiar prejudices– it’s 4×6″, a bit larger than my preferred pocket size. But it comes nicely wrapped in paper, with a sticker closing the package, and a logo magnet thrown in for fun.


I really like the cover material– the cloth comes in nice colors (including black) and it is a nice thickness. It’s hard to see the texture in these photos but there’s a close-up below.


And the cover overhang is pretty minimal, which is a big plus. But the big negative is that the binding does not come even close to opening flat. I’m not sure exactly how the notebook is constructed, but it’s a problem, as bits of the maps can get lost in the gutter.


As for the insides: plain black endpapers, which I love, even if it’s harder to write your info on them without a special pen, and 140 pages worth of customizability.


This time, I chose a Manhattan map, which takes up 35 pages. The map gives you the names of parks, and a few other things like the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Hunter College, but it doesn’t note major landmarks like the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, NYU or Columbia University. I’m not sure what the source of the map data is, or how up to date it is, but I noticed that on mine, the recently developed Brooklyn Bridge Park is not on the map, though a much older and less-touristed park nearby is shown. For some reason, I also found the grey borders even harder to see through on the NYC map than in the London map.


The other problem with this particular map is the way the sections of the map are proportioned to the city landscape. In certain sections, a lot of space ends up devoted to water. Unless you’re using the journal to track scuba-diving the East River in search of drowned mafiosos in cement shoes, this is a big waste. (To be fair, Moleskine’s New York City Notebook has a bit of the same problem, though not as much– and theirs includes a larger portion of the more popular neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.) I hope they’ll also add more maps to choose from– so far, 8 cities are available, plus 10 regions and a world map.


The notebook again has some info at the back about the company and the design, but that’s it– no pocket, no ribbon marker, no elastic closure, all of which is fine with me. This size journal is $35, or $50 if you go for the version with the “vegan leather” cover. This again seems expensive, but probably worth it given the customizability…  it would be harder for me to commit to paying $35 for this notebook than to paying $10 for the Memo book, partially because the larger journal just doesn’t happen to be the exact size I like, but also because I’m afraid the inability to lie flat would really get on my nerves. Others may disagree!

Bottom line, despite a few gripes, I think the folks at Bound have created a really great product. For anyone who really wants a truly unique and totally useful notebook, this is the perfect solution. I hope they’ll consider tweaking some things, but despite that I can see myself happily ordering at least the small memo books again for future travels and other uses.

You can build your own Bound notebook here— act fast and you might still even get it before Christmas!





Lake District Notebook

I am always drawn to old notebooks, even if the notes within aren’t about a subject I’m particularly interested in. I’m tempted whenever I see these stories about notebooks being auctioned, even if they’re way beyond my budget! This one, belonging to Alfred Wainwright, an expert on England’s Lake District, ended up selling for £8,600.


Read more at Wainwright’s notebook under the hammer | ITV News.

Moleskine Monday: A Comparison vs. the Bound Custom Journal

An interesting side-by-side comparison of the Moleskine City notebook for Paris, vs. a Bound Custom Journal with Paris map pages. The writer admits he’s a bit biased as it’s on Bound’s own blog, but I think he did a very fair comparison of each notebook’s features.

I haven’t tried a Bound journal yet, but I love the idea of being able to customize the sections. If I was using one for a travel journal, I’d love to have map pages plus calendar pages for my trip dates– that is a definite plus over Moleskine. But I love the smaller size of the Moleskine– to me, even 4×6″ starts to feel a bit too large for a notebook I’m going to carry around while traveling. I also like the ribbon markers and tracing paper included in the Moleskine. Everyone’s preferences are different in these matters…

Read more at Bound Custom Journal v Moleskine City Notebook: Showdown in Paris.

Kolby Kirk’s First Journal

I featured Kolby Kirk’s hiking journals here a while ago, but more recently, I came across a post on another blog of his, talking about his first journal. I love how he explored his interests in a variety of topics in these wonderful sketches:

The journal itself is pretty neat– a spiral bound sketchbook onto which he glued an expanding folder:

Read more at kolbykirk.com » Blog Archive » My First Journal.

Don’t forget that notebooks make great holiday gifts! Check out the Notebook Stories Store for lots of great brands.