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Denik Notebook Review & Giveaway

Today I’m finally doing a long overdue review of a Denik notebook. I’d first noticed this brand quite a while ago, due to their colorful point of purchase display, which I saw first at a booth at either the BookExpo convention or the NY NOW Gift Show at the Javits Center, or perhaps in a store in Brooklyn, I forget which. But wherever it was, the display was hard to miss due to the broad array of vibrant cover designs. I was thrilled to receive a free sample to review from Denik.

The Denik brand is all about creativity and activism. Their ever changing assortment of designs come from artists of all types. A portion of the proceeds from each notebook purchased goes to either the artist who designed the cover or to building schools around the world. Learn more here.

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The sample I received is one of their softcover notebooks, with a cover design by Katrina Houskeeper. The size is 5.25 x 8.25″, with 75 sheets/150 pages. It comes shrink-wrapped, and underneath, has an attractive grey-shaded cover with gold-stamped “Crazy Ideas” logo. The cover material is a soft feel to it and is said to be water resistant. The design continues on the inside front and back covers, which I love.

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The notebook is perfect-bound, so it does not lie flat– but I got this sample a while ago and Denik has since changed their construction to smyth-sewn and describe their softcovers as “lay-flat” so they have addressed that issue– yay! (They still say the page count is 150, which I’m trying to figure out, since I thought sewn signature notebooks always had page counts in multiples of 4. Maybe they glue in one extra page??)

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Inside, there is lined paper, which feels pretty average to the touch, not overly smooth, but gives a really nice gliding feel with most pens. Show-through is about average, and bleed-through slightly better than average. Some fountain pens feather a bit. Unlined paper is also available, and they also offer leather bound sketchbooks, and spiral bound notebooks and sketchbooks.

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At $11.95, the softcover notebook is maybe a teensy bit on the high end of reasonably priced, but I think that is OK given that it is made in the USA and benefits good causes. If you love collecting notebooks with colorful, unique covers, you’ll want to give these a try. You can find them at many retailers, or order online at the Denik webstore, or you can enter the giveaway for some prizes provided by Denik! We are giving away 5 Notebooks, one each to 5 different winners!

For this giveaway, the entry rules are a little different, so please read the instructions below carefully. I have just launched a Notebook Stories account on Instagram, so this will be my first Instagram giveaway!
To enter:

  • Follow @shopdenik on Instragram
  • Follow @notebook.stories on Instagram (make sure you have the “.” in there, as “@notebookstories” without the “.” is someone else!)
  • Tag a friend in the comments on my Instagram post about Denik. You can better your chances of winning by tagging more of your friends. Please keep it to one tag per comment.
  • You can also enter by posting a comment on this blog post with your Instagram account name, but you must be following @shopdenik and @notebook.stories in order to be eligible to win.
  • The deadline to enter is Friday October 20, 2017
  • You must be in the US to enter.

Winners will be announced within two weeks after the end of the entry period. Thanks and good luck everyone!

 

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Review and Giveaway: Coloring Notebook

I’m sure no one has failed to notice the adult coloring book trend that’s exploded over the last few years. Bookstores are jam-packed with them. Many have gorgeous , elaborate designs, but that’s all there is to them: pages to color. For those of us who are always carrying a notebook or journal anyway, the Coloring Notebook provides a way to combine coloring pages with notes and journal entries, all in one package. Let’s take a look at the free sample the makers sent me:

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From the outside, it’s very much in line with other Moleskine-type notebooks on the market, with a few variations: a black cover with elastic closure, back pocket, and a ribbon marker in yellow, which matches the head and tail bands. The back pocket is all paper– no cloth gussets– and feels a little flimsy. The cover has a smoother texture than a Moleskine, and overhangs the page edges by quite a bit. It comes only in the 5.8 x 8.2″ size.

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Inside, coloring pages alternate with free-form space for writing or drawing. Lined, blank and dot-grid versions are available. I tested the lined version.

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There are single page and double page coloring designs, but the coloring pages are always back to back with the lined pages. The lines are not noticeable when you’re coloring due to the dense patterns of the coloring designs. When you’re writing on the lined pages, the coloring designs to show through a bit.

The overall issue of show-through and bleed-through will vary depending on the materials you use. I colored a page with markers and watercolor paints. There was some show- and bleed-through with the markers. The paper buckled a bit with watercolors but was better once dry. At 100 gsm, the paper is not especially heavy-weight, so I wouldn’t really recommend it for watercolors, but markers or colored pencils should work fairly well as long as you have reasonable expectations about the show-through. The images below show the front and back of a colored-in page before I tested writing on the back:

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I didn’t test all of my usual pens, but you can see some bleed-through from the Super Sharpie below. Any showthrough from the other pens is camouflaged by the coloring.

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Technically, this notebook doesn’t offer any more writing space than most actual coloring books– they all tend to have pages that are blank on the back, or maybe have abstract designs on the back, as they want you to be able to cut out and frame your colored pages. If I were creating a coloring notebook, I might add additional writing pages, as I think most notebook users might be likely to use up the blank space before they finished all the coloring pages, but others might disagree. Either way, it would make a nice gift for anyone who likes to color, and prefers the look of a traditional journal.

You can buy the Coloring Notebook for $19.95 at Amazon.

I will be giving away an unused Coloring Notebook to one lucky winner, who will be randomly selected from entries received in any or all of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Coloring Notebook @coloring_ntbk @NotebookStories”, and follow @coloring_ntbk and @NotebookStories

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday October 28, 2016 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: Papier Tigre Notebook

Papier Tigre is a super-cool French brand of office supplies, including recycled notebooks that I’d seen online but never encountered in person, so I was very excited when NoteMaker in Australia gave me the opportunity to review a free sample.

The notebook I received has a lovely composition book look to it, but with a twist. The spine is taped, but the cover has a large mottled color pattern, as if a traditional composition book had been magnified and colorized. The notebook is smaller and in slightly different proportions than a composition book, measuring 15x21cm.

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The front cover has a box where you could write your name or the subject of the notebook. The back cover has a gold-stamped Papier Tigre logo.

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Inside, you get 3 signatures of paper, each in a different shade– light yellow lined pages, grey lined pages, and lighter grey plain pages. The cover and inside pages are made of 100% recycled paper, and you can see the colored fibers in the paper.

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The sewn signatures are glued into the spine so the notebook doesn’t quite open flat.

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The paper is pleasant to write on– not as smooth as some, but it has a nice softness to it. Based on the feel, I expected there to be a lot of bleed-through but there wasn’t– very slight bleed with a couple of pens, but the Super Sharpie bled much less than usual. Show-through was better than average. The paper reminded me of the Leonardo notebook I reviewed several years ago.

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The notebook I received is available at NoteMaker for a little over $15 USD. Other designs and sizes are also available.

If you are thinking you can’t afford the shipping to order from an Australia-based online retailer, think again: right now NoteMaker is offering Free shipping for International orders (delivery outside Australia) for any purchase over AUD$199. And if you think that sounds like a high minimum order, think again– it’s only about $150 USD at current exchange rates as of this writing, and they have so much drool-worthy merchandise– notebooks, pens, pencils, office accessories, bags– you will have a hard time spending any less!

Review and Giveaway: Flexbook Notebooks

I was very excited when I saw this new brand in my local stationery store (NYC’s A. I. Friedman). I was immediately smitten with the design and intrigued that the notebooks were made in Greece– a new country to add to my collection. After getting in touch with the company, I was happy to receive a lovely assortment of samples to review. Let’s take a look!

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Flexbook notebooks are made in Greece, but sold by a French company called Prat Paris. Inside the notebooks, you get Italian Fabriano paper– talk about European unity!

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The simple design caught my eye– I’ve always liked the look of a cloth-taped spine, and the Flexbook is available in a few different color combinations. The cover itself is a fairly stiff cardboard– I would call this a “softcover” notebook, as it’s not a thick wrapped board, but it’s not floppy or flabby. There is an elastic closure, and subtle embossed branding on the front and back. On the back there is also a round holographic stamp. The label notes “All original Flexbook patented binding products carry the holographic label,” and I have to say I’d rather they’d chosen some other mark of authenticity, or located the holograph on the inside of the cover– I don’t love how shiny and blingy it is against the otherwise very classy and understated exterior.

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The pocket size notebook is almost the same size as a pocket Moleskine, just slightly smaller.

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Inside the notebook, you get plain black endpapers but no inside pocket or ribbon marker. At the front there is a page with branding info and a space to write your name and contact details.

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The binding is indeed very flexible. The notebook opens flat throughout, except on the very first page, which is glued to the endpapers pretty far in. And you can fold the covers all the way around without damaging the spine. However they’ve glued and reinforced the spine, it delivers as promised.

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The 85 GSM paper inside is a creamy white and very smooth. I found it a pleasure to write on and all my usual pens worked well. Fountain pens didn’t feather at all, though they took longer than usual to dry, as you’ll see from my smear tests, especially with the J. Herbin ink in the Lamy. The only pens that bled through were the Accu-Liner and the Super Sharpie. Show-through was about average.

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Blank and ruled versions are available in various sizes. In addition to side-opening notebooks, there are also top-opening pads with perforated paper. A sketchbook version with heavier paper (170 GSM) is also available in 2 larger sizes. Pricing on these is slightly less than Moleskine– list for the 3.5 x 5.5″ version is $12.55. You’re trading better paper for the ribbon marker and back pocket you’d get in a Moleskine, but I think many notebook users will be happy to make that swap. On Amazon, unfortunately, these are priced higher than list from a 3rd party seller. But you can get them at a 10% discount (at least at time of writing this post) at BLICK ART MATERIALS.

I will be giving away a sample Flexbook notebook to each of two lucky winners, who will be randomly selected from entries received in any or all of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Flexbook Notebook @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday July 15, 2016 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.

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Review: First Draft Notebook

A new American-made notebook is always exciting, so I was very happy to be offered a sample of the First Draft notebook for review.

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The one I received is a lovely red color– navy and sand are also available. The first impression is of a solid, well-made, chunky mid-size notebook. I had a flashback to the library books of my childhood– that is what the cloth cover material reminds me of, and if it’s as durable as those library books, this should be a nice, long-lasting notebook! The cover is neatly wrapped at the corners but there is quite a large cover overhang, which longtime readers will know is something I happen to dislike! The First Draft logo is embossed on the front cover, while the back is totally plain.

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The size is 5.5 x 8.25 inches, about an inch thick at 224 pages. The notebook comes with a removable horizontal elastic that has a sewn-in pen loop. It’s a nice touch, especially with the First Draft branding on the patch, though I worry it would easily get lost since it’s not attached to the notebook. There is a matching ribbon marker, but no back pocket. The inside front cover is attractively designed with space for your contact information.

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The binding is designed to open flat– the covers fold back very easily and the pages do stay open pretty easily with good access to the gutter, especially after you’ve opened it a few times to loosen up the binding.

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Inside, the 70# paper is a bright, cool white, unlined. It is smooth and works beautifully with fine gel ink pens, but I’m afraid fountain pen users will be disappointed, as those inks feathered out– I could see the lines spreading as I wrote– and bled through. Overall show-through was about average, but bleed-through was a little worse than average.

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At $22 for a notebook of this size, it’s not a bad value, especially for something that is made in the USA. For those who tend to write with gel ink pens or pencils, and want to support a home-grown small business, First Draft is a good choice for a solid, well-made everyday notebook. You can buy them at First Draft’s online store.

Review: Dream Atlas

Recording one’s dreams is a common use for a journal. It’s easy to just take any blank page and write down a dream you’ve remembered. But the Dream Atlas is a specialized journal that has been created for people who really want to delve deeply into their dreaming. The creators are aiming to help people remember their dreams better, take advantage of insights from dreams, and even control lucid dreams.

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The Dream Atlas, which I received as a free sample, comes from the makers of DreamLeaf herbal supplement pills that claim to change your sleep cycle to enhance your dreaming. I can’t vouch for any of that, but the Dream Atlas should work whether you are taking pills to dream or just doing it the old-fashioned way!

 

The Dream Atlas notebook is at first glance quite similar to the larger size Moleskine. 5.5 x 8.5″, hardcover, with a ribbon marker and elastic closure. There is no back pocket, but you do get a pen loop. The actual feel of the cover reminds me of the Pen & Ink journals– the black cover material has a somewhat softer texture and slightly rounded spine. The whole notebook is less stiff than a Moleskine– you can bend it slightly, though it is not as flexible as a softcover. The front cover has an embossed Dream Atlas logo, and a smaller embossed logo and brand name appear in the  usual spot on the lower back cover.

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The distinguishing characteristics of this notebook are less in the outer form than in the inner content. At the beginning there are a few pages with advice on how to improve your dreaming and how to have lucid dreams.

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Then the body of the journal contains page spreads for recording each dream, with a section for describing what happened in the dream, recording symbols and their meanings, drawing an image from the dream, and making notes about your interpretation of the dream’s meaning.There’s also a checkbox for recording whether the dream was a lucid one, and each spread has a quote about sleeping or dreams, from authors such as James Baldwin, Erich Fromm, Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, and many others.

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At the end of the notebook are a few pages for recapping common dream themes and signs and other notes.

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I didn’t do a full range of pen tests in this notebook, but I did happen to have a very appropriate dream to record in my sample notebook! I used a Uniball Signo RT 0.38 pen, and found the paper to be pleasantly smooth, with an average amount of show-through.

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I often jot down notes about dreams in my regular notebooks, so I found it quite fun to record this dream in more detail, and be prompted to look into its meanings. If you are really committed to recording your dreams, the prompts in this journal should be quite helpful, and it would make a great gift for any dreamer. You can buy the Dream Atlas on Amazon, or at the DreamLeaf website.

Review and Giveaway: Archer Planner

Here’s a new entry in the growing market for highly formatted planners. The Archer Planner from The Active System Co. comes in a 3-pack of stapled booklets. The 3 notebooks are differentiated by the colored block that wraps around the spine, in red, yellow or green, but they are otherwise identical.

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Each notebook is designed to be used as a planner for a single month.  The outside of each notebook has space at the top where you can date and number it. The inside front cover has space for a sort of index of project codes or abbreviations and quick reference notes. Then you get a 2-page month-to-view spread where you can lay out events or deadlines for the month ahead. Then you have a few monthly log pages that have space for notes or sketches, as well as lists for things like “cities,” “restaurants,” “books,” “sports/games,” “people met.”

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Then the main body of the notebook has 2-page spreads, each for one day, subdivided into spaces for tracking all sorts of things. You have slots for appointments– these are numbered rather than broken up by specific hours, which will work well for people who don’t keep 9-5 hours. Some of the suggested items for logging are rather amusing, like “hair” in a section with circles to tick to rate each item from worst to best. There’s also a box for “vices,” to force you to track your consumption of cigarettes or alcohol or worse! Other items are more typical– expenses, meals, weather, action items.

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At the end of the book are a couple of blank pages for notes, and a page where you can recap the past month with some prompts.

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The design of the notebook is really nice– very clean and straightforward. It seems uncluttered despite having a lot of items on each page. The 6×9″ size is lightweight and portable while being large enough to lay out on a desk and fill with lots of daily items.

The paper used inside is a bright cool white. It feels great to write on with fine point gel ink pens– but these and pencils may be the only pens you’d want to use– I found that many of my other pens bled through. Even my pH test pen bled through, which I don’t recall seeing on any other notebook! But other than that, showthrough was average with the pens that didn’t bleed.

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This system will undoubtedly work well for some people but not others. I like the idea of being prompted to log certain things, but for my personal needs, the formatting would be overkill. The advantage of a totally blank page is that each person can use as much space as they need for the things that matter to them– once you’ve got lots of boxes to fill, the ones that are irrelevant to you will just be wasted space. But if you really want to log your life in great detail, there’s not much that this notebook leaves out!

My only other complaint was the number of page spreads. There are 20 2-page daily planning spreads per notebook. The makers say that is enough for a month’s worth of working days, but what about weekends? If you are committed to tracking your hair and meals and exercise, etc, why would you only want to do that on weekdays? And a 31 day month would have more than 20 weekdays. And if you are going to use a monthly planner booklet, it’s probably easier to have one notebook per calendar month rather than having to start a new one a few days before the end of the month because you ran out of pages.

I couldn’t help comparing this to the Moleskine Color a Month Planner that I reviewed several years ago. Monthly planners are nice when you don’t want to carry around the bulk of a whole year’s worth of daily pages, but they work better as log books rather than forward-looking planners where you’ll have to copy a lot of stuff forward into the next month’s booklet. The Archer notebooks will probably work better for backwards-looking logging unless your career and life are more ruled by short-term planning than longer-term scheduling and appointments. Given that they have included a feedback page at the back of each booklet, I hope the makers (who sent me these free samples to review) are considering improvements and updates that might address some of these concerns.

You can buy the Archer planner 3-packs at Amazon. And if you want to try one out, you can also enter my giveaway! Two lucky winners will be randomly selected and each will receive one Archer notebook. Enter in any or all of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Archer Planner @theactivesystem @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @theactivesystem

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Active System page and post something containing the words “Archer Planner” on the Notebook Stories page.

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

The deadline for entry is Friday April 15 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: Writersblok Double Spiral Notebooks

When our friends at Kikkerland shared these samples of their latest new product, I had to clap my hands– finally a notebook that really DOES do something new! I’ve seen other notebooks that can open from the back or the front, but I have never seen a notebook with both top and side openings in one. Designed by Constantin Boym, the Writersblok Double Spiral notebooks offer some interesting features and embellishments that you don’t see everyday.

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The first notebook has wire-o bindings on both sides. When you open it from one side, you get ruled pages, and the other side is blank. The covers are made of a nice heavy matte black board with snazzy metallic corners.  A Writersblok logo is stamped on one side– whether you consider it the front cover or the back cover is up to you. The pages have rounded corners on all sides. The page count on the notebook says 140, but by my count each side seems to have 70 sheets/140 pages, so you’re getting a total of 280 pages/ 140 sheets.

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The second notebook has a slim top-opening notebook and then a side-opening notebook on the back. It makes for a bit of a challenge in slipping the paper band off without tearing it– the wrapper is bound into the spiral on one side and has to be nudged out from between the pages on the other, as you can’t open the notebook until the band is loosened. The top-opening pad is lined paper, and the side-opening part is squared.

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The paper inside the notebooks is smooth and cool white. Show-through and bleed-through are about average, maybe a little bit more bleed-through than average from a couple of my usual pens.

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The double thickness of the combined notebooks makes for a pleasingly chunky package, but when you hold them in your hand, it becomes hard to avoid the wire spirals. After a while, it might get annoying to have them digging into your palm. (Shown below with a pocket size Moleskine for size comparison.)

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My only other complaint about these notebooks is that the wire-o binding starts on the wrong side– normally, a wire-o binding connects from hole to hole at the back of the notebook, allowing the pages to turn freely from the front. In this case, that part is at the front of the notebook so you have to jiggle the whole wire around to get it out of the way if you want the pages to open flat. Both notebooks have this problem on both sides– I don’t know if it’s just an accidental defect, or if the two-sided design makes it a manufacturing necessity, but it really lessens the usability of the notebook.

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So while I love the innovation and creativity and design of these notebooks, the practicality of them may be somewhat limited. I hope Kikkerland will make some other single-sided notebooks with the same styling– the black covers and metal corners really do look great and I would absolutely love to have an 8.5 x 11″ squared notebook in this design to use as my desktop notebook at work, where I always like to have something that I can open flat and flip the pages around to the back.

Look for these at your local stationery store, or you can buy direct from Kikkerland’s online store. (Other Kikkerland Writersblok notebooks are available on Amazon, so these will probably be there soon too.)

I’ll be giving away the double side-opening notebook to one lucky winner, selected at random from entries received by these methods:

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 March 25 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 & Giveaway: CR Brand Notebook Wallets

I first came across the CR Signature Notebook Wallet a few months ago and immediately thought it was a great idea. A notebook and a wallet are both key daily carry items for almost everyone, so shouldn’t there be a good way to combine them? But it’s surprisingly hard to find something that does both things well. I’ve had pocket size Filofaxes that also served to carry credit cards but they seemed a bit bulky, and the card slots made the bulk unpleasantly asymmetrical. I always tuck a spare $20 bill in the back pocket of my notebook, but the expanding pockets in the back of Moleskines and similar notebooks don’t really hold all that much, and aren’t a good way to organize cash and credit cards.

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The CR Notebook Wallet makers have found a great way to add wallet features to a notebook. They’ve taken a slim staple bound notebook and cleverly designed a one-piece cover that folds onto itself to create pockets. The flaps have been left on the exterior as a design element– this doesn’t bother me too much, and it probably makes it much quicker and easier to assemble, but it might look nicer if they glued the flaps down on the inside, to leave the outside completely plain.

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On one side, you get a straight pocket that can hold cash or papers. On the other side there are 3 credit card slots. Additional cash could be tucked behind the cards. I love it that the cards slide in horizontally so they are held securely and add less bulk to the notebook. I added 3 cards and a wad of cash and found that the notebook didn’t really get all that fat. I did not worry that anything would fall out of the pockets, though I do think it would be nice if they added an elastic to hold the notebook closed. The cardboard cover feels sturdy enough that it would hold up to regular usage without tearing, for at least as long as it would take to fill the pages of the notebook.

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With cards and cash:

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Without cards and cash:

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Shown with a pocket Moleskine for comparison:

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As a notebook alone, the CR Signature is really nice. The dot grid paper is heavy weight and smooth, and performed very well in my pen tests. There was less show-through and bleed-through than average, with only the Accu-liner and Super Sharpie bleeding through. Fountain pens did not bleed, though there was a bit of feathering. The entire second half of the notebook is perforated so pages can be torn out. On their website, they describe these notebooks as having 28 pages, but I think they are selling themselves short– it’s 28 sheets, but each has 2 sides, so when you count both sides the way all other notebooks do, it’s 56 pages.

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In addition to the 3.5 x 5.5″ CR Signature, they offer the smaller Mini Sig, which measures 3.875″ x 2.75″. It’s got simple vertical pockets inside the front and back covers. Each pocket will hold 2-3 cards or folded cash. It’s an adorable little size– when a friend of mine saw my samples, she grabbed the Mini Sig and said “it’s so cute I want to eat it!” If you just want a little jotter to have with you on the go, it’s a great option.

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I tried using the CR Signature for a few days myself– unfortunately, I never quite got used to it, though I wanted to! I think it would probably make more sense for a man who is already used to carrying a wallet in his pocket.  As a woman, I rarely have clothes with pockets that would hold a notebook or wallet so I usually carry them in my bag, or maybe in a jacket pocket. My normal wallet is a small zippered case that holds coins, and when I was using the CR Signature, I didn’t have any place to put coins I’d get as change. So ultimately, for me, it would make more sense to use the CR Signature just as a notebook with handy pockets carried in addition to a wallet, rather than as a replacement. But for many other people who are more used to keeping stuff in their pockets, I’m sure this would be the perfect way to minimize their everyday carry.

You can buy the CR Brand notebook wallets at their website. The Signature is $12.95 and the Mini Sig is $7.95. Each is available in 3 colors.

And I’m giving away 2 of the samples I received from CR: two winners will be chosen randomly from entries received in these ways, and each will receive one notebook:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “CR Signature Notebook Wallet @WeAreCRBrand @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @WeAreCRBrand

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the CR Brand page and post something containing the words “CR Signature Notebook Wallet” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “CR Signature Notebook Wallet” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday December 18, 2015 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winners. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

Moleskine Monday: Sketch Album Review

I’ve had this Moleskine Sketch Album for quite a while and haven’t gotten around to reviewing it, mainly because I knew I’d probably be disappointed! Moleskine’s quality has been waning for years, and though their regular sketchbooks have been my favorite notebooks for a very long time, I’ve refused to buy any of the currently produced ones because they just aren’t the same anymore. Luckily, I have quite a stockpile of old ones! (After this post where I inventoried my spares and worried they might not last until I was in my 90s, I snagged quite a few more on eBay so now I probably have twice as many!)

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Anyway, when the sketch album was first announced, I thought it was a good thing– I’d actually thought Moleskine should make a softcover sketchbook, thinking it could be a good alternative for on-the-go use. But the Sketch Album turns out not to be Sketchbook innards with a soft cover– it’s more like a Moleskine Cahier with upgraded paper.

When you open the shrinkwrap, you’ll notice the cardboard cover, which is just like the Cahiers, not the soft faux-leather used on the softcover notebooks. As usual there is stitching on the spine, and a pocket in the back, which is too tight for tucking much more than a few small sheets. When you remove the paper band, you’ll see that the back has been designed with some reference info and tools. I’m not sure how useful these are to most people.

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Since Moleskine started labeling various notebooks as an “Art Plus” collection, they’ve started noting paper weights on the packaging, hoping to appeal to those of us who care about these things. The Sketch Album is 120 GSM. That sounds good compared to most upscale pocket notebooks, which tend to be in the 80-100 GSM range, but it’s a lot less than the regular Moleskine Sketchbook, which is 165 GSM. The difference is obvious– the paper in the sketch album feels thinner and floppier. Each sheet is perforated.

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When I did my pen tests, I noticed that the sketch album paper actually feels softer to write on– I could hear the pen tips tapping more audibly on the regular sketchbook. The comparison below features an old “Modo e Modo” Moleskine  rather than a current production sketchbook. You can see right away how much worse the show-through and bleed-through is on the sketch album, with just a couple of exceptions. The album wins on how much the Accu-liner marker spreads when it is held on a spot for 5 seconds– the Modo sketchbook soaked it up and made a much bigger dot. And the Super Sharpie seemed to soak into the old sketchbook more too. But otherwise, the album did not do well at all, with fountain pens bleeding and feathering and lots more show-through. I tested some watercolor paints too– Moleskine does not claim that either of these notebooks is meant for watercolors, but I use them in the sketchbooks quite often. In the sketch album, the watercolors seemed to pull up the paper fibers more, creating a speckled texture that is much more noticeable than in the sketchbook.

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So would I use this “Art Plus” sketch album for actual art? For pencil sketches, or perhaps fine pen & ink drawings with Pigma Micron pens, yes, I might use it. But I’d be much more likely to use it as an upgrade to the Moleskine Cahier or softcover Reporter Notebook. The sketch album is nicely flexible and pocketable, and the paper feels great to write on with fine point gel ink pens. The paper is a nice step up from regular lightweight Moleskine paper– not enough of a step up to make fountain pen users happy, but others will enjoy it for daily jottings. But if you are an artist who likes the regular sketchbooks, stick with them.

To buy: Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbooks and Albums on Amazon. They also have interesting alternatives like the Leuchtturm Hardcover Pocket Sketchbook Black, which has 180 GSM paper, and the Pen & Ink Heavy-Weight Blank Sketch Book— make sure you get the heavy-weight one which has 145 GSM paper– read the full description.