Tag Archives: softcover

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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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: Stillman & Birn Softcover Sketchbooks

I was really excited when I heard that Stillman & Birn were expanding their product line to include softcover sketchbooks, especially when I saw that a pocket sized version was available. There are so many options out there for hardcover sketchbooks, and so many pocket notebooks, but these really fill a niche in terms of offering durability, flexibility, portability, and a wide array of quality paper options. I’m ashamed to say I received samples for review almost a year ago and am only getting caught up now, but better late than never!

I’ve reviewed Stillman and Birn’s hardcovers in the past, see here and here. The softcovers are available in the same paper types– 6 varieties, covering different paper weights, textures, and colors, but different sizes.

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I tested the 3.5 x 5.5″ pocket size portrait versions, of course! They are slightly smaller than a pocket Moleskine. The covers are a smooth material, not at all leather-like but with a leathery-looking pebbly tone, which you can see but not feel. The covers are neutral shades of grey, dark green, dark red and blue, corresponding to the paper type within– greenish for the Delta, with 270 GSM ivory cold press paper; red for Alpha, with 150 GSM bright white medium grain paper. There is nothing imprinted on or inside the sketchbooks except for the Stillman and Birn logo embossed on the back cover.

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The signatures are stitched, and there is a fair amount of glue at the spine, holding the signatures to the cover. The pages open very flat despite the spines feeling a little stiff at first, especially with the thicker papers. After being opened all the way, the covers will stay open for a while but will eventually close most of the way. There is no elastic to hold the sketchbooks closed. No inside pocket or ribbon marker either.

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The papers are up to the same high standard as S&B’s other products, performing well with all sorts of pens, pencils and watercolors. Only the bleediest markers show through much on the 150 GSM paper, and the 270 GSM paper is pretty impervious. Even the papers meant for only dry media held up fine with watercolors. From the outside, these sketchbooks don’t look like fancy sketchbooks designed to be kept forever, but with acid-free, archival quality paper, what you create on the inside should stand the test of time.

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What’s not to love? This is where I thought I’d be saying “well, they are a bit pricey…” but they’re not! The pocket size sketchbooks have a list price of $10.99 and are currently discounted to under $9.00 for some models at Amazon. With so many options in bindings, paper types, sizes and portrait/landscape formats, Stillman & Birn really offers something for everyone!

And I am offering you all the chance to win a free sample! Four winners will be randomly selected from those who enter in any of the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing  “@StillmanandBirn” and “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page and the Stillman and Birn page, and post something containing the words “Stillman & Birn” on my wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Stillman & Birn” and “NotebookStories” and link back to this post.

And for those who don’t have these other options available to them, you can also enter by leaving a comment on this post.

Since we can have 4 winners, I will pick at least one winner from each entry method above, and each winner will receive at least 2 sketchbooks.

The deadline for entry is Friday June 23 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!

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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Notebook Addict of the Week (Again): Olia

Olia was previously an addict of the week about a year ago. Since then, she’s found a new love!

“I’m obsessed with pocket notebooks and have found that the perfect one for me is the soft cover Leuchtturm notebook. Your blog inspired me to test these Leuchtturms and I’m really glad I had! I’m afraid the obsession has moved to a whole new level. I like these so much I collected quite a few to make sure I never run out of my favorite notebook.”

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Leuchtturm Softcover Notebooks

Thanks again to Olia for sharing her growing addiction!

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.

Review: TWSBI Notebooks

I first heard about the TWSBI brand via the Fountain Pen Network forums, which are a great place to discuss and learn about all things pen-and-notebook-y. I personally don’t have a mania for fountain pens, but people who do are very picky about the paper they use them on, so I’m always interested to know what notebooks they recommend.

TWSBI is based in Taiwan. Their website states that they started out as a manufacturer for other brands (I’m curious as to which ones), and then branched out into making their own line of fountain pens and inks, and more recently, notebooks. (The website also explains the origins of their name, but it does not specify how you’re supposed to say it out loud. My guess is “rhymes with frisbee”.) I’ve never seen their notebooks in physical stores, though they do have some US online retailers listed on their website (without specifying whether they carry TWSBI notebooks or only their pens). I decided to buy two notebooks directly from the TWSBI website (no response to my request for a sample to review, alas).

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I chose the small size in unlined and squared formats. When I saw that these measured 3.75 x 5.5″, I was a little worried– as I’ve written here many times before, I’m pretty picky about the size and proportions of my notebooks, and I don’t use the otherwise wonderful Leuchtturm pocket notebooks because they are 3.5 x 6″. So that extra quarter-inch of width could have been a deal-breaker… but it wasn’t! These notebooks are indeed wider than a pocket Moleskine (seen in the photos below for comparison), but I still like the shape.

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The first impression is that these are nicely and carefully made, as well as that they have a strong inky smell (this goes away relatively quickly). The corners are tidily cut, nothing is crooked, and they feel solid. They are softcover, but not overly flexible due to the pocket in the back. There is a debossed logo on the middle of the front cover and again on the lower back cover– I usually prefer plain covers, but I don’t mind it on the front, it’s subtle and looks like some sort of enigmatic symbol. The elastic closure is black, and comes tucked around the back cover when you first buy the notebook. It is the right length to stay tucked neatly there, but also feels a little loose in its stretchiness.  You get a pop of color in the skinny ribbon marker and the sides of the back pocket, which are red. I love this little design touch– it’s like a suit jacket that’s totally conservative on the outside but then has a colorful lining. Inside the notebook, everything is totally plain– no branding, no defined space to write your contact details in.

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Another point of differentiation: these have 240 pages, all of which are perforated. I’ve never understood why Moleskine gives you 240 pages in the large notebooks, but only 192 in the pocket size. I love having the extra bit of thickness. The perforation is very lightly cut– in a way, this is good, because the pages shouldn’t start coming loose on their own, and you don’t get that extra bend in them at the perforation line when you open the notebook flat. But the downside is that if you want to tear out a page, it won’t happen all that easily unless you fold it first along the perforation line.

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What about the paper itself? Will it be everything that picky fountain pen users have hoped and dreamed of? Not quite, I’d say. It’s a nice off-white, with subtle fine grid lines in the squared version– they make Moleskine’s grid lines look very dark in comparison. The color is not as creamy as Moleskine’s, but not bright white either. According to hearsay on the FPN forums, it’s 80g– it feels about the same thickness and smoothness as Moleskine paper. It’s a pleasure to write on, and my fountain pens worked great, though it could be about 15 seconds or more before they were smear-proof. But showthrough is a wee bit worse than average, perhaps– not totally dissimilar to other papers that feel like it, but a bit worse than an older Modo e Modo Moleskine that I compared it to. Fountain pens didn’t bleed through, but a couple others did.

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The big question with these notebooks is how they’ll stand up to daily use. Moleskine’s first softcover notebooks were notorious for falling apart at the spine, which they seemed to address by adding an extra strip of reinforcement where the cover is attached to the pages. I can’t see any such reinforcement in the TWSBI. The spine does not have a heavy layer of glue, which is why it opens perfectly flat, but I could already see a couple of spots where the signatures had gaps between them. Softcover notebooks can also be prone to fraying and curling at the corners. We’ll see what happens when I subject one of these to being tossed in my bag every day.

And that is the bottom line here: I love these enough that I DO intend to toss one in my bag and use it as my daily notebook someday soon. In recent years, I’ve gotten away using from softcover notebooks, but these have kind of rekindled the lust that the softcover Moleskine originally inspired in me, until I became a bit disillusioned with them and went back to mostly hardcovers. The TWSBI notebooks look classy, feel well-made, and if you can live with some show-through, they’ll be enjoyable to use– at least for a while! I’ll definitely revisit the TWSBI with a follow-up review on durability. I’m also hoping they’ll branch out into producing a hardcover notebook– I’d love to see how they’d do on that sort of binding.

You can buy these on Amazon for $13.99 for the small size, with free shipping (at least in the US), or you can order directly from TWSBI. At $10.99 for the small size, TWSBI’s price is lower, but they charge shipping, which for me was about $6-7 for two notebooks, if I’m remembering correctly, so either way the price is about the same. And to me it seems like a very good value for the quality of what you’re getting, and the extra page count vs. other similar notebooks.

Moleskine Monday: Chapters Journals

What do you think of this new line of journals from Moleskine? The Chapters journals have a new binding style, section dividers that break each notebook into numbered chapters, and new sizes in a slimmer proportion than other Moleskine notebooks.

“Divided into chapters, the journals keep your daily lists, notes and ideas organized in style. Choose a size with different page layouts – ruled or dotted, detachable pages and checklists to keep track of your various tasks. The rich textured cover, available in 4 different colors and slim new size will fit perfectly in your hand, flexing to its curve. Tuck it into your pocket and whip it out as soon as that train of thought comes rushing in.”

Moleskine ® - Chapters Journals

See more at Moleskine ® – Chapters Journals. You can preorder them at Amazon— they will be available as of March 4.

Softcover and Single-Signature Notebooks from My Collection

On my “to-do” list for this blog has been a comparison of various notebooks in similar styles. I thought I’d do a post about softcover notebooks, and one about single-signature notebooks, similar to Field Notes and Moleskine Cahiers. So I went rooting around in my collection to find various examples of these styles, but the results were a bit daunting:

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Not only did I find a rather large number of notebooks, I discovered that there’s kind of grey area between these two styles, so I ended up arranging them in a sort of continuum of variations, from thicker softcover notebooks, through thinner squared-spine ones, to the thinnest single-signature ones with stitched or stapled bindings.

From left, we have the “The II” notebook bought at Kinokuniya, red Piccadilly notebook, softcover Piccadilly notebook, white Conceptum notebook from Germany, Zequenz notebook, Leonardo pocket journal from Papyrus, Fabio Ricci notebook bought in Turkey, Soundless Soliloquy notebook from Etsy, a notebook bought in a museum shop in Portugal, Book Factory pocket notebook, Rendr sketchbook, Canson XL sketchbook, Daler Rowney Ivory sketchbook, Pocket Dept notebook, Rhodia Unlimited notebook, yellow graph paper notebook with green cloth spine from Turkey, Federal Supply Memorandum book, Moleskine Volant, Rite in the Rain waterproof notebook, Clairefontaine notebook from the early 1990s, slipcased German notebook and pencil from Carmen, another old Clairefontaine notebook, a more recent Clairefontaine notebook, Moleskine Cahier, Banditapple Carnet, Miro journals, fluorescent Field Notes given to me by a reader, white notebook from Deyrolle in Paris, Kikkerland Writersblok notebook, Moleskine Cahier decorated by me with stamps, Noted graph paper notebook from Target, Filou notebook bought in Turkey, Northern Central Co. Memorandum book from the late ’70s/early ’80s, Ink Journal, polkadot notebook from Portugal, black school quaderno from Vickerey, white promotional notebook from brandbook.de, (at this point the order gets scrambled in some of the later photos) black Doane Paper Utility Notebook, pale green Bound Custom Journal Memo, HitList notebook, OrangeArt Tattersall notebook, Artescrita 4-pack from Portugal, boxed Calepino notebooks, Word. notebook, Halaby Aero Flightbook, and Hahnemuhle Travel Booklets. Whew! I thought I had also included one other little graph paper stapled notebook that I bought in Portugal, but I can’t spot it in the photos– maybe it’s buried under there somewhere!

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And of course this isn’t even all the softcover notebooks in my collection. It’s also worth noting that of all these notebooks, the only ones that have actually been used even partially (other than pen tests for reviews) are the two old black/grey Clairefontaine notebooks and the Northern Central Memorandum book. I have other Moleskine Volant and Kikkerland Writersblok notebooks that I have used, but they weren’t the ones in these photos. I will probably use some of the graph paper and plain paper notebooks in the future. I ended up feeling like it was impossible to compare and contrast the features of so many different notebooks, but almost all of them have been photographed and described in more detail in other posts on this site already.

What’s your favorite softcover notebook?

Review: Daler Rowney Ivory Artist’s Sketchbook

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I purchased this sketchbook at Lee’s Art Shop in NYC (which is always worth a visit if you’re in town). I was attracted by the size and shape, as you don’t see that many slim softcover sketchbooks that are truly pocketable. This one certainly is– it’s flexible enough to keep in a back pocket but the covers seem substantial enough not to get too beat up. It could be described as looking like a thicker version of a Moleskine Volant. Shown below next to a pocket hardcover Moleskine for comparison– it’s a bit smaller and thinner.

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It’s very basic– no elastic, no pocket, no ribbon marker. Once you peel the sticker off the front cover (which seems like it will peel cleanly), it is plain black and free of any branding inside or out, except for the gold-stamped brand on the back cover (which looks a bit cheap, somehow).

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Inside the paper is smooth and creamy– not so different from Moleskine paper in feel, though it is said to be 90 GSM. All the pages are perforated, but the notebook really doesn’t open flat. I guess it’s no loss, in a way, as you won’t want to draw into the gutter when the pages are perforated.

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The smooth paper feels great with fine point pens, and fountain pens work nicely except for taking a bit longer to dry (still smearing at about 10-15 seconds). But show-through and bleed-through performance was not so great.

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So I’m left wondering who this sketchbook is for? If you want to just scribble some little sketches on the go with fine pens or pencils and then tear them out to use elsewhere, I guess this will fit the bill. But otherwise, I’m not sure it really provides any advantages over other notebooks and sketchbooks on the market. The list price for this sketchbook is $10.90, and I think that is about what I paid at Lee’s. Blick has it for $6.99, which seems like a better value. Other sizes are also available.


Daler-Rowney Ivory Artist’s Sketchbooks

Daler-Rowney Ivory Artist's Sketchbooks