Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Maruman Mnemosyne N196 Notebook Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

There really is a notebook out there for every single occassion and purpose. If someone thinks of a new occassion or purpose, the notebook follows shortly after. I love the versatility of different notebooks and often find myself on a constant hunt for the right size for the perfect job.

Recently, I've been on the hunt for a small, top-bound book with high-quality paper that doesn't break the bank. Enter the Maruman Mnemosyne N196 notebook. This notebook fits a perfect purpose for my workday: it sits constantly to the right side of my keyboard and mouse where I take notes during the day. It fits that purpose beautifully, but it's also starting to wander into other territories because it's just such a great notebook in general.

The N196 is a B6 (4.9" x 6.9") sized book with 7mm rule and three divisions on the page. Division? That means that every 8th line is a darker weight, which creates three separate areas of a page. It's there if you need it, but it's also easy to ignore if you're focused on filling up the whole page. I haven't found myself using (or noticing) the division at all.

There's 50 sheets in the book, and it's a spiral top-bound book, which is what I especially love about the layout of this book. When I'm jotting down notes through the day, I don't want to use a stapled, sewn, etc. bound book, as it won't lay open consistently. I also tend to get annoyed with side-spiral books as the spiral gets in the way of my hand when writing. I've always enjoyed using steno books for jotting down notes, and this fits the bill perfectly.

The main difference between this book and your average steno book is the quality. This is the crème de la crème of steno books. (I apologize if this notebook doesn't actually qualify as a steno book—I just can't think of anything else when I look at it.) The paper is luxuriously smooth and handles every ink and pen I've thrown at it. It performs with Rhodia and Clairefontaine easily. I can see now why so many people have so much praise for the Mnemosyne paper. It's fantastic and always delights.

If there's one flaw that I've noticed while using the book, it's that it doesn't really accept fine-tipped pens very well. My 0.38mm gel pens and rollerballs scratch across the surface and seem to hang every now and then. Take that with a grain of salt, though. I'm not a huge micro-tip pen fan in the first place, and that's a normal side-effect of pens of that size. I don't use them regularly enough to stay accustomed to the feel.

The spiral binding is top-notch. It's strong and seems very resilient to being thrown in bags with other hard covered objects like books and computer bags. The front of the book is an elegant black with a small "Mnemosyne" label in gold foil. It's understated, and I love it.

The back cover isn't extremely thick, but it is thick enough to serve as a writing surface if you don't bear down too hard. It works in a pinch, but you couldn't do it full-time.

At $10.50, it's not a cheap notebook, but I think that's an incredibly fair price for the quality of the book. And, if you really like it, you can buy a bulk package of 5 books for a good deal cheaper (40% to be exact).

Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with this form factor. It's portable, it doesn't get in your way when writing, and it's extremely utilitarian. I'm a big fan of the format, but if you don't happen to enjoy it, Mnemosyne has a large selection of other formats that feature the same dreamy paper. I've already begun expanding my collection. I hope my bookshelf (and wallet) can find the gumption to forgive me for the stress that is my addiction.

Posted on October 22, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Maruman.

Doane Paper Utility Notebook Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

Pocket notebooks are extremely trendy today. I really have no idea why or where the trend started (actually, I think I have a pretty good idea why—I'm just being really sarcastic). And that trend is perfectly fine with me, because it means there's always plenty of new things to try. Besides the standard Field Notes, pretty much every notebook maker offers some sort of pocket-sized notebook. Some are a bit smaller or have different paper than standard Field Notes, but I've recently been smitten by the Doane Paper Utility Notebook — the small version, to be exact.

Brad reviewed this notebook back in 2008, but these notebooks deserve some more attention. Question is, is Brad's opinion still the same about these books? His thoughts from almost 6 years (six years!!) ago mirror my own thoughts almost exactly.

I, like many of you, have a problem with acquiring too many Field Notes for my own good. They're unique, practical, and have such a great design and versatility. To me, they're made to be used, and that's exactly what I do with them.

The Doane Paper Utility Notebooks are also made to be used, and I've been enjoying the heck out of them since I bought a few. I'm sorry to keep comparing them to Field Notes, but it's kind of hard not to since they're so similar in size.

Similar, yes. But very unique in so many good ways.

The paper used in the Utility Notebooks is awesome in my opinion. It takes fountain pen ink like a champ and is smooth while doing so. Of course, it has the signature Doane Paper "grid+lines" pattern on the pages—something that I've grown very fond of since using the books. The lines are wide enough to handle my frantic scrawl when writing down an important note or idea, and the grids are small enough for more detailed and exact writing. It really is the best of both worlds. When I first started using the paper, I was a little overwhelmed by all of the lines, but I got over it pretty quickly. They're calming now.

There's show-through in the paper when using fountain pens, but it's usable. I don't use fountain pens in my Field Notes for that reason—the standard Field Notes paper doesn't do well for me with fountain pen ink. Of course, gel and rollerball inks act perfectly well-behaved on the paper. According to the Doane shop, the paper is 60# recycled paper, which is one mark higher than the standard 50# Field Notes paper. (Yes, some Field Notes editions have thicker paper, but I'm talking about the standard-issue books).

Being the same size as Field Notes, you know they fit in your pocket like a champ. That means they even fit in my Nock Hightower, no sweat.

The cover is a cardstock that is fairly resilient. I expected it to fade faster since it's a black stock, but it's held its color really well. I've recently transitioned to working from home, so my pocket notebooks don't get nearly as much time in my pockets, so keep that in mind. Daily pocket carry would definitely leave more signs of wear.

The design of the cover is unassuming. It's a black book with some white text that describe the book. Personally, I love the look of the black books as well as the other colors. I don't believe you can buy the 3-pack traffic light variety any more, but they very recently released a very attractive 6-pack of gorgeous colors that I feel compelled to buy.

The inside covers are blank, which feels a bit odd after using so many Field Notes. But, the beauty of a blank white cover is that it can be used for whatever you want. You can add your own personal contact information or favorite uses for the books. Hey, if you're really careful you can even draw your own ruler.

Three silver staples bind the book together, and I haven't experienced any issues with the binding coming apart. These are really well-made.

Overall, these are fantastic notebooks that I highly recommend. For me, they've become the new standard. I won't be able to resist any special edition Field Notes that come along that strike my fancy, but these definitely have my vote over the standard edition. They're working notebooks, and that's what matters.

Posted on October 8, 2014 and filed under Doane Paper, Notebook Reviews.

Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook Review

Yet another interesting paper product from Japan, Tsubame Fools Notebooks are an excellent quality mid-range notebook with a couple of interesting features to set them apart form the pack.

Tsubame has been making paper since 1947, most of it featuring their lattice-style watermark. This is not something seen or felt when writing, but is interesting nonetheless when holding the paper up to a light source. I was concerned it might be obtrusive at first - as a rule I don’t like watermarked paper - but it isn’t noticeable under normal use.

The first pens I tested on the Cream B5 5 mm Graph were fountain pens and I felt that the paper was smooth but didn’t have that glassy quality like Rhodia has. There is no tooth, per se, but there is a different feel to it. With my widest pens there was no feathering or bleed either. Zero. It barely showed through too, so those who write on both sides should have no issue.

All other pens performed well and pencil users may especially want to take note. Super smooth paper isn’t the best for graphite, so leadheads may enjoy these.

Everyone should enjoy the clean, classy design of the Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook. The navy/white combo looks great on the graph paper model, with gold/white and red/white featured on the plain and lined notebooks, respectively. I’m a big fan of the cheesecloth tape exterior binding and the thread stitched interior binding, both combining to allow the notebook to stay flat while retaining its flexibility.

At $6.50 for 32 sheets of B5 paper it’s moderatley priced. There are both less expensive and more expensive imported notebook options, but for one that can handle it all like Tsubame Fools I think the price is right.

Posted on August 18, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Tsubame Fools.

Rhodia Ice Pad Review

Upgrading your paper from the poor selection at the office supply store is a challenge. The good stuff isn't readily available to the masses, and when you hunt it down it is often more expensive than imagined. There is a difference though - a real tangible difference. This is why I tell people new to the pen and paper scene to buy some nice paper early on, and I always recommend Rhodia.

Why is Rhodia so good? It provides the best writing performance for the price. The paper is ridiculously smooth and will make even your worst pens feel and perform better. Yes, the right paper can actually make your pens write better. There is less bleed, no feathering, and their pads have the best perforations in the business. I mentioned it is smooth too, right?

That smoothness does come with one downside you should be aware of. Since the paper is higher quality than most it is not as porous, meaning the ink sits on top of the page for seconds longer than with inferior paper. Lefties especially should beware. This is one tradeoff I can live with.

The Rhodia Ice Pad has been around for a few months and I finally got my hands on my favorite No. 16 Graph size from my friends at JetPens. Rhodia Orange is so ubiquitous it should be its own Crayon color, but I like seeing these alternate covers. The white is wonderfully clean and the metallic silver accents are perfectly understated in typical Rhodia fashion. Plus, the lines are grey instead of the traditional violet, which I think I prefer.

Overall, this is exactly what I expect from Rhodia, if not more. The design is clean and beautiful, and the functionality is top notch. This is how you do paper. Do yourself a favor and add some to your arsenal.

(JetPens is an advertiser on The Pen Addict and I received this product at no charge.)

Posted on August 11, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Rhodia.