Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Baron Fig Apprentice Notebook Review

The Baron Fig Apprentice and I got off on the wrong foot. I had a remote writing session planned, taking the kids with me to Starbucks on a Saturday and hoping to knock a few reviews out. I grabbed a handful of pens, some paper, and grabbed one of the new Apprentice notebooks Baron Fig was kind enough to send me fresh from the 3-pack.

We settled in at Starbucks, me with a tall coffee and the kids with awesomely overpriced cake pops and Sanpelligrino. But hey, it's an outing, and I'm glad to get out of the house for an hour or two and write and draw with the kids.

I was anxious to spend some time with the Apprentice, so I cracked it open and started testing a few different pens and inks on the back pages, as you do. I immediately noticed that the pages and covers wouldn't stay flat. Then I took this picture:

Crooked Fingers.jpg

Not a happy maker. See how the stitching is crooked and almost wraps around the binding? That causes the inside pages to lay awkwardly and makes for an strange writing experience. If the stitching was straight - no issue at all.

Customer service in an always online world is a funny thing. It's hard to get right, both from a customer expectation standpoint and a business standpoint. Everything Baron Fig did to correct this was fantastic. Let me give a few tips on how both consumers and businesses can work together to come to a happy resolution:

  1. As a customer, don't be an asshole. Mistakes happen, problems arise. I was not happy with my notebook, and while I wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, I wasn't a jerk either.
  2. If you are going to call out a company on social media, have the stones to include their handle so they may see the problem you are having. If you are going to blast someone and not link to them somehow you are giving the company less of a chance to make things right.
  3. As a company, own the problem. Most customers are understanding and appreciate the honesty and two-way conversation.
  4. Have a solution, and deliver. Any company worth their salt should be able to explain how they will handle the issue clearly and directly.

To their credit, Baron Fig did an amazing job following up with my issue. I tagged them in my Instagram pic and they responded before I had even left Starbucks. And they didn't just respond, they owned the issue, made me smile, and emailed me right away stating a replacement was on the way.

That is how you do business.

I wanted to go through this entire scenario because sometimes first impressions cloud our judgement. We are all guilty of this, myself included. But first impressions can be changed, and that all depends on how you and the companies you deal with handle problems.

That huge digression aside, how is the Baron Fig Apprentice as a notebook? It's good. Not exceptional, not awful. But good, and that is ok. This is a notebook made to be used and abused and it is perfect for that. The cover feels sturdy enough to take a beating, and the paper handled most inks I threw at it, with the exception of a few of the inkiest fountain pen and marker inks.

The main difference between the Apprentice and many other similar notebooks are the dimensions. A standard memo book runs 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" while the Apprentice runs 3 1/2" x 5". They call this Smart Dimensions to make the page more breathable, but to me it feels stubby and less breathable. It is more pocketable this way though, but those who like to use specialty covers with their notebooks may have a little extra wiggle in the fit.

At $9 for a 3-pack, I think the Apprentice will do very well for Baron Fig. The Confidant has a large and loyal following and the Apprentice is a great compliment to their product line.

My thanks to Baron Fig for sending me BOTH of the 3-packs of Apprentice notebooks for review. Be sure to check out the excellent interview with the gentlemen behind Baron Fig at Tools & Toys.

Posted on November 24, 2014 and filed under Baron Fig, Notebook Reviews.

Mini Emergent Task Planner Notebook Review

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

Writing things on paper can take many forms and happen for various reasons. Sometimes, it's just to scribble something on a nice piece of paper with a favorite pen to feel the nib on the page and watch the lines appear and breathe. But, sometimes it's for utilitarian purposes – writing a check, filling out a form, or signing a document. In most cases, the utilitarian writing experiences are glum. The paper is atrocious and it makes favorite pens feel broken. I don't recommend pairing exquisite pens with sub-par paper -- no one leaves happy.

I've written about the Emergent Task Planner by David Seah before. The previous review was about the 8.5" x 11" pad, and I love it. With that in mind, I love the 5.8" x 8.5" spiral bound Emergent Task Planner even more. In fact, I've pretty much abandoned the larger pad in favor of the smaller notebook. I believe it's the best of both worlds.

The original Emergent Task Planner (ETP for short) pad uses smooth, fountain pen friendly paper and does a great job for a full-sized pad. But, after using the smaller ETP notebook for several months, it's won me over. Despite the smaller amount of planning and notes space, I love the size and utility of this notebook. It's the size of a regular Rhodia (or Moleskine) notebook, which I've always enjoyed. It's small enough to stay out of the way on my desk, but large enough to adequately plan my day and react to changes that pop up.

The covers are plain black vinyl with no branding and the spirals are doubled and very sturdy. I haven't put the notebook through hell, but I know it could take a lot of abuse if needed.

46 sheets mean you can plan about 3 months of stuff in one book. For me, it ends up being a 4 month book since I don't use it on the weekends.

I remember loving the fact that I could tear off the previous day's sheet in the morning -- felt like the perfect way to mentally start afresh for the coming day -- but I've come to appreciate the utility of having those previous days in the same notebook. There have been several times that I've forgotten exactly what I did throughout the week when it's time to fill out my timesheet, and the archive always helps me remember. It's a planner, but also serves as a logbook. Personally, I love the utility of a simple logbook of tasks, events, and random little things that happen during the day. For many, this is the exact purpose of the Hobonichi planner.

Either way, it's still a fantastic tool that I cannot recommend enough. It keeps me sane during the day, and I don't want to talk about how I feel when I don't have it with me.

The paper in this book is comparable to the full-size pad. It's very friendly to all types of ink and pen. Given the smaller size of the different sections, a finer pen typically works better for me. In fountain pen terms, I like to use a Japanese fine. In other pen terms, a 0.5 mm or smaller is perfect.

If you're looking for a planner, this is a unique and helpful system created by a great guy who provides a lot of information about using the system. Definitely try it out. Heck, you can even try it out before buying one of the notebooks.

(This post contains affiliate links which help support PenAddict.com)

Posted on November 12, 2014 and filed under Emergent Task Planner, 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.