Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Kokuyo Campus Twin Ring Notebook Review

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

Affordable, dependable, and delightful. That's how I describe the Kokuyo Campus Twin Ring notebooks. I honestly don't know why it took me so long to try one of these notebooks, but I'm sure glad I did.

These notebooks come in at a whopping $5.50 a piece, with your choice of 6 or 7 mm rule and an assortment of colors. At a price like that, it's hard to argue that this is a high value notebook.

I went through a phase recently where I didn't want anything to do with spiral notebooks. No idea why, but it happened. That's no longer the case, as I really appreciate the versatility of a spiral notebook – particularly how they lay completely flat and don't require any sort of stabilizing pressure to keep pages down while writing. Other types of bound books also have their perks, so it's just a question of mood or needs for the job when it comes to picking one based on binding.

The binding in the Kokuyo is twin ring, which means there are two rings for each hole in the paper. This creates a strong spiral that resists being deformed when put in a bag with other large objects. I always hated how my notebooks in school would exhibit a harsh slant in the spiral binding after a couple of weeks of class. With the Kokuyo notebooks, this isn't as much of an issue due to the smaller diameter of the spiral, and the extra reinforcement. As another bonus, the double spiral also means there are fewer accidental tears. It seems like single spiral notebooks loose pages more frequently because it's easier to rip them out.

The front of the book has two covers in a way – a semi-rigid translucent front cover, and a normal cover with the branding and information just after that. I'm assuming the translucent cover on the front is to add a bit of protection to the book, but I'm confused as to why there's only one. Why not a little protection on the back? Given the price, it's hard to complain.

So, it's a notebook that you write in. How does it handle inks? Really well.

This isn't a premium paper, so you can easily find notebooks that feel smoother and handle show-through much better, but you'll pay much for them, especially if they are similarly sized. The semi-B5 size is a great step up from the standard 5.5" x 8.5" notebooks that are really common. It's not so big as to be unusable on small desks, but it's also quite spacious.

Writing with fountain pens in this book is smooth. The paper is a great quality and I'm really happy with it. It does show through a bit to the back of the page, but not so much that it renders the back page unusable. It's only a minor problem in my opinion, and even when using wide nibs I've not had any problems using the back page.

I haven't seen any feathering with the inks I've tried, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the inks that are infamous for feathering showed a slight amount of feathering on this paper. Dry time is pretty quick as the paper is fairly absorbent. The ink doesn't lay on top of the page very long. Overall, it's a fantastic paper for the price.

The notebooks only come in ruled format, but you can choose between 6 mm and 7 mm spacing. The 6 mm ruling comes in a green or red cover, and the 7 mm books are available in yellow or blue covers. Like most Kokuyo paper, there's an area at the top for the date and other information for your notes. Every fifth line is denoted with a tiny dot at the beginning and end of the line. I've never used this, but it's worth mentioning.

Honestly, I wouldn't expect this book to live long in a harsh environment (like a backpack with textbooks), but the good news is that it fits the Kokuyo Systemic cover. The cover will keep everything inside pristine.

Overall, I can't recommend this book enough if you're looking for a semi-B5 or B5 sized notebook that handles fountain pens well. It's not in the same performance category as others (Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Mnemosyne, etc.), but it also isn't in that price category either. It's a great budget book for taking notes and carrying daily.

Posted on December 10, 2014 and filed under Kokuyo, 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.