Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Kyokuto F.O.B COOP Memo Book Review

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

The Kyokuto F.O.B COOP memo book caught my eye because of its size and sturdy wire binding. I'd been on a memo book hunt, and this one seemed to be a book worth trying. After using it for a while, I understand that it's not really a good notebook for me, but that doesn't mean it's a bad notebook. Far from it — it's actually a great notebook as long as you're aware of the caveats.

There aren't a lot of caveats, so I'll make this simple. The F.O.B COOP memo book paper just isn't fountain pen friendly. It tends to do OK with fine Japanese nibs, but even those results are hit-and-miss. Liquid roller ball refills get similar results. But really, this notebook shines when it comes to gels and ballpoints. If that's your sweet spot, then this notebook could be a great companion.

As far as size goes, it's roughly the same width and height of a Field Notes book, minus about half an inch on the height. But the depth/thickness is about three Field Notes, which makes it a tad uncomfortable in the back pocket. Maybe you don't carry your memo books in your back pocket, so that isn't really a concern, but just be aware that it's a thick notebook. I'm not sure it's really meant to be carried in a pocket, but it can certainly be done.

Now, the notebook will be right at home in a bag of any kind. The front cover is made of a durable translucent plastic material, the back is a thick card stock, and the wire binding is robust, which means it can take a fair amount of abuse. In my experience, it does great if it's secured in the bag somehow. I wouldn't recommend letting it go freestyle in a bag as it might get banged up by larger objects.

The paper in this version is a 6mm lined format, but you can also get in plain. There are 80 sheets in the book, which is a lot more than you'll find in most memo books. Like I mentioned earlier, it sings when used with gels and ballpoints. The paper is delightfully smooth and feels fantastic when jotting down quick notes.

Fountain pens and rollerballs cause issues in this paper. My guess is that it's a combination of being thin and soft that make it vulnerable to feathering and show-through. Both of these things happen frequently with this paper. Some people may not be bothered by it, and others might outright despise it. Just be warned that it tends to feather and bleed through.

The size and sturdiness of the book make it a prime candidate for holding it in your palm while writing. I've never been a huge proponent of this method, but it does the job pretty well, thanks to the thick card stock on the back. When I jot notes like that, I always feel like a '40s reporter covering a breaking story — but the reality is I just prefer to write on a large, hard surface most of the time.

At just under 4 bucks, it's not a bad deal at all. If you want to try something besides a staple-bound 3.5x5.5" memo book for a change, consider the Kyokuyo F.O.B COOP. It's a fine notebook with smooth, glossy paper that feels great — just make sure you're using a gel or ballpoint pen.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on February 25, 2015 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Kyokuto.

Apica Premium C.D. Notebook A6 Review

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

There are as many different types of notebooks as there are fountain pens it seems, but you can also argue that each different type excels in different areas for different purposes. In this case, I've had the honor of reviewing an extremely high quality notebook from Apica that continues to blow my mind when I write in it.

The Apica Premium C.D. notebook is one of the most high-quality books I've had the pleasure of using. It makes me smile to move the pen across the page because it glides so effortlessly and never produces any feedback — sometimes I'm amazed that it's even making a mark on the page because it feels so smooth.

According to JetPens, the paper in these notebooks is called "A.Silky 865 Premium," and that's a very apt description. This is a premium product offering from Apica, so the price coincides with that, but it really is worth it if you value the pleasure of writing on paper as smooth as silk.

Of course, there are plenty of other premium notebook offerings from Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Kokuyo, Mnemosyne, and more, but I don't think any of them are as smooth as the paper in this Apica notebook. It really is incredible. Don't get me wrong, the other high-quality notebooks have some awesome paper, but it just isn't glassy smooth like this one.

The notebook I got is a blank version, and I think I'd prefer lines next time, but that's just my own preference. I'm too sloppy of a writer to use a blank notebook effectively.

Moving on from the paper in the notebook, the rest of the book is high-quality as well. The stitching and binding is neat and tight, the covers are sturdy but just a bit flexible, and the notebook is easy to open and lays flat without much problem.

The size I have is A6 (4.1 x 5.8 inches) and contains 96 sheets, although other sizes are available. The A6 size is a bit large for pockets, but does well in purses and smaller pockets in bags.

Quite simply, this notebook comes at a premium price for good reason. It's a dream to write in, and it's built to last. Oh, and it looks pretty classy at the same time. I love the silver embossing and accents. Want to try out a fancy new notebook? Give an Apica Premium C.D. book a try.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on January 14, 2015 and filed under Apica, 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.