I'm always on the lookout for good pocket memo books that play nicely with fountain pens and foutain pen inks, so it's no surprise that this post at The Well-Appointed Desk about the Etranger memo book caught my eye. Ana did a great job of showing the pros and cons of the book, so I ordered one right away from JetPens. I even chose the same color, because green is awesome.
Overall, this is a great little notebook, but this is one main reason why it hasn't become my number one memo book. For me, the lines are just too close together. By my measurement, the lines are 5 mm apart. I prefer something like 7 mm. That said, let's talk about the many things that make this notebook great.
The size is comparable to the standard Field Notes size. It's just a bit smaller on both ends at 3.3" x 5.4". For reference, the Field Notes books are 3.5" x 5.5". The Etranger books pack in quite a few more pages than the Field Notes, however. 32 versus the Field Notes 24. Even though the books has more pages, it's still quite thin and I can barely feel it in my pocket.
The size is great and I can't really tell a difference between the size of this book and a Field Notes unless I have them side-by-side.
The paper quality is where the Etranger book beats out the generic Field Notes books for me. The paper doesn't handle foundtain pens like Rhodia or Clairefontaine, but it does a really good job. This is something that I've never been able to say about any Field Notes book I've used, and everyone knows that the Field Notes paper doesn't typically do well with fountain pens. That doesn't change the fact that I really would like to enjoy both the pocketable form factor and high-quality paper in a notebook.
I've used several different pens in this book so far, and it handles them all adequately. Obviously, it does better with finer nibs. Wetter nibs and inks tend to show through quite a bit, but dry inks and fine nibs do well. The paper is a nice white color, which is something I prefer.
Some inks also tend to feather a bit on this paper, but you have to look closely to notice it. If this was expensive paper, I'd complain, but for under $4, this is pretty impressive.
Now, for the reason that I can't use this book as my #1 pocket memo book: the lines. The lines! They're so close together. I normally prefer lined paper, but this is just too small. I have a Kokuyo notebook with 6 mm spacing, and it's manageable. I really like 7 mm spacing, honestly. But 5 mm is just too much for me. And my OCD won't allow me to use two lines for writing, so I'm stuck trying to fit my words into the tiny space allotted. If they had other options for lines, grids, plain, etc., I'd be extremely happy.
These books have a cover that is similar to other pocket memo books in that it's a medium-weight craft paper. What's different about the Etranger books is that they also come with a semi-transparent vinyl cover that slips onto each cover of the notebook. I wasn't sure if I'd like this when I ordered it, but after using it for a while, I've really grown to like it.
The book has no trouble mostly laying flat, and it closes nicely as well.
This is a fantastic notebook. For the price of a single Field Notes, you get a comparable notebook that has more pages, a vinyl cover, and is more friendly with fountain pens and inks. It's not for everyone due to the small spaced lines, but that doesn't stop me from using it every week. Even with the small line spacing, this notebook is far from a disappointment.