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.