It's safe to say that if you haven't yet heard of the Baron Fig Confidant notebook, you've been living under a rock for most of the year. A lot has been said about these new notebooks in that time, but I've held off on talking about the book for a while because I wasn't really sure. Now, halfway through the book, I have more solidified opinions.
Baron Fig started on Kickstarter, was massively successful, and launched a store shortly after. A heartwarming success story to say the least. But, since this is a notebook meant to be written/drawn/sketched/painted(?) in, how does it hold up? Not so bad. It's a great middle-of-the-road notebook.
Briefly, let's go over the specs. The Confidant is available in one color: light gray. You have one option, and that's the paper type: plain, grid, or dot grid. One notebook will cost $16, but you get a small discount for buying more than one at a time. The size is a bit smaller than A5 at 5.4 x 7.7 inches. The notebook is wrapped with fabric, which gives it a unique and pleasing appearance and touch. 192 thick pages (12 of which are perforated), and, of course, a yellow ribbon marker.
Design and Build
For a notebook, it's fairly unique. The cloth wrapped cover is something I don't see very often, and I wasn't really sure if I'd like it in practice. So far, it's held up fantastically. No noticeable stains or wear, but I'm sure your mileage will vary. Mine has been carried around in a bag 99% of the time. I would imagine that harsher conditions would take a toll on this exterior.
The cover is attached nicely to the inside of the book and doesn't look like it will come undone. The spine of the book is a little lumpy, and I'm not sure why. The stitching isn't perfect or symmetrical, but it holds the book together.
True to their claims, the notebook does an excellent job of laying flat. There's a tiny tendancy for pages to stand up a bit when you're using the first or last page of a register, but other than that it does great.
But, you should know that the notebook only closes flat when it's brand new. Once you crack the book open and begin writing, the book will never close flat again under its own weight. In this case, an elastic closure would be perfect. This little annoyance used to bother me, but now I've gotten used to it. I just have to be careful about laying pens on top of the book, as they'll roll off from the angle.
And, the ribbon marker. I really like this notebook, but I hate the ribbon. Several reasons why. First, it frays like crazy at the bottom. It started this immediately out of the box, and it's not the kind of material that can be melted off to prevent further fraying. I wonder if I'll finish the book before the ribbon becomes several dozen independent ribbons. Also, the way it's attached to the spine of the book combined with the fact that it's fairly wide means it is folded and creased every time you close the book. In my OCD attempts to make the ribbon lay flat while closing the book, I wasn't very successful.
Infernal ribbon. Moving on to more interesting things.
The paper is really the only important part of a notebook – the rest is just details. In the case of this notebook, the paper is pretty good.
I've only used the notebook for writing, and mostly with fountain pens. For fountain pens, the paper is good. It doesn't compare to Clairefontaine, Rhodia, or many other Japanese premium papers. It just doesn't have the smoothness that those papers offer. However, it handles inks and nibs very well.
There's a noticeable tooth on the paper that took me a few pages to get used to. Pens that you think you know and understand suddenly feel different in this notebook. That's the main reason I took so long to formulate my thoughts. I wasn't sure if I liked the way the paper felt under the nib. After a lot of writing, I've decided I like it and I would even purchase another notebook or two after this one is done.
I chose the dot grid pattern in my notebook, and it's a subtle pattern. The ink is a bit lighter than what's in my Rhodia dotpad, but it's not an issue. I think I'll try a lined version next.
The paper is thick. 100 gsm is heavy paper, and this usually means that there isn't much bleeding and almost no show-through on the pages. This is completely false for certain pens, like Sharpies. Testing with a Sharpie meant the next page was unusable opposite the Sharpie ink. As far as fountain pens, ballpoints, gels, and liquid based pens go, it does great.
The odd dimensions of the book (5.4 x 7.7") are actually really great. It's wider and shorter than conventional notebook dimensions, and I prefer this format.
One of the things that Baron Fig mention on their site is that the Confidant is not a finished design. To me, that means they might listen to feedback and make changes in order to sell a better version of the product. This is great, and I wish more companies would do something similar.
Here's my wishlist: - Offer a paper that has less tooth. Making a notebook that does well with many, many mediums means that there are tradeoffs. Offer papers that fit niche purposes. - Serviceable ribbon. Seriously. - Numbered pages. - Different cover colors and patterns. With fabrics, there are so many creative possibilities.
The Baron Fig Confidant costs $16. How many 192-page notebooks with 100 gsm paper and a dot grid option can you find? As far as I know, that's rare. And that's why the Confidant is a good recommendation. The quality is not as good as other notebooks you can buy, but those other notebooks cost much more. It definitely kills the Moleskine notebooks.
There's something about this notebook that makes it easy to use and toss around. You can treat it like the tool that it is without worrying about messing it up. Maybe it's the cloth cover, the marketing, or the lightweight feel. Whatever it is, I like that quality in a notebook. Because at the end of the day, notebooks are meant to be used.
Try one out for yourself. It's a good notebook made by good people. I look forward to seeing what they have up their sleeves next.