I've said it before, and I'm going to say it once more — there really is a notebook out there for every niche purpose, and the Kaweco-branded Zequenz dual notebook is why I'm repeating myself.
So, what's so special about this notebook? Well, it's two notebooks in one. Where most notebooks that feature two types of paper figure out a way to fit both types into the same binding, Kaweco and Zequenz went in another direction. What we have here is a bizarre double-sided notebook. If you look at the book from the top, the covers seem to form an S shape, with binding inside both curves of the S. In theory, this seems like a pretty great idea. Want lined paper? Great — just open one side of the notebook. Ready to switch to plain paper? No problem — just flip that bad boy over and you're all set.
As much as I wished a novel idea like this was successful in practice, I just can't say so in this case. I was a big fan of the show Flight of the Conchords back in its day, and there's a scene in the show where Bret, while trying to be thoughtful, glues his buddy Jemaine's cell phone and camera together, dubbing it a "cameraphone." It was really sweet of Bret to go out of his way to upgrade Jemaine's phone and camera, but Jemaine later admits that he thinks Bret kind of ruined his phone and his camera. Yep, I feel the same way about this notebook.
The notebook looks interesting from the outside, but once you start using it, it quickly loses its appeal. And, bear in mind that I'm just one dude with his own picky preferences for writing instruments and stationery, so don't let that dissuade you if double-sided, thick notebooks are your bag.
One of the big things that made it difficult for me to like this notebook was the thickness. When you put two notebooks back to back, it stands pretty tall when laid on a desk. It's probably an inch and a half or more in height. Also consider its small footprint, and you have a notebook that is difficult to write in. I might be alone this (I've never talked to other people about this preference), but I don't enjoy writing in notebooks or pads that are very tall. It just doesn't fit with my writing style and grip as I feel like there's nowhere for my hand to rest. If I put my hand on the table like I normally do, then my wrist is at an awkward angle due to the tall notebook. If I try to keep my hand off the table, I have to float my writing hand above the notebook, and this just produces unreadable scrawls.
Another issue that I couldn't ignore was how stiff the binding is. It's impossible for this notebook to lie open without assistance from your other hand. Otherwise, it just snaps shut. It doesn't appear to get any better with use, either.
The paper quality — this is where I was truly disappointed. Why? Because Kaweco put their brand on the covers. If a fountain pen company places their logo on a paper product, one has reasonable cause to believe that the paper plays well with fountain pens, right? That was my assumption, and therefore you can understand my disappointment when I tried out a few pens on both sides of the notebook and discovered there was lots of bleeding, feathering, and show-through. These problems weren't isolated to wet, wide nibbed pens, but any fountain pen — even small nibbed Japanese pens. I was disappointed by the paper performance, and honestly I think Kaweco should be ashamed of putting their logo on it.
Apart from the feathering/bleeding issues, the paper has an unpleasant tooth that seemed to catch nibs at inopportune moments. Overall, definitely one of the worst papers I've tested.
The band closure
On another note, this notebook also includes an elastic band that you can use to keep the notebook closed. This band also includes a small pen loop that does a pretty awesome job at keeping your pen secured to the notebook. It's really tight, and can therefore require a bit of work, but it's also very secure and makes you feel like your pen is safe for your travels.
The downside to this elastic band is that it isn't attached to the notebook. It's a separate piece and requires two hands to operate both when removing or placing on the notebook. It's a nice feature, but I just wish it was as easy to use as your standard Rhodia/Leuchtturm/Moleskine band.
Basically, don't buy this notebook unless you want a double sided book that you intend to use with gel pens and ballpoints. The unique attribute of this notebook isn't enough to outweigh the fact that it just doesn't perform as a notebook. At the end of the day, notebooks are for writing in, and this one doesn't do a great job in that regard. I think notebooks that are branded by pen/pencil makers are a great idea, and I hope that Kaweco continues with this by selecting a better paper partner for their future products.
(Kaweco provided this product to The Pen Addict at no charge for review purposes.)