The market of 3.5 x 5.5 memo books is definitely not slim. Field Notes is likely leading the pack, followed by other worthy contenders such as Doane, Word, and many, many others. But Brad sent me one that I'd only seen reviewed several times on other fantastic sites — the Calepino.
The Calepino is a French-made memo book that uses 100% recycled materials. In a word, this notebook is killer. From the understated kraft outside to the resilient, smooth paper on the inside, this book makes me wonder if I should ever buy any more Field Notes (but who am I kidding — I have a problem).
The Calepino notebooks are right up the alley of every other 3.5 x 5.5 memo book out there. A 3-packer will cost around $10 and comes in a nice variety of paper markings, from lined, blank, dot grid, and graph. If you're a big dot grid fan, this is a memo book made especially for you. The only problem I've found so far is that these books can be somewhat difficult to find. CW Pencils and Cult Pens have the full arrangement, and I suggest you check them out.
The look and feel
These notebooks have a thicker, stiffer cardstock than most of the competitors. It has a nice natural look to it and features soft, understated branding that fits the aesthetic perfectly. The staples are heavy duty and hold the book together firmly. I have no doubts that this book will hold up well in your back pocket for several weeks.
The graph lines are printed in a subtle green ink that carries over the nice green ink from the cover art. Inside the covers are the expected blank fields for name, address, etc. The back cover has some information about the notebooks, but it's written in French. C'est la vie.
To get right to it, this paper is awesome. It's possibly some of the best paper I've seen in a memo book of this size. It handles pens and inks of all types with ease. Let's be honest, the most troubling pens can be wet fountain pens, and this notebook handles those like a champ with no feathering and minimal bleeding and show through. Incredible.
Like a lot of graph paper, some inks change color or sheen when over the graph lines, but it's not very noticeable with this paper and ink. In some papers, the graph lines seem to eat the ink, making it look like the pen is skipping very neatly every 1 cm. Not the case with the Calepino.
After investigating for a minute, I discovered that the Calepino notebooks use 90gsm weight paper. That, folks, is why this paper is so good — I'm just not used to seeing it this format.
If you like pocket memo books and fountain pens, check out Calepino. These are exceptionally well-made products, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Like I mentioned, these aren't incredibly easy to find in the US, but CW Pencils and Cult Pens have them up for sale for around $10 a pack.