Archive for Notebook Reviews

Barnes and Noble Basic Black Lined Journal Review

I spend quite a bit of time at my local Barnes and Noble, and am often seduced by office supplies there, as well as books. The one I’m about to review is simply called the “Basic Black Lined Journal.”

The basics: It measures five by eight inches, has square corners, and lined pages. It’s hardcover, with a black ribbon bookmark. The Barnes and Noble website doesn’t seem to tell me how many pages it has, but it’s thick, maybe 200+ pages, I guess.

The good: It definitely feels durable. This is something you could keep around for years, and it would probably last. It’s also thick, and the pages are really thick, too. Writing with a Sharpie pen barely shows through, and an average ballpoint pen (I used one with my university’s name printed on it, nothing special), not at all. The endpapers have a cool spiral design, which is something a little non-standard in an otherwise very basic journal. I like the ribbon bookmark, too. The size is good for a journal that generally stays at home, and has serious things written in it, and is meant to stay on a shelf for years to come. And the price can’t be beat–just $4.95. The lines on the pages are thin, which I like. It opens fairly flat for a journal of this size.

The bad: It’s really not portable at all. The size, rigidity, and lack of an elastic closure mean it would make an awful travel journal, for example. It also doesn’t have a pocket in the back, and the thick pages might be a little too thick–they’re almost like cardstock. Not elegant at all. The lines hover weirdly in the middle of the page, with blank margins on all four sides. It’s not a very efficient use of space. It’s really thick, which is kind of intimidating,

The ugly: The lines on the pages are solid black. No room for going outside the lines, really, besides, I suppose, doodling in the plentiful margins. I’d prefer something a little lighter and less imposing. Also, the word “Journal” is stamped on the front, which is kind of irritating; what if that’s not what I’m using it for?

The verdict: It’s basic, classic, and great for the price. It’s not for everyone, and lacks a few features some might find key, but it’s a good value.

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Pocket Moleskine Review

No blog like this one would be complete without at least a few words on Moleskine notebooks. These are famous, found at the front of every Barnes and Noble store in the USA, heralded as the notebooks used by legends like Picasso and Hemingway. They’re overpriced, but have devoted users, a bit of a cult following, really. They come in different sizes and styles, and I’ve used a few of them personally. Explore the website for everything available, but I can only talk about the pocket-sized plain notebook, large-sized squared notebook, and large-sized, squared cahiers.

First up, the original: the pocket-sized plain notebook. Or perhaps ruled is the original….Anyway, this one’s pretty basic, let’s leave it at that. It’s 9×14 cm, ┬áblack oilcloth-over-cardboard cover stamped with a discrete “moleskine” on the back. 192 pages, an elastic band holding it closed, a ribbon bookmark, and a pocket in the back for mementos, I guess. I use mine to collect interesting quotes, for the most part. I write in it with Sharpie pens.

The good: The size is perfectly portable, and I can take it anywhere, ready at a moment’s notice. It has any number of uses, and takes up very little space. The pocket in the back is nice–it feels pretty sturdy, a good place for loose scraps of paper, like ticket stubs or something. I also like the elastic; it’s flat, unobtrusive, and useful. The pages are a nice color and texture, good to write on. It’s also nice that it’s a serious, plain black notebook, and not leather–I don’t buy or use leather. They also lie pretty flat, which is nice for a hardcover notebook.

The bad: You’re out of luck if you like to write on both sides of your paper. My Sharpie pens show completely through to the other side of the page, and even, very occasionally, bleed through to the next page, which is pretty much unacceptable in my opinion. Still, if you only write on one side of the page, it’ll suit you fine most of the time. The binding, and the way it’s put together in general, feels a little cheap, which I wouldn’t mind if these notebooks weren’t so outrageously expensive–$10.95 from the US manufacturer! I don’t get the feeling that these are nicely crafted or durable–they feel like they were made on an assembly line in China. Which, they were, but the price shouldn’t be so handmade-in-Italy, for this quality. The cover is also really rigid–this detracts from portability and functional portability.

The ugly: I absolutely hate the bookmark. In concept, a bookmark is necessary, and I like flat, satin-ribbon type bookmarks. The moleskine’s bookmark feels sort of like a shoelace. I guess it’s functional, but for something so supposedly world-class, it just isn’t what I’d expect. The first and last pages are also completely useless, bound in such a way that they don’t lie flat separate from the endpapers.

The verdict: These notebooks definitely have their flaws. They’re far from perfect, and I don’t really understand their cult status. They’re handy, but shouldn’t be half as expensive as they are, for the quality.