Review – Exceed Notebook (7⅜x9½ {7½x9¾})

Once again I was foolishly tempted by the stationery shelf at my local Wal-Mart. But the quality of such notebooks can be all over the place, and in general tends to be trending upwards. I believe this is the case with this “Exceed” brand notebook I picked up several months ago (notebook reviews take so long, these books might not even be available anymore). This ruled, soft-cover notebook looks and feels almost as if it was manufactured in the Moleskine factory, for a relatively inexpensive price.

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The entire notebook is bound in a black faux-leather that is slightly less shiny than a soft-cover Moleskine. This material is slightly warped by the black elastic band that wraps around it from the back cover to keep everything closed. On the back, very tiny and near the bottom, is stamped the EXCEED logo, and the area of the back inner pocket leaves visible indentions in the black material.

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Inside there is a thicker page with space for a name, 96 sheets of (“college” ruled {36 lines per-page}) paper, and an expandable pocket in the Moleskine style that takes up the entire inner back-cover.

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The paper itself is off-white and of “decent” quality. With standard ballpoints and pencils there are no significant problems. There is enough show-through that one can tell there is writing on the previous page, but using both sides of a sheet wouldn’t be too much of a challenge. With more liquid ink pens (rollerballs, Sharpies, porous points, and fountain pens) there is a considerable amount of show-through with even some bleed-through, though, with standard implements (no calligraphic or broad tips), I didn’t get any bleed onto the next page. The mostly-smooth paper is still pulpy enough that it quickly absorbs ink, preventing bleed on the next page and drying quickly, but exacerbating feathering (to an almost unbearable level with a fountain pen).

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For the time that I’ve used it (with a regular ballpoint) I’ve encountered no problems. The cover looks nice (despite the elastic indents), the binding has held up, and the light-grey lines are un-intrusive and thin enough for my writing style. I’m not a particularly harsh user of notebooks, but I suspect this one could take much more punishment that I’ve dished out (however the nice plain-ness of the cover might suffer, it dents easily, especially when exposed to spiral binding, and even though it does pop back, I don’t know where the cutoff is). If you’re looking for something similar to a Moleskine soft-cover but at a reduced price, I would certainly consider tracking one of these down.


Review – Slant Collections Mini Journals Preppy Stripe

I’m not exactly the type of person to be found in Tuesday Morning (the store) but I did find myself in there one day, and there was quite a bit of interesting stuff. And being someone who has been drawn to the stationery aisle since I was little I found myself in the stationery section, where I found a set of Slant Collections mini journals, this particular set in the discontinued “preppy stripe” (it was Tuesday Morning, after all). Let’s take a look.


The books themselves are 3¼ x 5¼ inches, just smaller than a Moleskine pocket book. The cover feels like plastic-coated cardboard and in this version has a very simple design that comes in 3 colors. It is a single piece bent around and stitch-bound onto the 70 inside pages. These pages are lined with a thin 7mm ruling that is the same color as the main cover color, printed on a very white background.


The paper itself is quite thick and a medium roughness. It is very bleed-and feathering-resistant despite this. Fountain and other liquid ink pens are handled well, and with most other writing utensils both sides of the paper can be used, though at this size I wouldn’t recommend that. The cover and binding are very well done and hold up (the stitching looks very slightly unsightly at times) and the corners are nicely rounded to prevent the corner bending that some books get. On the table the book lies adequately flat and while the cover does bend out of shape it bends back just as easily.

In the end I have been surprised by these little notebooks. They are hardy, easy to carry, great writing things. It has taken me some time to review them as they weren’t good enough to replace any of the books in my normal rotation (but that’s more because I prize consistency, a book would have to be head and shoulders above to get met to move something out of my rotation). I enjoyed using them very much (even the pink one) and if all of the Slant collection journals are as good as these were I’d consider more in the future.

Review – Rhodia Pads

I’ve been using Rhodia products for years now, and the way that I was introduced to them was their famous pad-style books. I got one as a gift and used it almost every day in school (only almost because I wasn’t taking notes with it but writing down ideas). And I’ve had a few around ever since. Let’s take a look at what made them so widely used and praised.


The pads themselves are simple, and have very few differences between the sizes. They are an orange rectangle, with one or two heavy-duty staples in the top and 3 creases on the cover to allow it to be folded over the spine easily and cleanly. Both the front and back have the Rhodia tree logo, with the back one being smaller and above some of the book’s specifications (in metric and imperial) and usually a price tag/bar code. Inside there are perforations on the top of each page, and with the thickness of the paper and the quality of the perforations, tearing out pages is easy, but they do not tend to fall out with hard use.


The size of the paper in each book varies, and it comes in line or graph versions (dot in the premium editions, and unfortunately no blank). The ink used is a light blue-ish purple that doesn’t interfere with ink or pencil, the line paper is a bit darker. The paper is vellum and very ink resistant, meaning long dry times but little feathering, bleed through, and page crinkling. Show through can still be a problem, but most ballpoints and fountain pens write very well on the paper with almost no side effects. Paints and markers such as Sharpies are where the paper starts to not hold up as well, but the minimal crinkling, and the lack of bleed-through is still a very good performance. The coating on the paper also allows for very smooth writing, but one might have to press down hard with less wet pens.


I might have already given away my opinion of the books in the first paragraph, but they are lovely. The writing experience is super smooth and pleasant; the worry that one might have with other papers when writing with liquid ink pens in non-existent. The binding is hardy and the cover wears very well with minimal things to be problematic. I’m generally not a fan of covers that fold over the top of the book, but I make an exception here. They make great traveling journals, school notebooks, coffee shop list makers, etc. And they can survive both fountain pens and being tossed around in a backpack. If the styling was a bit more my speed I would carry one around all the time. Still they are very versatile, and for the smaller ones, fairly inexpensive.


Review – Moleskine Volant Notebooks (Tiny)

I’ve talked about Moleskine books in the past. And while they aren’t the greatest of notebooks I find them to be my favorite for a number of reasons. The size and sturdiness of the covers are the main thing I like, but what if both of those things were taken away and I was left with a small and flexible notebook? This time I’ll be looking at the Moleskine Volant Pocket notebooks.


Moleskine Volant books are small, pocket sized books about 2.5×4.125in., which is a very odd size indeed. There are twenty-eight sheets or fifty-six pages. They are all perforated and standard moleskine paper with only a few lines.  There is a page on which a name and address can be written, but no pocket in the back as these books are much too small. Moleskine is imprinted on the back of the books and the cover texture is similar to the regular Moleskines.


The spine and cover are quite flexible and the binding is hidden from view. After only moderate use the edges will start to peel and bend, but do hold up very well, and any pocket book is bound to get damaged to this extent. They’re a bit plastic-y, so the amount they hold up isn’t remarkable, but it is good enough to get the job done.


The paper is standard Moleskine. It’s thin, and you wouldn’t want to use both sides even with a ballpoint for the bleed/show through. The perforations work quite well and I’ve had no problems with mis-torn sheets. The paper is fairly strong and archival as well as smooth. So the overall experience of writing on it is not bad if one’s pen choice is correct (it’s not a liquid ink type of paper). The ruling is spaced such that not too terribly much can be placed on a page, but at its size, there isn’t much more they could do.

Overall, these notebooks are wonderful for their size. If you have a pocket that would fit one and need to carry around a notebook this is the one I’d recommend. They are a little bit pricy, but I don’t know of another notebook of similar size in a competitors range. So it might be your only option. And it’s a good, even if not the best possible, option.




Review – Monsieur Notebook A5 Blank “Fountain Pen” Paper

One way to make your notebook stand out in this new notebook market is to have high-quality components that are durable and look good. Monsieur Notebook has tried to do that, with their new leather notebook competitor to Moleskine.


First a little story. Monsieur Notebook has been available in Europe for a little while now, using production from India, if I’m not mistaken. They recently had an Indiegogo campaign to distribute in the U.S. and get more local production (for them in the U.K.). I pledged (purchased) on Indiegogo for two notebooks and got laser engraving thrown in to review.  My notebooks were however caught up somewhere in the delivery process and ended up taking quite some time to get here. During this process I discovered that the customer service is very nice and expedient for being across an ocean from me. Anyway, some time later I have an extra notebook for my troubles and am getting on the review track. I should note that these books were sent to me directly and not through a distributor, so they did get a bit damaged in the post because they were not in a box, this will not happen if you simply order a book from them.


The notebooks are a nice A5 size, a bit wider than a Moleskine. With 100 sheets of “royal executive bond” (100gsm) paper (that’s what the watermark says anyway). The cover is leather, and comes quite dry, so it will need some maintenance to make it more supple. The cover is completely plain (unless laser engraved) save for a tiny logo on the back in the right bottom corner. The cover sticks out from the pages just a bit to provide them some protection. There is an elastic band on the back that is loose when not in use like a Moleskine but tightly closes the book when necessary. The cover is glued to some heavy cardstock and opening the front reveals another logo with a website and a contents page with a place for a name and other information. There are no other features, this includes the conspicuous absence of a back pocket common to these types of books.


Now to the paper, which in mine is blank, and meant for fountain pens. The promise of being fountain pen-friendly is a bold one, and one that is almost thoroughly lived up to. The paper is a very stark, almost perfect, white (with a watermark as previously mentioned). It has a bit of a grain to it, so it provides some feedback when writing, but it isn’t unpleasant. It is a bonded paper, so some paper fibers may come up and clog nibs on fountain pens after extended use, but that is only a fountain pen concern. As for writing, it’s smooth, with some feedback. There are very few inconsistant places that would cause hang ups, or strange ink behaviors. Bleed-through for liquid inks is minimal, but it is there, the paper seems to take wide spaces of ink in stride (like calligraphy) and has little to no bleed-through. But a pen that is quite wet with a finer line will make points of bleed-through. A similar phenomenon can be noted with feathering, as finer lines tend to feather more on this paper than broader lines. Which is a strange property indeed. But the overall experience is pleasant. The ink dries friarly fast, with some notable exceptions (Noodler’s red)


So a few more things to note. The spine is good leather and doesn’t seem to take structural damage but does easily take cosmetic. The Laser engraving is awesome but it really depends on your image. The elastic strap could cosmetically damage the cover by pulling it. And occasionally the signatures seem to be pulling away from each other, but not the spine.

So overall I think this is a great notebook. It is made of high quality materials, if not high production quality. The materials seem to be good enough to make up for the shoddy construction and make a stable book that will work quite well for an extended amount of time. It is one of the best fountain pen paper notebooks, but not the best. I’d say the paper is worse, but the book itself is better than a Rhodia book. So it all depends on what you want. This book might not look very good, but it should last at least as long if not longer than any other notebook on the market. And it’s the same price as a Moleskine. So If you want a good “beat-up notebook”, try one of these.


Ultimate Pocket Notebook Showdown – Moleskine, Rhodia, Leuchtturm, Gibson, Wal Mart

Okay, enough with separate reviews, they have their place, but it’s time for an ultimate black pocket-sized notebook show down. We’ve got a couple slots for easy comparisons and five different books to do today.

Rhodia Webnotebook

Paper: Great, smooth, thick, fountain pen resistant, archival quality.

Cover: Faux leather, smooth, easily damaged but solid.

Spine: Hardy, doesn’t crease, folds tightly.

Other: Bookmark and back pocket, well put together. Elastic strap.

Size: 3.5 X 5.5

Notes: Has some minor bleed though issues, really dark yellow papers.

Price: $20




Moleskine pocket 

Paper: Thin, bleeds easily, archival quality.

Cover: Pleather, hard cover, like a rock.

Spine: Nice, creaseable, starts to wear near the end of the books life.

Other: Book mark and back pocket. Elastic strap.

Size: 3.5 X 5.5

Notes: Yellowed pages.

Price: $15




Leuchtturm 1917

Paper: Medium thickness, bleed resistant, but shows through a lot, rough paper.

Cover: Thin, a little flexible, but sturdy.

Spine: Creases easily, but is sturdy, paper could peel off.

Other: Back pocket, bookmark, elastic strap.

Size: 3.5 X 6

Notes: Numbered pages, table of contents, perforated pages.

Price: $12




Gibson Markings

Paper: Dark yellow, little bleeding, some show through.

Cover: Thick, damageable, bends easily, has stitches around the sides.

Spine: Works well, but creases, is fragile, and can break.

Other: Back pocket, elastic strap, bookmark.

Size: 3.5 X 5.5

Notes: Not very smooth paper.

Price: $5



Wal Mart Leatherette Journal 

Paper: White, shows through really badly, but doesn’t bleed easily. Not the smoothest.

Cover: Thick, ridged, but flexible, with stitching around the outside.

Spine: Alright, but could crack and fall off.

Other: Back pocket, elastic strap, bookmark.

Size: 3.5 X 5.5

Notes: Elastic strap came off after limited use. Cheap construction. Ink for lines was run off on some pages.

Price: $3





Notebook Showdown – Moleskine Cahier Vs Field Notes

So another notebook competition today, huh? This time I’ll be comparing the higher end of the pocket book spectrum. It’s time for Field Notes to go head to head with Moleskine Cahiers.


Starting with the covers the Moleskine is a very heavy, single color, piece of cardboard with an imprinted logo on the back. It’s got a flap on the back that folds in and serves as the famous Moleskine pocket. This pocket is not very well secured by the glue and tears out easily, it also causes the back to be prone to creasing rather than flexing. The Field Notes book has a thin “packing brown wrap” cover with a logo on the front and some identifiers. It also has a little on the back, but on the inside is where it really shines. It’s got name, coordinents, date, and return to blanks right in the front, and the back contains may useful reference items, including a list of uses, and all the materials used in the book. It’s still fairly flimsy, though, and when it bends it stays bent rather than easily popping back into place.


Size-wise, both books are almost identical, despite the Moleskine having 12 more sheets. The rounding on the corners is also a bit less on the Moleskine. The paper inside the Moleskine is the standard archival quality, but fairly weak, off-white paper the comes with all Moleskines. In the Field Notes is a smooth, bright white paper. The actual type of paper is listed both on the website and in the book for easy reference. Both books come in: blank, ruled, and squared or graphed paper. But some special edition Field Notes have all sorts of different rulings. There is little variation in the ruling size wise, the only major ones being the Field Notes have a wide top margin and slightly lighter lines for the ruling. They’re brownish compared to Moleskine’s grey. One feature of the Moleskine that the Field Notes lack is that the latter half of the pages are perforated for easy removal, meaning you can tear them out without destroying the binding.


Speaking of the binding, that’s where the really major difference between these books kicks in. The Field Notes are saddle stitched with three staples. The Moleskines however are stitched with 21 signatures. I believe they are also hand bound though I could be wrong on that. The Moleskine binding and cover makes it (like other Moleskines) like a rock. It is much harder to bend, but bends and creases terribly when it does so. The Field notes is a bit more lenient, bending more, but the staples provide great pivot points for bending and creasing as well. The Field Notes binding, while sturdy, can have the book come apart on it, though this rarely happens because of their limited page count. The binding on the Moleskine is much more likely to come undone itself and leave the book behind, though again this rarely happens.


Really it all depends on what you want. They’re both about the same price so do you want: a better cover, more pages, perforation, and a pocket, or: better paper, better binding, and some useful information? In the end that’s what it comes done to. Also the looks a little bit. Personally I prefer the look of the Moleskine, but the quality of the Field Notes, so I use both. Try ’em and find out for yourself, it’s only like twenty dollars for three of each (at the time of writing).