Notebook


Cloud Book 6

I few days ago received an unexpected delivery: the Cloud Book by brandbook. It’s an unusual notebook that brandbook sent to several bloggers to promote it1.

 

The company behind it
Brandbook‘s main business is manufacturing custom-made and designed notebooks. Their notebooks are mainly for business customers, but last year they launched their notebook line nuuna, aimed at consumers. The Cloud Book is one of nuuna’s products, not intended to be used as an ‘orderly notebook’, but as a notebook that is supposed to help your creativity. To support this task the pages sport different cloud photos.

 

The notebook

The notebook itself is sky blue with a bright orange elastic band. I was told that the cover is made from Cutoron and that the paper used is Tauro paper2. The first thing to notice when using the Cloud Book is that erasing graphite from the pages will also remove some of the colour used for printing the background picture. Some erasers are better than others. The dust-free erasers I used were particularly good at keeping the background photo ‘undamaged’. Another thing, the Tauro paper isn’t exactly what I would call ink loving: it absorbs ink more easily than many other types of paper. This means that wet fountain pens will cause some bleed-through, but the dry fountain pens I tried were safe3. The paper feels a bit rough, but graphite and ink are easily visible on the paper. I mention this because some papers with a similar feel need fairly soft pencils to produce a dark line, but this paper will also be satisfied with harder pencils.

How many shibbloths can you find when you enlarge the picture. I think there are at least three obvious ones.

 

Conclusion
I really like the idea behind the Cloud Book, but at work or at home I’d usually only write something in a notebook if I want to keep the information I write down – so the concept of using a notebook as a tool for creativity or to satisfy your play instinct is slightly alien to me – I’d usually use the reverse of an old calendar sheet or of an old sheet of paper if I want to scribble around… but now that I have the Cloud Book I’ll try to use it as intended.

The Cloud Book‘s RRP is €17.90 (~$23.30; £15.50) and it’s made in Germany, like all brandbook notebooks.


Price and exchange rates: March 2013.

I’d like to thank Carlos Monteiro Lanca from brandbook who sent me the Cloud Book free of charge.

The rare-ish GW nib of the Pelikan fountain pen used for the second picture has the honour of being shown on Werner Rüttinger’s Pelikan page.

The bought both, the Faber-Castell Guilloche fountain pen and the De Atramentis document ink, for an amazing price. The fountain pen was only a bit more than €20 at Amazon, but after I ordered it the price nearly doubled.  The De Atramentis document ink was very cheap at Pure Pens, much cheaper than what you pay at the manufacturer – probably a combination of it being the old price before the price increase and a good exchange rate when they imported the ink.

One last thing: users of the Cloud Book can send a photo or scan of their favourite scribbles to brandbook / nuuna for a chance to win a a selection of notebooks from nuuna.

  1. You can also read about the Cloud Book at re:duziert. []
  2. I found some further information about these materials on the web, but wasn’t sure how much of that information is manufacturer dependent and whether the descriptions I found apply to this notebook. []
  3. To my surprise De Atramentis’ document ink, which tends to feather on some papers, behaved rather well on this paper. []

Atoma vs. M by Staples’ Arc 47

About Atoma

I tried to get hold of an Atoma notebook for a while now. Atoma notebooks are quite common in Belgium where they were first produced in 1948. Despite their popularity in their home country they are not very well known outside Belgium, not even in the neighbouring countries. I haven’t seen them in shops in the UK or Germany and some Dutch friends I asked haven’t seen them in the Netherlands either. No wonder: 80% of more than a million notebooks produced every year stay in Belgium. The company behind Atoma did not extend their patent when it expired in the Nineties, so copies are now available from many companies: There’s Levenger’s Circa, Aurora’s Adoc, Clairefontaine’s Clairing, Elba’s Vario-Zipp, Staples’ Arc and there’s Rollabind.

Atoma

Arc

How do they work

The pages of the Atoma notebooks are being held together by plastic discs. The discs are holding the sheets of paper through special Atoma shaped ‘holes’1. You can remove sheets from the notebooks or swap the sheets around, just like you can in a ring binder. One advantage of this system over a ring binder is that the notebook can be folded over. Another advantage is that an Atoma notebook, compared to a ring binder, is using less space because you don’t need the surrounding folder. The ring binder will also take away space even if empty2. One disadvantage of the Atoma system is that you cannot label the spine of a notebook.

Atoma and Arc paper

Where to get them from

There are two shops in the UK selling Atoma notebooks: Craft & Party Direct and Manufactum, but I didn’t order my Atoma notebook from either of them. Craft & Party Direct charge a lot for shipping  and Koralatov and Iain pointed out that they had bad experiences when ordering from this company in the past. Manufactum charge too much for shipping, too, and they have a ridiculous conversion rate for their UK prices, charging UK customers 35% more than for exactly the same product from their other online shops – that is on top of their expensive prices in the first place. Manufactum’s other online shops in Europe are set up in such a way that UK customers cannot order from them – very annoying. This plus other bad experiences3 with them made me avoid Manufactum in this case. In the end I ordered my Atoma notebooks from the International School of Brussels (Link updated). The notebooks were only €2.50 (~ $3.07; £1.96) each and shipping to the UK was free, so I only paid €5 for the two notebooks I ordered. The same order with Craft & Party Direct would have cost me £10.45 (~ $16.40; €13.35), five times as much. Manufactum’s Atoma notebooks are made of more expensive materials, so a direct price comparison wouldn’t make sense. I also bought one of M by Staples’ Arc notebooks in my local Staples4. With a price tag of £5 (~ $7.85; €6.39) it was more than twice as expensive as an Atoma notebook.

The discs: Atoma in blue, Arc in black

Atoma versus Arc

The Atoma A5 notebook is made in Belgium and came with 72 sheets (144 pages) of “ink-loving 90g/m2 ledger paper”.

The A5 Arc notepad is made in China and came with 60 ruled sheets of 100g/m2 paper. I like the fact that it came with a name/index sheet, but I am not keen on the white border on each page.

There is a lot of choice when it comes to covers and cover material, for both, Atoma and Arc. The cover of the Atoma notebook I bought is made of cardboard, while the Arc cover is made of polypropylene.

The paper of the Atoma notebook is rougher. Writing on it is nice and the paper absorbs the ink quickly.  The surface of the Arc paper is smoother, but ink takes longer to dry than on the Atoma paper. The ink doesn’t show through the reverse of the Arc pages as much as it does on the Atoma paper, but both papers are suitable for ink.

The rings of the Arc notebook are bigger, which means they will probably be able to hold more sheets of paper, but that also makes the notebook bigger, even if you don’t use too many sheets of paper. Aesthetically I find the Atoma ring size nicer and more suitable for the number of sheets of paper these notebooks come with.

Atoma (left) and Arc (right) paper

Conclusion

Both notepad are nice. I like the disc binding mechanism as it has several advantages over ring binders. If I had to choose between the Atoma and the Arc I’d go for the Atoma notebook. Not because it’s cheaper, but partly because I am not a big fan of polypropylene covers and prefer the Atoma’s cardboard cover. I also prefer the size and therefore look of the Atoma’s discs. Paper-wise the Arc’s paper seems to be better quality than the Atoma’s paper, but I haven’t used it long enough to be sure. My last reason for preferring the Atoma is that I prefer sheets without such a big white border.


Prices and exchange rates: August 2012.

I would like to thank Sean for the Blackfeet Indian Pencil seen on the last photo.

  1. They aren’t really holes, but I’m not sure what to call them so that it’s obvious what they are. []
  2. By the way, the ring binder and the hole puncher were invented in 1886 by Soennecken, a company previously mentioned in this blog. []
  3. Delivered item not as described, security issues with their web site, … []
  4. I’ll refer to it as ‘Staples’ from now on, not as ‘M by Staples’ []

X17 – …in with the new 4

Work is keeping me more than busy, so wasn’t been an update to this blog for a while. I hope I’ll be able to switch back to weekly blog posts, but at the moment I am not too optimistic I will be able to do that. For now here is an update on my notebook:

Introduction

Out with the old, in with the new.

After I got rid of my old Brunnen Kompagnon A7 notebook last month I was looking for a new alternative. If you read the Kompagnon blog post you might remember that I had three favourites (Samsonite, Staufen and X17).  More alternatives were suggested in the comments to the blog post, but the suggested notebooks were unfortunately bigger than A7 and therefore too big for my shirt pocket, so I ruled them out.

The X17

In the end I decided to get the X17 and am quite happy with it so far. I picked the Mode or ModeSkin version. X17 described the Mode version as being made from bonded/regenerated leather. One of the names this material is known by in Germany is Lefa (Lederfaserstoff – leather fibre). It is a very nice material and this version of the X17 notebook is also available in A7 size for two inlay booklets. Let me explain how it works with the booklets: the paper of the X17 isn’t glued to the cover, but is instead removable. You can buy covers, made from different materials, that can hold between two and four booklets. There is also a version for one booklet to be released soon. Booklets are available plain, ruled, squared, as a calendar plus there are a few rather unusual versions, too, e.g. for pilgrims or for teachers. I ordered 2 ruled and two squared inlay booklets. The squared version did, however, surprise me. While squared paper squares in most parts of Europe1 have sides of 5 mm length the X17 has sides of 2.5 mm length. To my surprise each page has a white border, too. I definitely would have preferred “standard” squared paper, but can live with this paper.

Overall I am quite happy with the X17 notebook.

Advantages

  • The reason why I got rid of my old notebook was that after a few years the plastic of the cover got old, had some tears and these tears had sharp edges which damaged my shirt pockets. The Lefa material of my new notebook feels very pocket friendly and I cannot imagine it ever developing any sharp edges if old, torn or damaged.
  • All the different parts of this notebook can be bought individually, so if any part ever gets damaged it can be replaced
  • I just mentioned that all parts can be bought individually, this means that the inlay booklets can be replaced. I use one for todo lists etc. and replace it if full, while the other booklet gets used for permanent information I would like to keep in the notebook.
  • The pages in the booklets are perforated which makes it easy to rip them out if needed, e.g. to write information down for someone or if you want to leave a note somewhere. Depending on how a traditional notebook is bound, ripping a page is not a good idea. It can make other pages become loose or fall out, too. This was the case with my previous Kompagnon notebook.

Disadvantages

  • Unlike many other notebooks the X17 does not have a pocket in the back. This makes it difficult to store little items like receipts. In my old notebook I used the back pocket to keep bits of paper to use as notes. Since I can remove the perforated pages now I do not really have a need for the pocket any more, but it would be nice, just in case.
  • The way the rubber band (called elastiX) works means that the notebook is not closed as firmly as a moleskin-type notebook. In my shirt pocket the end of the Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil sometimes ends up in the notebook, bending the pages slightly.
  • Because I bought the components for my X17 individually, not as a set, I had to assemble everything myself. This is not a problem in itself, but there were no instructions how to knot the elastiX rubber bands together. I could not find any instructions on the web site, either. I also didn’t realise the X17 comes without a ribbon bookmark – it needs to be ordered separately (I could have probably found out by spending more time on the X17 web site).

Conclusion

Including shipping I paid €24.50 (~ $33.70; £21) for the two booklet version of the X17, this price includes the elastiX rubber bands, and four booklets. Not cheap, but not too expensive either, keeping in mind that the X17 feels very well made. I am sure I will be able to use it for many years to come, hopefully longer than than the Brunnen Kompagnon.


Price: October 2011

Exchange rates: November 2011

  1. in Finland squares with 7mm sides are common []

White Box Manuscript Book A4 Ruled Feint 4

 

A few days ago Office Hero, a new and independent stationery and office supplies company, sent me their catalogue together with free samples of four of their products for review. These products include a really nice ruler from Denmark, two different kinds of pencils and a notebook. After having had a look at their web site I was impressed by the fact that they stock many of the nice, specialist items that are not easy to get, like Linex products or, my favourite, the Velos Eyeletter. One thing to note is, however, that the prices displayed don’t include VAT, which is useful if you are buying commercially, but private customers from the EU have to pay 20% VAT for most items1.

I was most impressed by the aluminium ruler I received and planned to review it first, but it is a ruler that can be used for pens and for cutting and unfortunately I wasn’t able to find my craft knife yet, so I’ll start with the notebook and hope I’ll find my craft knife to test cutting with this ruler before writing about the ruler.

 

The White Box Manuscript Book has a very nice, red surface and about 80 pages. It is a ruled notebook, but the strength of the lines varies quite a bit on different pages. The paper is very good. It copes well with many inks and I only noticed bleeding through with some inks and only when being used in combination with very wet nibs. The paper’s attributes are, with one exception, great for graphite, too. First the positive bits: the graphite doesn’t transfer easily to the next page, even after pressure has been applied from the back (e.g. after writing on the back). It also copes well with erasers. The only problem I noticed is that some of the softer leads smear more than on many other papers, in the example on the photo you can see this with the General’s Semi-Hex pencil. The most impressive thing about these  is however their price. They are currently on offer and a pack of five notebooks is only £4.07, that’s £4.88 incl. VAT (~$7.65; €5.55) – less than £1 for one A4 notebook.

Conclusion:

Great value for money, at least while they are on offer, and very nice paper that feels good and that copes well with ink and graphite.

(slight) bleeding through


Price and exchange rates: October 2011.

I would like to thank

  • David from Office Hero and Oliver Carding from Sagittarius Digital for the free samples.
  • Sean for the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 tested on the paper

I am very embarrassed, but I am not sure who gave me the General’s Semi-Hex pencils tested on the paper – even more so because I use one in the office very often. Whoever gave it to me, thank you!

Office Hero also included a leaflet with the samples: if you enter the code “BROCH1” when you order you get a brochure and 5% off with your order.

  1. Saying this reminds me that I once saw a camera very cheap at an online shop, I already put it in my basket and only noticed in the end that the price was without VAT and that the camera was actually quite expensive at this specific supplier of photographic equipment. []

Brunnen Kompagnon – out with the old… 10

Nearly three years ago I bought a Brunnen Kompagnon notebook, a quite small one (A7, i.e. 74 mm x 105 mm, ~ 2.9″ x 4.1″) so that it fits in my shirt pocket. I wanted a small notebook I can carry with me on a daily basis and thought I give the Kompagnon a try. I paid €8.60 (~ $11.70; £7.50) at myPens and ordered a few others things as well –  to reach €30 as they offer free shipping in the EU for order above €30.

I cannot say that the quality of this notebook was poor, but after such a long time of carrying it around with me on a daily basis and using it on a nearly-daily basis it is definitely not in great condition any more. Quite early I also ripped a page or two out of the back, but didn’t know that the  Kompagnon doesn’t really like this. It didn’t take long before neighbouring pages became loose.The plastic cover near the spine got damaged over time, too. I fixed it with double-sided 3M tape, but that didn’t solve the whole problem. The plastic stuck to the spine, but over time the corners have now ruined two shirt pockets. Time to replace this notebook, but unfortunately there isn’t much choice when it comes to A7. I’d prefer a slightly thinner notebook, too. The 192 pages of 80g/m2 Munken paper and the cover and pocket mean that the Kompagnon is about 1.5 cm thick.

I found the Samsonite basic notebook in A71, but it is 1.5 cm thick, too. The Staufen Poème is an A7 notebook with 96 pages of 80g/m2 paper, so it might be thinner. Another alternative I found is the X17 system, reviewed at Notebook Loves Pen. The Mode A7 version, made from bonded/regenerated leather (“Lefa”), for two booklets looks very interesting, but I am not sure whether it is too thick. A version for one booklet is supposed to be released later this year.

Does anyone have a suggestion for a “not too thick” A7 notebook?

 


Price: November 2008

Exchange rates: October 2011

Wikipedia has an interesting chapter about the history of the A paper formats.

There is a good explanation on the server of the University of Cambridge.

  1. unfortunately I couldn’t find an English web page with more information to link to []