A Year of Write

A new player in the niche limited edition notebook world came out nearly one year ago. The brainchild of Write Notepads, their limited edition subscription took a different approach to quarterly limited notebooks, a market well-cornered by Field Notes Brand COLORS limited editions.

Write is quickly growing a cult-like following for their limited pocket notebooks, and with good reasons:  consistent fountain-pen friendly paper (works superbly with graphite too), thematic approaches with classic designs, custom matching themed pencils, and that ooh-factor folding box to hold each set of three notebooks. And if that wasn’t enough differential design, each notebook is .25″ wider than the niche market’s ubiquitous 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket notebook standard, coming in at a defiant 3.75″ x 5.5″ (the size difference, I think, to accommodate the PUR-formed perfect binding).

Admittedly, while I’ve enjoyed the approach, design, and themes, I have not embraced the PUR binding. My resistance? They’re not as easy to lay flat, fold back the covers, or write across the binding as the more-common staple or stitched bindings. With the latest release, In The Pines, I’ve finally adjusted to the PUR binding. While I still don’t like to long-write in notebooks with PUR bindings, I’m definitely a convert to using them for notes, lists, idea jots, quick sketches, and other on-the-go writing needs. Besides, my long-write habits keep me in my A5 or larger journals, or my Midori Traveler standard notebooks, so that specific use really is not a factor preventing me from embracing the Write way.

Available primarily by subscription, you can try out a pack during a short period after each release when extra copies go on public sale. Subscription sign-up is usually only available for a brief period around the time of each release.

To check out all the first year’s releases in detail, go to Write Notepads Web site and explore. Write also keeps in stock plain pocket notebooks of the same size and binding with three page layouts and solid color covers, another way to explore the notebook form used in the limited editions.

Shown in the picture above, in order of release: Lenore, Kindred Spirit, Royal Blue, In the Pines.

Suddenly There are Two: Field Notes and Write – Reporter Notebooks

Field Notes Expedition (standard size 3.5 x 5.5) for comparison
Field Notes Expedition (standard size 3.5 x 5.5) for comparison

Just like my previous Field Notes versus Write Notepads review, I don’t expect this one to be easy nor conclusive as to a clear winner (not that this is contest; it’s really a celebration of the amazing options we have these days in the stationery world with well-done and highly useful notebooks).

As a special bonus, I’ve locked up with Mr. Pencil, Johnny Gamber of Pencil Revolution for a tag-team blogging effort to cover these two great reporter notebooks. We’ll each be giving our overall opinions, but I’ll restrict my tool testing to fountain pens while Johnny will cover graphites. Jump over to his post and check out how these two notebooks perform with pencils.

Reporter Form and Function

Before I dive into particulars, let’s take a moment to appreciate the why of the reporter notebook form. Back in the day when reporters were plenty and spent much of their work lives on the beat, on their feet running from one story or source to another, or frantically reviewing things to hit their deadlines, they didn’t have iPhones or iPads to capture notes: they had to frantically scratch out facts and quotes on pocket notebooks. The nature of this work generally required something large enough to write a lot in, easily pocketable, and quick to flip through double-checking facts, finding pithy quotes, etc.

I’m not exactly sure what they used as notepads, but the flip-top reporter-style pad is not a recent invention: Moleskine and many others have had flip-top notebooks for a long time, but these two new twists on an old standard go much farther than merely rotating the binding 90 degrees clockwise.

Both companies share common approaches: similar size, top wire binding, pocketable-ish (if you have large pockets), ruled pages for note taking, and quality paper to handle any type of writing tool. But that’s where the similarities end: each takes a different approach to the overall feel and user-intangibles, each bringing different nuances to their version of this classic form.

Field Notes Byline

Field Notes BylineThe last time Field Notes strayed from their beloved form factor was the COLORS release of their two-pack Arts & Sciences with its oversized form and innovative page layouts. The Field Notes hordes were generally not amused, and A&S took a while to sell and even longer (if they’ve even gotten there) to gain respect. Fast forward to Summer 2016 and Field Notes goes outside the lines once more to release an out-sized reporter pad steeped in historical journalism connections and co-conceived by the famed journalist, John Dickerson.

Special Bylines sticker subscriber bonus
Special Bylines sticker subscriber bonus

Bylines brings several innovations to the table and once more rattles the sensibilities of the Field Notes obsessed (of which I am one), but while my sensibilities were embraced and not rattled on this one, some of the faithful cried foul on venturing beyond the stock 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket notebook form. I think upon holding and using, some of these initial negative feelings may change and users discover different uses for Bylines than what they typically associate with the standard Field Notes form.

Byline overall feels and looks like something from a vintage era, yet crisp and clean with modern touches added. From the soft (to the touch and eyes) cover that protects the wire binding from snagging when closed and flips over easily, to the pocket on the inside back cover, and then to the easy-on-the-eyes natural-colored paper, Bylines definitely has a cool factor that invites use and thought into how to use this everyday.

FN-Write FP Inks

In use, fountain pens perform very well in Bylines, perhaps as well as any paper Fields Notes has offered to date. While previous notable fountain-pen-friendly issues such as America the Beautiful, Shelterwood, and recently Workshop Companion (and a nod to Sweet Tooth’s pen-friendliness although blank and colored paper) let a fountain pen user be pretty happy in a Field Notes, the Byline goes up a notch with paper that is a bit smoother than those three. I especially like the paper’s natural color, but I’ve always been a fan of light cream paper for writing. In my brief pen test, all felt great writing in Bylines and show through (my bane of notebooks with bad paper) is nearly non-existent. I also love the double rule at the top to allow for headings or other structure written above the line.

Write Reporter’s Notepad

Write Reporter NotepadTwo things set Write Notepads apart from the typical notebook maker: made in Baltimore with pride and their ongoing commitment to giving back to their community by donating a notebook to a Baltimore public school for every notebook they sell. And that terrific aspect of buying their products continues with their new Reporter’s Notepad.

Like all Write notebooks, they are seriously into beefy covers, sturdy wire bindings, and high quality production. Since they are both the designers and physical producers on site, they have the luxury of doing notebook runs as they need to which allows for optimum quality control on every book they produce. Although their designs fall to the utilitarian side of things more than Field Notes typically, they are passionate about materials and quality of their final product and it shows.

Write’s approach to the reporter pad form is very straight forward: provide great paper, beefy chipboard covers for a sturdier writing surface, a top wire-binding that will outlast the pages, and great paper that takes all kinds of writing tools with great-to-excellent results. If you prefer a more no-nonsense approach and more pages in one notebook, you may lean to the Write Reporter’s Pad. I see an edge to Write’s version for something I’d use around the house or at my desk. Sitting in my easy chair taking notes or spinning ideas, the extra thick covers offer an edge in comfort over the more flexible Bylines covers.

In my brief fountain pen test, Write did excellent and all pens felt great. Show through is just about absent, with a few tiny spots appearing, but less than the Field Notes (which itself had very little, the difference being pretty miniscule). Paper is very smooth, and if this is their new standard paper, it’s a winner and among the best out there in general notebook paper for fountain pens.

Summary

FN-Write Sideshot

I like them both, a lot, and even as I’m at this point in drafting this post, I’m still not able to do a 1-2 placement! Apologies to those looking for an outright choice. In my final analysis, it seems to fall into considering several camps when choosing one over the other:

Allegiance – If you’re a diehard Field Notes fan, you’ll likely buy Bylines. By the same token, if you’ve been using Write Notepads all along, you’ll feel very comfortable with this extension of their approach in this new reporter’s form.

Usage – If mobility and weight is your primary concern, I’d give an edge to Bylines. It is lighter, thinner, and has a flexibility that could be useful pocketing, sitting on it while in your back pocket, etc. But…with only 70 pages, you might be changing notebooks sooner versus Write’s hefty 120-page benefit. But again…if what’s most important is using as a stand-there-and-take-notes tool, the stiffness of the Write Reporter’s may jump past Byline’s edge in portable convenience. For a notebook on your desk, open for your next inspiration, an edge to Write’s in my mind.

Cool factor – This will depend on your preferences to begin with. Bylines has a coolness edge to me for its overall vintage feel, extras such as back pocket, covered wire binding, and inside covers reading stuff. Yet some will prefer the more no-nonsense, minimalistic approach that the Write Reporter’s Pad offers, and who admire (as I do) what Write does for the community with each purchased notebook. Always nice writing in a notebook and realizing your purchase helped someone in need.

In the end, these two have as many similarities as they have differences. They are both deserving of consideration and both fill a niche in the market nicely. Choose either, choose both: you can’t lose.

Where to Buy

Both can be purchased at the maker’s web stores (Field Notes Byline or Write Reporter’s Notepad) or at local or online resellers that carry their lines.

Disclaimer: Both test notebooks were of my own purchase and not provided by either maker. I also consistently use notebooks from both sources and use both maker’s products in my everyday writing, note taking and the other good stuff for which I use small notebooks.

Finally…Word. Notebooks Goes Grid!

For all of us who love the Word. Notebooks designs and quality but wanted something beyond the bullet system and ruled pages, the wait is over.

Word Dot Grid NotebookWord. Notebooks released what I hope is just their first new page-style notebook, conveniently named Dot Grid. The result is a great addition to their line and gives us an alternative to the standard ruled pages in all their other editions. Selling notebooks over the last year through Notegeist, I noticed a graph or dot grid page style clearly is the most popular, although ruled and blank have their fans too. Dot grid gives you the structure to write as though ruled, or sketch as though gridded.

The clever designers at Word. decided to repeat the dot pattern on the cover, along with their iconic Word. circle imprint. The overall effect feels more elegant that other Word. covers, making this new kid in their lineup stand out well.

Word Dot Grid PageSpec-wise, the cover stock and inside pages are as the rest of the Word. Notebook line:  quality paper that in my experience holds up well and works excellently with all writing tools except fountain pens. For nib-lovers, it’s a mixed story:  feels good to write on, but the 60# stock is just absorbent enough to make your strokes feather and bleed just a bit, and enough to make EF and F nib strokes fatten up a bit. You can, of course, mitigate the issue somewhat through nib/ink combinations. I’ve had some success along these lines in Field Notes using a Japanese EF nib and a little thicker, dryer ink.

As carry-around pocket notebooks, you can’t go wrong with Word. and the new Dot Grid makes that even more true. Sturdy, quality, great designs all combine to a great choice for your next pocket notebook.

Where to Buy

You can get a pack or two of the new Word. Dot Grid Notebooks online at various retailers or direct from Word. Notebooks. If you’d prefer a sampler approach to checking these and other Word. Notebooks out, the new Papernery Pop-Up Shop has three varieties of Word. Experience samplers available, all including a Dot Grid notebook.

Giveaway!

Word Sampler 211This review’s giveaway is TWO Word. Notebooks sampler packs featuring the new Dot Grid notebook. Two lucky winners will get a pack of Dot Grid, Black Bandana, and Tan Camo Word. Notebooks plus a Blackwing Volumes 211 bonus pencil to help you get started with those to-do lists or sketching/journaling. Enter below using any of the entries you’d like (some required), but note that we verify all entries before awarding. Giveaway ends midnight, EST, Saturday November 21. Open ONLY to entrants who can provide a U.S. shipping address.

PaperStax Canvas: A Good Cause Gives Us A Great Notebook

PaperStax CanvasThe marketplace probably has never had so many notebooks, journals and notepads available to a growing analog-minded buying public as it does now. And yet new notebooks keep popping up despite a seemingly endless supply of variety available. And yet, now and then, one shows up to shine above the others.

To evaluate the PaperStax Canvas Edition pocket notebooks without understanding the mission and drivers behind it does a little disservice to what the PaperStax Project is all about. Still, this notebook could thrive and survive based on its own merits.

The PaperStax project’s mission from their Web site:

The Paperstax Project is committed to inspiring self-actualization through journaling. We do this by designing and manufacturing pocket notebooks, then donating those notebooks to—and creating curriculum for—organizations working with young people to achieve measurable success—especially in the arts.

Based on their story at the site, they’re doing great things to help young people rise up above the challenges of growing up, especially in underprivileged areas.

PaperStax Canvas Inside Front CoverThe PaperStax Canvas notebook is, on first glance, quite different from most notebooks. Sure, it’s the typical pocket notebook size and holds 48 pages, but from there it goes in some new directions. For starters, it’s a beefy notebook, which I’m happy to see as most pocket notebooks I carry around rarely last until I’ve finished the last page. These stand a good chance of hip-pocket survival, due in part to their 100# covers and 70# inside papers, but also due to the choice of paper stock. Time will tell, but they feel much more substantial than the typical pocket notebook.

PaperStax Canvas Inside Back CoverI find their off-white cover and darker cream inside papers a striking combination that helps differentiate them, and I absolutely love the paper stock with its bits and flecks of stuff scattered. It’s the French Speckletone line of papers and I’ve always thought those had character and a slight earthiness that I feel in using these PaperStax Canvas notebooks. They are elegant and yet down-to-earth. I’d feel good using my best fountain pen in them or my grungiest pencil stub. As for how they write? Anything you throw at these papers writes well. Fountain pens show no feathering, no bleeding, no show-through. There is some tooth to the paper, so graphite and fountain pen both feel good but there is some feedback from the paper (in a good way). FP ink flows smoothly, and works really well, but it’s not the smoothness you’ll find on Tomoe River paper; more a workmanlike smoothness that befits an every-day-carry pocket notebook. I so often have to match my tool to the notebook I carry, but that’s not necessary with the PaperStax: all the tools I tested worked very well.

PaperStax Canvas LayoutI really only found one thing to point out that I found slightly odd, but would not call it a negative. Some will love the innovative page spread in this notebook that offers ruled lines on the left page and blank on the facing right page. If you write, then sketch, this may be perfect for you. Those who only write may find this quirky yet interesting. For me, my brain wants to write on the right side and sketch on the left, which is the opposite of what the layout provides (assuming I choose to write on the ruled side which I normally would). I am right-handed, so perhaps that’s why my thinking led me to the right side. I think I could overcome that initial preference by being captivated by the paper type, color and weight. I plan to get a pack and use them for work where I tend to note or list, then add sketches or visuals, and the ruled/blank layout really makes this work well.

These are available in limited quantities at the PaperStax site, but as expected with quality paper and what’s probably not a huge production run, the per-notebook cost is higher than average at $15 per three-pack. Worth it if you’re someone like me who works between gels, graphite and fountain pen regularly to have a hefty go-to pocket notebook that handles them all well. And worth it to help support the great work and cause that’s behind the PaperStax Project.

Giveaway

PaperStax graciously provided me with two single Canvas notebooks to review and I’m giving away both of them to two lucky winners (sorry, US addresses only).

Congrats to the two winners: John Coakley Jr. and Keith McCleary!

Flightbook: Niche Notebook Review

Flightbook RedThese seemingly specialty-focused, USA-made notebooks from Halaby aren’t just for aviation fans. The interesting graphics, lightweight aspect and nice inside graph paper make them viable for any kind of use. But as you’re about to see, it helps to be into flying and airplanes, since there’s a lot of useful date on the covers. I could easily see, however, using these as travel log notebooks for any adventurer who flies. Would make a highly topical way to collect notes and whatnot on your journeys.

The founder of Halaby envisioned specialized notebooks and travel goods for global adventurers and is a committed traveler, pilot and amateur aviation photographer (check out some of his amazing photos). Halaby has other notebooks available, such as the large A4 that we also received which will be in an upcoming review. Although I don’t see them listed in the shop at the moment, they do have a tin of some pretty cool airplane paper clips.

Inside Front CoverThe Flightbook™ pocket notebooks come in four colors with striking complimentary silver or gold inks. The outside sturdy covers wraps around 52 graph pages with three-staple binding. In testing the paper, it worked well from graphite to gel to ballpoint, even with a fountain pen! Granted with lighter weight 50# paper, there is some show-through, but no bleed-through. The graphite did not smear and the fountain pen ink I used did not feather. For general notetaking, the Flightbook™ paper works fine.

Back coverEach notebook contains aviation-specific information. The front covers list the ICAO radiotelephony alphabet while the inside front cover has a speed conversion table, misc. conversion, ICAO standard atmosphere information, user information and an interesting fine print section! The back cover depict silhouettes of major commercial jet aircraft and basic specs, while inside the back cover is an ICAO aircraft registration prefixes table. Don’t worry readers, there won’t be a quiz later on this stuff! But if you’re into aircraft, these could be mighty handy at times.

The quality of the notebooks is good as well and come two in a pack with a belly band and enclosed in shrinkwrap. I think these would be a great addition to the stash of any notebook-loving aviation fan, traveler, or anyone wanting a lightweight, interesting and different pocket notebook. You can buy them direct from Halaby’s online shop.

 

Giveaway

This time, thanks to the generosity of Halaby for providing review samples, TWO readers will each receive a pocket notebook pack (one blue, one black, both with silver cover ink) and some of the cool airplane paper clips. Contest open to U.S. addresses only and closes Sunday, Oct. 4 at midnight EST. All entries will be verified, so behave! 😉

And the winners are…Judi Delgado and Adam Wickert! Congratulations to them and they’ll be getting their Flightbook packs and airplane paperclips shortly. Thanks to everyone who entered!