Eight different notebooks put through the wringer

I write a lot about pens and ink, but I’ve not blogged much about paper recently. Of course, I’ve been writing as much as ever: journalling in my Hobonichi, keeping lists and notes in my pocket notebooks, and ploughing through nine work notebooks in the past nine months.

There are brands here from Japan (Life, Midori), Lebanon (Dingbats), UK (Say Nice Things), Taiwan (Taroko) and the US (Baron Fig). Grid, lined, dot and plain. And paper ranging from glassy smooth (Life, Taroko) to toothy (Dingbats, Baron Fig, SNT).

So I thought I’d give a bit of an update to my post Choosing a notebook for work.


Baron Fig Confidant

I wrote through two of these. After all that experience, I agree with my review: I loved the compact size, robust cover and dot pages, and I experienced no feathering or bleeding. Probably my favourite notebook to carry due to the perfect dimensions. Good notebooks!


Dingbats kangaroo

I was a little disappointed by the Dingbats. Maybe because my expectations were so high, due to the wonderful specs (for instance, every page is perforated). While the paper was absorbent and smooth to write quickly on, I found some feathering, a little bleedthrough, and just generally there was something missing from the experience. I hear that Dingbats has revised its paper so once I’ve worked through my backlog I may order another and see how it compares. I particularly like the new tiger design!


Say Nice Things crystal

I’ll be honest: the pastel design still doesn’t appeal to me much, and actually a notebook this thin doesn’t last very long, which also restricts how far you can look back at previous notes.

The paper was great, as I said in my review, but in the end I didn’t find much value in the separate lined / blank / dot sections. And despite my love of writing small, I found the lines a bit cramped.


Taroko Design exercise book

Ah, Tomoe River. What more can I say? (Well, look at the review for more detail…) As above, a notebook this small doesn’t last long, but every page is a pleasure.


Life grid B5

This one’s a bit different. The paper is very cream, the B5 format is very large, and the front cover design is very “in your face”. I found that of all the notebooks in this pile, this one aged the most (probably due to the binding), but in an endearing way. I like things that look used.

The paper is very, very smooth and that results in a narrower-than-usual line, and a different feel of the nib on paper. It made my Lamy 2000 squeak.


Say Nice Things black

My second SNT notebook this year, and this one was more up my street: thicker, proper covers, more sober design. The paper is the exact opposite of the Life paper: white, toothy, and very absorbent. Comparing line width, nibs run at least one grade broader on this paper. I found a bit more feathering and bleedthrough on this notebook than the crystal SNT, which sometimes made the reverse side of the page unusable. Clearly a bit of batch variation.


Life plain A5

This was supplied free of charge by the nice folks at Notable Designs, and I’m really glad they did. It actually convinced me that plain paper is usable for notetaking, and of course it means there’s nothing to distract from the colour of the ink on paper. Like the B5, the binding ages and gives the used notebook character; the A5 size is definitely more portable and convenient for work. I liked this notebook much more than I thought I would.


Midori MD

I was intrigued by this after seeing a forum post proclaiming that the Midori paper was better than Tomoe and nothing short of the best paper for fountain pens of all time.

I am less than halfway through the notebook but I disagree with that assessment. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s very good. Like Tomoe the sheets are thin; there’s showthrough but no bleedthrough. It’s not absorbent, so lines stay thin, although there’s little sheen. Surprisingly, there’s some texture to the pages; not nearly as much as on the Baron Fig or other truly toothy papers, but enough to make the edges of letters, particularly on extra-fine nibs, look a little wobbly. It feels a little ‘draggy’ too. I like the light ivory colour very much.

The rest of the notebook is lovely. There’s an interesting exposed taped layflat binding, a bright orange bookmark, and crisply cut corners. It comes with stickers and a paper cover. Perhaps most noticeable is the unusual dimensions, tall and thin at 7×4.25 inches. With 176 pages it’s got decent capacity yet it’s easy to slip into a bag.



What’s next?

I’ve got dozens of notebooks on the shelf. Next up is a Mnemosyne — I’ve had really good experiences with its paper so far and I’m looking forward to filling a book of it!

9 thoughts on “Eight different notebooks put through the wringer

  1. That’s very interesting and helpful! I’ve been eyeing up Dingbats ever since they were first announced because (as you say) the spec is just perfect – but perhaps I’ll hold fire. Presumably you’ve seen the Taroko Breeze that Bureau Direct is offering? Looks fantastic.

    I’ve recently switched to doing everything at work in my Travel(l)er’s Notebook – love having everything in one place, although in my attempt to conserve paper my writing ends up tiny as I try to make the notes for one meeting fit on one page. Perhaps that’s a good rule of thumb actually – if I go onto a second page, the meeting’s been going on too long…

    Also excited to try the Hobonichi – bought my first one for 2018!

    Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! By all accounts the Dingbats paper is better now, so don’t hold off on my account. There really are a load of great features, and these notebooks are built like a tank.

      I’ve been eyeing up the Breeze since it hit BD, but I already have an A5 Enigma in my pile so haven’t yet pulled the trigger. But I’m sure I will at some point. I love everything I’ve used from Taroko.

      Great point about meetings. In a desperate attempt to stay in control of my time I’m pushing hard for 20/30 minute meetings… doesn’t always work, though! If you need to fit more on the page, may I refer you to my review of two extra-fine nibs just a couple of posts back ;).

      Enjoy the Hobonichi! I love my Cousin to bits. It’s my daily moment of calm.


  2. Love the photos and the reviews. I love Tomoe River — there’s an American Brand called Nanami that sells lined journals made with Tomoe River paper, and Hippo Noto is a new company just getting off the ground after a Kickstarter campaign (based in Hawaii) that uses dot grid, lined or blank Tomoe River. Don’t know how easy those would be for you to get, but if you can, you’d probably enjoy them.

    http://www.nanamipaper.com and https://hipponoto.com/collections/all

    Liked by 1 person

      • Great! I’ve got mine but I don’t want to use it yet. I think I’m going to use it as a journal after I finish the one I’m writing in now. LOVE the idea of the dot grid Tomoe River paper — don’t know why, but I’m obsessed with the dot grid for some reason and burn my way through I dont’ know how many Rhodia pads. Enjoy your Hippo!


  3. Pingback: Exclusive: GLP Author Tomoe River notebook review | UK fountain pens

  4. Pingback: Review: Dingbats ‘Serengeti’ Earth notebook | UK fountain pens

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