The Esterbrook Pen Nook v2, or “Nook Navy”, is undoubtedly a better pen case than the first version, which I reviewed a little over a year ago.
But while making a load of changes, Esterbrook has introduced a couple of new problems that you should be aware of.
Kenro sent me the six-pen version of the Nook, but it’s available in everything from one-slot to 12-slot sizes, all with the same basic design.
Change one: from drawer to flip-lid
The biggest change from the old Nook is that instead of being a slide-in drawer, the case is now a tray with a two-part flip-lid. This fixes several of my criticisms with the first version, such as difficulty opening the case one-handed.
The top lid flops back nicely to show off your pens, but the bottom, shorter part of the lid (the ‘chin’) tends to stay shut of its own accord.
The lid secures shut with a magnetic popper, which can be a little tricky to get aligned and engaged.
The popper is mounted to a stitched panel that bridges the two parts of the lid. It makes for a nice grab handle.
Unless you use the magnetic closure, the lid will flop about and can move from side to side.
Change two: from brown to blue
Instead of the rather bold camel-coloured pleather with eye-searing Paisley interior (which I rather liked but some others… did not), the colour-scheme this year is a handsome navy blue with contrast red stitching and a red silky interior, which is patterned with Esterbrook’s new infinity symbol.
The blue and red is a very nice colour scheme and I can’t imagine Esterbrook will get any complaints this time round.
The Esterbrook wordmark is stamped in dark brown/black on the flap, very understated…
…and there’s a shiny silvered button where the magnetic popper is, again with the logo mark embossed.
The overall look is beautifully done, but I have one complaint: the red liner fabric looks faded and threadbare where it’s stretched over the top of the divider rails. I can almost see white along the top of the rails.
Change three: from rattly to restrained
In version 1, I complained that the slots were somewhat generous, plus they were unpadded and pens were free to rattle around inside them. The risk of damage was low, but it’s not a nice feeling when you’re carrying the case around.
This time, the slots are the same size and still unpadded, but a single unbroken line of elastic is threaded through the dividers and glued under the pen bed at each end, creating a cordon line.
I can’t deny that this elastic does the job. Pens big and small are held in place securely. They don’t slide or rattle.
I was frustrated by how hard it can be to get pens actually into the slots, though. For square-ended pens it’s a struggle to pluck the elastic up over the end of the pen to get the slide started. But for all pens, the elastic is already fairly tight, and because it runs unbroken across all six slots, when you insert a pen into any slot it takes up slack from the rest of the slots. Particularly on the end slots that are anchored lower on one side.
And remember when you’re inserting a pen into the Nook you’re not just sliding it straight in; you have to angle it in to get past the top edge, which stretches the elastic to its limit, particularly for longer pens.
This obviously affects thicker and longer pens more, but not exclusively. You can absolutely fit larger pens — like my Montblanc Homer — but effort is required!
And what’s the same?
The Nook has the same silhouette as its earlier iteration, with a handsome chunkiness and sleek rounded corners. The front flap is padded, which adds to the feeling of luxury. It is still a rigid case that provides good protection and keeps each pen totally separate. All good stuff.
The Nook is still made in China, from faux leather over what I believe is a cardstock frame.
It’s pretty well finished, but not perfect. Bend the flap back and you can see glue, and there’s some traces of glue along the edges of panel joins.
Where the elastic has been threaded through the divider rails, the holes are just punched and left unfinished.
Potentially, movement of the elastic and stress will wear these holes — the fabric is already fraying. And of course there’s risk of the elastic losing its stretch with all the strain it’s put under during insertion and removal of the pens.
I don’t have any particular concerns about the Nook’s durability, but compared to the Franklin-Christoph Penvelope 6, for example, it simply has more weakspots.
I feel almost guilty criticising the Nook v2, because Esterbrook have clearly changed the design to respond to criticisms reviewers like me made of the first version. Abandoning the drawer construction, adding the elastic loops — they’re significant changes that should improve the overall user experience.
The flap design is good. It makes access much easier, without compromising protection. But the elastic loops actually frustrated me, particularly the way they’re implemented as one long stretch, clumsily punched through the dividers. If each pen had its own loop, perhaps mounted further down the case to make insertion easier, these problems would be solved.
At £120 for this six-pen version from the nice folks at Pure Pens, the Nook is not a cheap product. Pineider’s leather equivalent is £98. The Penvelope Six is $55, although you’ll need to pay import on that from Franklin-Christoph direct in the US. Then again, Visconti’s new design is nearly £200.
I like this case and I’ll use it, but ironically I may remove the elastic. And I can’t wait for version three…