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What’s Your New Favorite Little Black Notebook?

January 12th, 2010 · 64 Comments · Uncategorized


Wow – I had no idea that it’s now been over a year since my last review.

A lot of people have written asking me where I disappeared to and why I stopped writing notebook reviews. It’s pretty simple: I stopped writing reviews because I had covered all the notebooks that interested me on the market at the time. While a few obscure black notebooks were coming out of Europe, most were not interesting enough to merit paying the exorbitant overseas shipping costs. Meanwhile, I had received a bunch of sample notebooks that depressed me, and I wasn’t going to put them up on the site just to give them a bad review. So I decided to put the site on hiatus.

I logged in today to clean out some spam, and was amazed to find that my reviews were being used as message boards by notebook fans to communicate about their own experiences with a given notebook, where to purchase it, etc. A year later, and it looks like there are quite a few new contenders to be reviewed.

So tell me: what little black notebook is long overdue for a review on this site?

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64 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Speedmaster // Jan 13, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Hey, glad to see you back!!! ;-)

  • 2 Andy // Jan 13, 2010 at 8:31 am

    I think you should review the rest of the Piccadilly line, the soft cover, grid ruled, etc.

    Welcome back. We missed you.

  • 3 SNC // Jan 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

    The Smythson Panama Notes – hands down the best notebook ever. Very expensive, but worth every penny if you don’t use them up too quickly.

    http://www.smythson.com/SmythsonSite/product/Books_Plain%20Manuscript/WP-1002432.htm

  • 4 ccorrada // Jan 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Glad to see you back. you were missed!

  • 5 chervatruffle // Jan 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I would like to see a review of the Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks with the new and improved paper in them. Love your website and use it as a reference frequently.

  • 6 adam // Jan 13, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I am on my third Xonex Ru notebook at your recommendation. They are really easy to find in Canada as Chapters carries them (kind of like Borders or B&N) and they’re only about $6.

    The charcoal isn’t *quite* black, but it does a pretty fair job.

  • 7 Pat // Jan 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Any updates to the stifflexible reviews… (IOW, any sightings of places that sell them in the US?).

    Just got a MOMA pocket calendar/diary which is a Stifflexible and they include a promotional brochure for the line in it, but no indication of anyone selling just plain old blank notebooks :)

    Otherwise, I’ve got nothing for ya…

  • 8 Eric // Jan 15, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I would like to see a review that settles the question of whether the Ciak Pocket Slim is worth the cost (~$15 if you buy 3). Likewise whether the pen that comes with it is any good.

  • 9 Risa // Jan 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I second the Leuchtturm 1917

  • 10 Colin // Jan 16, 2010 at 3:06 am

    Welcome back. I just bought six ‘Guildhall’ moleskine type notebooks locally [Cliftonville UK] at half the cost of the thorobred moley. They seem better too. Thanks for providing the definitive guide and doing the research so that we don’t have to.

  • 11 AlaskanWriter // Jan 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Welcome back! I thought I was seeing things for a second when I saw a new post here in the RSS feed…

    The closest thing i am using to a ‘little black notebook’ is a B6 sized Cover Note from Mauruman. they are Rather Nice I think, open flat, nice paper(fountain pen friendly, a key point for me) lined, good creamish paper color.

    You could do a ‘part2′ and review the newest release of the Allan’s Journal that is finally out. :-)

  • 12 Escargot Pudding // Jan 16, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I would love to see a review of the Hand Book Artist Journals…. They have some great features, and I feel like their construction beats out Moleskine by leaps and bounds.

  • 13 Dave // Jan 17, 2010 at 7:43 am

    The Canteo notebook by Biella is worth a look. Slightly wider than the Moleskine (which I know is usually a negative point in your reviews) but for the same price it feels like you’re getting something of considerably better quality.

    They’re just hard to get and the lone North American supplier, nota-bene.ca in Montreal, is temporarily sold out. Worth keeping your eye out for.

  • 14 nathan // Jan 18, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I haven’t tried them myself, but the ecosystem line ( http://www.ecosystemlife.com/ ) looks promising. They’ve finally arrived at my local Barnes & Noble.

  • 15 René // Jan 18, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Exacompta Basics Gold/Silver Edged Journal with Madeira Cover
    http://www.shopwritersbloc.com/exacompta-basics-gold-or-silver-edged-journal-with-madeira-cover.html

    Haven’t seen it in black myself, but I’ve got a yelllow one incoming that I intend on reviewing.

  • 16 MattiaC // Jan 19, 2010 at 6:33 am

    In Europe/Italy we need something like ecosystem line! it’s amazing!

  • 17 Tina // Jan 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    There’s a line I’ve gotten into recently that’s called reflexion–it’s a sketch book brand, but it has lovely thick, smooth paper, and a hard cover. No pocket, a little strap for a pen, and the cover isn’t bendable, but if you can find a copy, I don’t think there’d be any harm in taking a look at it. It’s become a personal favorite of mine:

    http://www.jerrysartarama.com/discount-art-supplies/Paper/Drawing-and-Multimedia-Paper-and-Boards/Reflexions-Drawing-and-Sketch-Journals/Reflexions-Bound-Sketch-Books.htm

  • 18 Nitin // Jan 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

    In India, a good option is Rubberband

    http://www.rubberbandproducts.com/

  • 19 David // Jan 24, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Hey – welcome back. It’s great to see some actibity here again.

    Perhaps you could review the ‘new’ Allan’s Journal/Notebook which became available again in the mid-Autumn.

    Sure hope it’s not as long again.

    Best Wishes

  • 20 Chris // Jan 27, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I’m glad to see you back, and I hope you can stay motivated to keep adding reviews. If it gets hard, you might consider setting up a Paypal link so people can sponsor your purchase of the more expensive notebooks (that Panama notebook is 39 quid – good grief!). You could also consider accepting guest reviews, though I’d prefer you didn’t – it’s best to have a consistent point of view across all the notebooks.

    Anyway, I’m just a fan sending some encouragement. Keep up the good work!

  • 21 opli // Feb 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    i like my midori, in Italy cost 25 euro the kit

  • 22 Pierre-William // Feb 16, 2010 at 9:02 am

    These notebooks look pretty nice.

    http://www.jennibick.com/moderno-elastic-bonded-leather-journals.html

  • 23 Anonymous Investigator // Feb 23, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Love this site! I just wish I found it earlier as I have a thing for notebooks that verges on being a fetish…

  • 24 Billy // Mar 5, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Couple of things. Fisrtly, welcome back!

    Secondly, Eric, the Ciaks are wonderful. A little too stiff for my liking, but pretty much indistructable!

    And thirdly, why the hell don’t more manufacturers make moleskine style notebooks without that bloody elastic closure thing? It’s not the bee all and end all of the little black notebook!

  • 25 Greenman // Mar 5, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I found the perfect little black notebook (for me anyway) but the only problem is I have no idea who makes it or what to call it!

    There’s a chain of art/craft/decorating stores called Hobby Lobby and one opened in a nearby town. They sell a LBN that’s almost identical to hardback Moleskines (elastic strap, ribbon, storage folder at back, slightly off-white paper) with a few differences which I prefer. There are 2 sizes that correspond with MK but the covers are slightly thicker, smooth, and rubberized. More importantly, they offer 3 weights of paper for different purposes, 80 gsm, 110 gsm, and watercolor. The only indication of a brand name is that the 80 gsm (grams per sq meter) paper book is called “The Art of Ink,” The 110 gsm is “The Art of Drawing,” and “The Art of Watercolor” has lightly textured 180 gsm paper. All are acid free and blank. So far as I know they don’t offer a lined or graph version.

    Best of all, it’s 6.99 for the small and 12.99 for the lg, any weight of paper. (The heavier the paper, the fewer pages.) Hobby Lobby has a website but it’s not for ordering (it’s just for store locations and sales notices) so you have to buy from one of their locations.

  • 26 Fern // Mar 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Hello, welcome back to the land of the living.

    I hadn’t seen these yet, since I have stocked up on Moleskine notebooks out the wazoo (I moderate several fan sites), but I am thoroughly impressed with the Piccadilly line. I saw the shelf of them at Borders in Houston (we don’t have a Borders where I’m from, and our local bookstores don’t carry them) and I have to say, they’re as good or better than the Moleskine line. I mean, same quality paper, same cover, same pocket, etc. Basically, in summary, IDENTICAL to the pedigreed Moleskine in every way except the price. I mean, $4.99 for the LARGE?! They are now my all time favorite.

    I’d also appreciate a review of any of the other variations of the brand, since they now offer more varieties to presumably compete with the Big M, from what I saw at Borders. Couldn’t justify purchasing a new one yet, though; I still have about 20 blank Moleskines I haven’t touched.

  • 27 Walter // Apr 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Great to see you back!

    The Paperblank journal is a bit upscale from the usual black notebook, but these are beautifully made and Biffybeans says they’re fountain pen friendly too.
    This one probably come closest to your black notebook. http://www.paperblanks.com/us/en/collections/1/filtered?collection_id=250

    I have one of their Zen line with the handsewn binding. Very nice.

  • 28 Matt // Apr 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Dude, I have totally got the notebook for you to review. This one looks bad-jackson. I am ordering it today, I can’t wait to get my hand son it. Check it out. Action Method – Dot Grid Journal: http://www.creativesoutfitter.com/Products/Dot-Grid-Journal/20

  • 29 david bogie // Apr 18, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Lots of new stuff on the market, most mentioned above. Of particular interest to me: Rhodia’s new webbies, Moleskine’s ever increasing product line, and the ecosystems line.
    Separating the fact from marketing hype.

    So glad you checked in. Your site has legs, few sites can say that.

    david boise ID

  • 30 Jessica // Apr 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I love my Leuchtturm journals and add my vote to seeing a review of them on this blog. They seem to be available in different countries with subtle differences. I bought them all the time in Montreal, but am looking for a brick & mortar place to buy them from in Seattle (or the US in general)

  • 31 Jessica // Apr 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Hi everybody!

    I found the new stifflexible website and it is great! Check out http://www.stifflexible.it. I notice you can now even buy them on the e-shop right on the website. I love it! I write on the black cover Stifflexible every day. It’s my favorite. But not only do I love the blackcover version, but all of the versions are terrific.

    Jessica
    NYC

  • 32 marc // May 23, 2010 at 12:11 am

    my latest favorite are these:

    http://www.joshuadavis.com/portfolio/miquelrius-notebooks/

    good size, soft and flexible…love it!

  • 33 San // Jun 3, 2010 at 4:31 am

    You should check out the Modena collection. I have two of the larger size and love ‘em.
    http://www.modenacollection.com/leather_notebooks

  • 34 JDL // Jul 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Re: ecosystem

    I recently purchased an ecosystem Architect (the one with the graph paper). The grid lines are way too dark for this book to be useful. I’m writing with a 0.8mm Uniball Vision Elite, and the grid lines dominate the ink. I tried blue and purple, but both are drowned out. The picture on the ecosystems website is way off. On there, the grid looks much lighter than it is in reality.

    Overall, it feels like a decent enough notebook, and I’m considering buying one with blank pages. I’m not thrilled about the bright white paper, but it will be a big improvement over the graph paper.

    Architect = waste of $15.

  • 35 frwi // Jul 10, 2010 at 12:32 am

    How sad. Another notebook blog bites the dust (or did, over a year ago.)

    RIP Moleskinerie, Notebookism, and BlackCover. :(

  • 36 Jung // Aug 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    my latest favorite, http://minimalgoods.com/about-blank-notebook

  • 37 david // Aug 6, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    You gotta try Switzerland’s 4.25″ x 5.57″ black Canteo notebooks, available from Russell Helmsworth at papeterie nota bene!

  • 38 Alan Stevenson // Aug 28, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    The (relatively new) Behance Dot Grid Journal has replaced my Moleskine. Moleskine is better housing, but the dot grid and pure white paper are ideal for me.

  • 39 Rick Findlay // Aug 30, 2010 at 2:46 am

    I’d love to read your thoughts on the new Clairefontaine Roadbooks. They are available from the writing desk. Look much like most Moleskine type notebooks, but Clairefontaine generally use paper of a much higher quality than most.

  • 40 Lanzman // Sep 8, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Halllllooooooooooooo . . . Anyone still here?

  • 41 jmck // Sep 11, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Take a look at the new Writersblok series from Kikkerland. Softcover, understated dot grid, inexpensive.

  • 42 Bob Koch // Sep 14, 2010 at 11:18 am

    If you’re a serious user of Moleskine, ecosystem, Piccadilly or a few other hard cover notebooks check out quiverglobal for a very cool leather pen holder for many popular sizes of your hard cover little black books. It keeps your pens ‘Write where it should be.’

  • 43 R // Sep 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    No Borders around here, but did find an online site to order Piccadilly notebooks:

    http://www.piccadillyincstore.com/

  • 44 Connie // Sep 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Ecosystem Life has some nice-looking eco-friendly notebooks.

    http://www.ecosystemlife.com/

  • 45 ZachR // Nov 1, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I just found a notebook with a neat idea. The lines, or grids are….white. Instead of having conventional lines, it has lighter colored paper as the lines and grid-if I understand this properly.

    http://www.thedailyplanner.com/perfect-bound-pocket-notebook-black-cover-lined-p-15468.html

    I still wish I could find the Guidehall to ship to USA at a decent price…I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

    Keep up the great reviews!

    Thanks,

    ZachR

  • 46 Regina // Dec 14, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Wow, nearly a year went by without an entry – is this blog dead?

    That would be a pity, cause I’d like to suggest a notebook for review: the Zequenz.

  • 47 Rocket // Dec 19, 2010 at 2:40 am

    I just found your site this week while researching notebooks. This has been so helpful, so thank-you. Even if you don’t post again, this blog is an invaluable resource.

    Although you never reviewed it, I think I’ve settled on the Leuchtturm for my price range. The extra features really set it apart.

  • 48 Mark // Jan 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Great to hear from you again! Thanks for turning me on to the Guildhall notebooks. They’re great. I also picked up a couple of Rhodia notebooks- one in a very funky, very gallic shade of orange.

    Of the new notebooks you should look out for, there’s a new line here in the UK called the Jottr (sic). I am looking to get hold of one soon when I’ve filled up my Picadilly Notebook (I came across these beauties by chance in a shop in Chiswick, West London, having always assumed they were a US only brand).

  • 49 Matt // Jan 19, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Hi
    did you know that all the Ciak notebooks turned to be made in recycled paper? Actually I am using Ciak notebooks and diaries since years and lately I saw a little change in the colour of the paper. Then I realised, reading the endpaper, that the paper I was using is recycled! I never saw such a high quality for a recycled paper. Look, here is how they make the paper!
    http://www.ciak.fi.it/site/d_page.asp?IDPagina=32
    I liked the previous ivory paper but I like more to be ecofriendly!

  • 50 Roger // Jan 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    This is a great web site! As another person who is always looking for good quality notebooks – I’d like to put in another vote for Paperblanks at http://www.paperblanks.com – Thanks!

  • 51 Luke // Jan 25, 2011 at 3:42 am

    Worth noting is a really sweet deal on picadilly’s website right now:

    http://www.piccadillyincstore.com

    4 bucks for 3.5 x 5.5 (any style, hardcover)
    6 bucks for 5.5 x 8.25 (also all styles)
    8 bucks for 7.5 x 10 (all)

    They also have a softcover at the same price levels, but only a lined version. No softcover plain or graph.

    Plus right now if you order 26.00 or more of stuff, you get 25 percent off your entire order! And only 4.00 flat rate shipping. It is media mail, but the parade had to end sometime, right?

    Hope you all enjoy saving money as a result of this long-winded rant.

  • 52 Grace // Feb 2, 2011 at 1:30 am

    I’d love to hear something about Writersblok notebooks, if possible; I’ve been somewhat curious about them.

  • 53 Bob // Feb 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I’ve an idea for you. How about writing a review of an innovative leather pen holder that fits most of the large and pocket size black notebooks out there?

    The Quiver pen holders are designed to fit both hard and soft cover (with an adapter) notebooks from Moleskine, Rhodia, ecosystem, Piccadilly, Red n’ Black, Leuchtturm1917 and teNeues CoolNotes.

  • 54 Regina // Feb 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I got two suggestions for you, one is the already mentionned Leuchtturm 1917, the other one is the Zequenz (http://www.zequenz.com) from Thailand.

  • 55 SCFaulkner // Apr 1, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I really like the Bombay leather journal from Barnes and Noble. It’s very Indiana Jones Grail diary.

  • 56 Anatole // Apr 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Definitely Midori Passport. You should really review this – it is perfect for your backpocket, I always keep it there and completely forget about it. Also, you should consider the ways you can customise midoris – I have three notebooks in mine, with different paper and for different subjects etc. When you start using it properly, and start messing around with it to suit your needs, it is absolutely perfect. Definitely worth the price premium. (Having read your Midori review, I felt it was a bit half-hearted and didn´t really explore the notebook´s potential).

  • 57 Goodezines // Jul 10, 2011 at 11:56 am

    My favorite notebooks are Piccadilly Notebook (cheap compared to Moleskine) and Leuchtturm 1917. Another one is Behance Action Journal.

  • 58 B. Baltimore Brown // Aug 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I personally use blank books and fill them with a combination of writing, drawing, collage and occasionally some water-based media.

    I am a fan of the moleskine form-factor but I need a heavier-weight paper that will stand up to a variety of challenges. Perhaps you could take another trip through the usual suspects with that perspective? That way you’ll be the authority for artist sketch books as well!

    Great site. Learned a ton after discovering it today.

  • 59 jseliger // Dec 10, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    If you have a TON of money, consider the hand-made Design.Y notebooks. They look good and have been mentioned on FPN.

  • 60 Ed Atkeson // Dec 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I love pocket notebooks, sewn, of course. 3.5 x 4.5 is perfect for a shirt pocket. These used to be available everywhere, but I can’t find them anymore. Now there are only perfect-bound versions that fall apart. If I’d have known they would disappear I’d have bought a life supply.

  • 61 mariela - minijuegos // Dec 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    You gotta try Switzerland’s 4.25″ x 5.57″ black Canteo notebooks, available from Russell Helmsworth at papeterie nota bene!

  • 62 Hannah // Feb 21, 2012 at 2:55 am

    I second Escargot Pudding’s notion to review the Hand Book Artist’s journals! I have one and love it, but the cover fell off on one side… (The binding, I mean, not the cover itself.) And I mean, it’s not like I handle the book very gently, and it’s not an issue yet, but I’ve never had a sketchbook that actually started falling apart like that. Then again, my other sketchbooks kind of sucked… Haha. The paper is so, so good, though, it’s hard to find a sketchbook with such great paper for so cheap.

  • 63 erasergirl // Feb 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    at your recommendation, tried Picadilly instead of Moleskine…Picadillly still has reinforced hinges that Moleskine no longer has. looks like i have a new favorite! thanks

  • 64 Bex // Jun 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

    As already suggested by a few other people on here I’d love to see you do a review of the Leuchtturm 1917, as it’s fast becoming my favourite notebook/journal of choice. I know that this site is all about the little black notebook, but some of the colour options available in this range are just too good to pass up on. I’m a big fan of the lilac and the pink. I love that it comes with numbered pages, a table of contents at the front and stickers for archiving and labeling.

    I also love the Rhodia Webnotebook for it’s all round excellence: lovely pages, good selection of page formats, sturdy covers, handles ink well etc) and it really is the best alternative to the Moleskine, which is a total and utter waste of money when you really value paper quality.

    I’m currently using a Paperblanks hardbacked notebook with magnetic flap closure for my journal. They are some of the most beautiful notebooks you can buy at the moment and their pages really are fountain pen friendly (even with me using my Baystate Blue Noodler’s ink in my Lamy Safari to write in it.) I’m using one of the manuscript variety, which has passages from F Scott Fitzgerald’s notebook inscribed in a silvery gold lettering, across the dark green leather cover. If you want to review any of their notebooks, they do a range called Shufa, which are smaller, black covered notebooks with a magnetic flap closure and a very small Japanese character embossed on the front bottom right hand corner. They also come with the ubiquitous back pocket and bookmark and are just beautiful to look at and use.

    NB. Thanks for the heads up about the Guildhall notebooks btw. I bought three on the back of your review and have not been disappointed. They are great value for money and hold up ink far better than a Moleskine. Would recommend them to all wanting a decent little black notebook.

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