Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover – A6 – Khaki/Navy

1 02 2018

This will be a review of the cover only, because when I won this refillable cover with notebook at pen club last year, I realized that it would perfectly fit the Hobonichi Avec. I took the notebook out, put the Avec in, and somewhere in my possessions the Kokuyo is still chillin. It’s probably a great notebook. Who knows. Not me.

Yo dawg I heard you like notebooks so I put a notebook on your notebook so you can plan while you’re planning

The cover, however, I know is solid money. I’m not of the planner school of thought where you have a five-foot-thick stuffed planner whose two shapes are elastic-bound stepstool and, unleashed, barely usable rainbow. But I do like my planner and cover combo to bring some utility to the game—carry some essential sticker sheets, spare receipts, a washi tape card, etc. The Kokuyo Systemic cover brings that perfect amount of function and protection without adding too much bulk to the planner.

Cat stickers, passport, and meta-charm not included

The outside has a pocket front and back to easily hold sticker sheets, tickets, or other bits of paper you want easily accessible. And I guess you can tuck a pen in there, but I’m not wild about that concept, as I’m concerned about it deforming overtime. The elastic is sturdy, and the canvas cover has resisted dirt, grime, and other purse perils amazingly well. You can also clip a charm to the bookmark ribbon outside, if that’s your jam. The bookmark ribbon, since it’s knotted, isn’t going to be pulled out by any charm you put outside. As a bookmark, it’s simple, effective, and so far has yet to fray. And it’s easily replaceable if you want to customize.

So much artistic stuff and I did none of it. Except put the washi tape on the card. The ‘january’ is for tracing into my Hippo Noto once it arrives

The front and back of the cover’s inside has plastic flaps you insert the notebook into, with extra cutouts in those flaps to provide further pocket function. The front has a split halfway down that I’ve been tucking a month’s worth of receipts into. The back has a split halfway down plus a card slot on the bottom half. I’ve been using the card slot to hold one of my washi tape cards, with some artwork from a friend tucked up top. When I have cash money to spare I might also slip a bill back here for rainy day emergencies. I also keep a pencil board in among the pages of the Hobonichi, and one of those little folders slipped in the back. The elastic band does a perfect job of keeping everything contained.

If people are putting their full sized Hobonichis in these things, I don’t know how. Seems like it would be too big.

The Kokuyo Systemic refillable notebook cover is something I would have probably never come up with on my own to house my Hobonichi Avec, but now that I have it I don’t know how I got along without. My only suggestion would be more colorways, perhaps—it also comes in a Khaki/Brown, but that’s hardly a panoply of choice. There’s also semi B5 and A5 sized refillable covers, if you live your life with notebooks that big.

Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover – A6 – Khaki/Navy at JetPens

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Monologue Platinum A6 Silver

31 01 2014

Go on, get it out of your system: bling. The Monologue Platinum is about as blingtastic as a notebook can get without incorporating precious gems, rhinestones, glitter, or spinners (not gonna lie, I’d buy a notebook with a little spinner rim on the cover—SOMEONE MAKE IT HAPPEN).

Also comes in black, bronze, and gold, none of which are colors I think of when I think of the word 'platinum.'

Also comes in black, bronze, and gold, none of which are colors I think of when I think of the word ‘platinum’

Metallic silver cover. Silver bookmark. Silver (or gray really) elastic closure, fabulous silver-edged pages. It’s got bling without shouting you down.

Product idea: every time you open the notebook, it rains dollar bills and plays the 100 all-time greatest platinum hits

Product idea: every time you open the notebook, it rains dollar bills and plays the 100 all-time greatest platinum hits

The front cover has a smooth, pressed down section to keep the elastic from biting so badly through the cover like it does on the regular Monologue Ruled Notebook. Take note, Rhodia, it might be worth a try (or a prototype? wink wink my mailbox is open).

These are supposed to be white pages. I just don't get enough sunshine in my world

These are supposed to be white pages. I just don’t get enough sunshine in my world

In terms of extras, you’ve got a whole page for your contact information, a section for addresses, and even some pages for websites and blogs. Who even knows people with that many blogs? There’s also a back pocket, which is only really important when a notebook doesn’t have one and you need it.

Showthrough and bleedthrough is pretty bad with fountain pens. Stick to gel pens, micro tip preferably

Showthrough and bleedthrough is pretty bad with fountain pens. Stick to gel pens, micro tip preferably

These lines are tight. Is miniature college ruled even a thing? How do you even fit 25 lines on an A6 page?? This is crazy. The paper (80gsm) is way too absorbent for fountain pens, but at lines this tiny you know you gotta go with microtip gel pens. Once again, I highly recommend the Pilot Juice 0.38mm—my dark red Juice is doing wonderfully on this paper. But anything 0.5mm and under would look great. And with all these lines per page, you can fit more writing in.

Shiny pages on every notebook. That is what I want now

Shiny pages on every notebook. That is what I want now

You want more lines in your pocket notebook? You want something that stands out a little? You want another notebook dedicated to your micro-tip gel pens? Here it is.

Monologue Platinum A6 at Grandluxe





Monologue Soft Sketch Book A6

29 12 2013
Bear with me kids; I'm still getting the hang of this picture editor. On the plus side, since it doesn't do resizing by percentages, every picture is now maximum of 1000 pixels.

Bear with me kids; I’m still getting the hang of this picture editor. On the plus side, since it doesn’t do resizing by percentages, every picture is now maximum of 1000 pixels.

Allegedly, this is a soft sketch book, and technically speaking yes, this is a soft, not hard cover on this book, but you will not find a stiffer notebook for your dollar without falling down a rabbit hole of double entendres. How am I supposed to use a notebook I can barely even open? Step one, crack this book like a winter walnut.

With great force comes great flatness

With great force comes great flatness

I like the texture of this cover, and the size of the notebook. I’m a fan of small portable notebooks for my doodles.

This is a very thick elastic band. Like possibly would double a headband if you pulled it free. And had a small circumference head

This is a very thick elastic band. Like possibly would double a headband if you pulled it free. And had a small circumference head

I’m not, however, a big fan of horizontal elastic closures, but this one seems to get out of the way pretty easily. That’s just a general preference issue on my part.

Maybe I should have just scanned these. Not that it really lays flat enough for that. Oh well.

Maybe I should have just scanned these. Not that it really lays flat enough for that. Oh well.

The paper is the same good heavy-duty paper as found in the Monologue Orange Sketch Pad, meaning it’s great general use art paper. And once you go through and crack the spine it isn’t so bad. It works for me because I can rest my hand on the left side of the pages to draw, and it keeps the book open. It still doesn’t want to lay remotely flat on its own, instead choosing to settle itself into something like an acute angle.

This is as far as it shuts itself. Elastic band required for full closure.

This is as far as it shuts itself. Elastic band required for full closure.

With the elastic band, I’m definitely more comfortable throwing this sketchbook in a bag. And I like the paper. Just get past the stiff spine, and you’ve got a stylish little sketchbook to use.

Thanks to Grandluxe for providing this sample.

Monologue Soft Sketch Book at Grandluxe





Monologue Sketch Pad A6 – Orange

24 10 2013
I swear I didn't plan on having such fabulous fall colors

I swear I didn’t plan on having such fabulous fall colors

On appearance, the Monologue sketch pad is getting a lot of things right—love the warm orange paired with grey cloth interior, and this striking minimalist design (pressed? embossed? cut? spellcast?) on the cover. The cover (suede polyurethane) isn’t standard smooth polyurethane; it feels like imitation cloth…which is beyond my understanding as to why the feeling of cloth would be one to imitate, but here we are. That’s art.

Things I probably shouldn't keep doing: pushing the cover askew

Things I probably shouldn’t keep doing: pushing the cover askew

I don’t like the free-floating factor of the front cover—I can’t in good conscience just toss this sketch pad in a bag because there’s 100% chance something else in the bag will push the cover askew, which can’t be good for it over time.

I suppose the trade-off for the free-floating cover problem is that it opens up quite nicely

I suppose the trade-off for the free-floating cover problem is that it opens up quite nicely

The main sketchpad seems well attached, and the way it’s designed the pages lay nice and usably flat. But how is the paper?

The paper, according to Grandluxe: 140 gsm Italian acid free rough textured drawing paper surface treated with vegetable gel,  Suitable for drawing with the following techniques: Charcoal - Chalk - Graphite - Pencil - Pastel - Oil Pastel - Wax  Crayon - Red Chalk - Acrylic - Collage - Oil - Marker - Spray - Tempera.

The paper, according to Grandluxe: 140 gsm Italian acid free rough textured drawing paper, surface treated with vegetable gel, Suitable for drawing with the following techniques: Charcoal – Chalk – Graphite – Pencil – Pastel – Oil Pastel – Wax Crayon – Red Chalk – Acrylic – Collage – Oil – Marker – Spray – Tempera.

No worries! It does great for an all-purpose sketch paper. The only bleedthrough was from using Copic markers (which still look good on the page, just can’t use both sides). Everything else, from fine pens to watercolor to pencils and more, did wonderfully. The paper has some tooth to it, you can see, but not so much as to get in the way of using any of the pens. Good art paper all around.

Some people hit the open road. Some people hit the open sketchbook.

Some people hit the open road. Some people hit the open sketchbook.

Though I’ll worry about inadvertently tearing off this unsecure cover over time, the quality and usability of this paper ensures that I will be still using it until the cover falls off.

Thanks to Grandluxe for providing this sample!

Monologue Sketch Pad A6 – in Grey, Orange, Blue, & Red at Grandluxe





Monologue Ruled Notebooks (A5, A6, A7, & A8)

30 09 2013
Four notebooks all at once! We can do this!

Four notebooks all at once! We can do this!

The obvious comparison to make for these notebooks is the Rhodia Webnotebook, so let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. Where the Rhodia Webbie only comes in A5 and A6, the Monologue ruled notebooks come in A5, A6, and the even smaller A7 and A8.

Costing more does not protect the Webbie cover from being damaged by the elastic band, just like the Monologue

Costing more does not protect the Webbie cover from being damaged by the elastic band

They all have the same basic design: a soft-to-the-touch hardback leatherette/polyurethane cover, with strong elastic bands pressing dents in the top and bottom of the cover; silk ribbon bookmarks and back pockets. And they’re both filled with paper (a quality point of some significant divergence between the two). In terms of the outside, they’re nearly equivalent. It’s almost impossible to tell if the Rhodia or the Monologue has a smoother cover; I’ve sat here for several minutes rubbing notebooks on my face and I still can’t make up my mind.

Do not be fooled, this cheesy yellow orange is more of a goldenrod when you get the notebook by itself. I promise

Do not be fooled, this cheesy yellow orange is more of a goldenrod when you get the notebook by itself. I promise

The color of the four notebooks I received are fantastic for the start of fall—the A5 is a warm brown that falls somewhere between milk chocolate and 70% cacao; the purple is a lovely shade that looks pretty close to such impressive-sounding Wikipedia-defined hues as royal purple or pomp and power, with its elastic band a striking lighter shade (I’d hazard a guess at an actual color name, but I’m getting tired of squinting and holding the notebook up to the screen). The olive green A7 is a good color to hold onto—a last bit of verdancy before the leaves turn warm and start to fall. And the palm-sized goldenrod yellow A8? I can practically smell the bonfires and taste the long-awaited pumpkin spices, this color is so perfectly autumnal.

A8, A7, A6, and A5 writing samples, with reverse sides shown in order underneath, except the A5, that's the reverse side of a page full of broad-nibbed Vanishing Point writing

A8, A7, A6, and A5 writing samples, with reverse sides shown in order underneath, except the A5, that’s the reverse side of a page full of broad-nibbed Vanishing Point writing

A funny thing happens with the Monologue notebook series—the bigger the notebook, the better it’s able to handle liquid ink. There’s no immediately obvious reason WHY this is the case; all four notebooks claim to contain 80gsm cream-colored acid-free paper. It’s not how big or small I’m writing; writing large in the little notebooks with a broad-nibbed fountain pen still looks terrible.

The greatest paper-based mystery of our times

The greatest paper-based mystery of our times

I don’t know what to make of it. The wee A8 is hemorrhaging ink through the page so bad I’ve got half a mind to call an ambulance for it, while the larger A5 is letting this broad-nib Vanishing Point lay down crisp lines with only minimal showthrough and only an occasional dot of bleedthrough. It’s negligible enough to comfortably use both sides of the page. Dry time is good—beginning of a line is dry before I get to the end of the line. How is the A5 doing this? Why doesn’t liquid ink do well in any of the others? Is it magic? I am both confused, and impressed.

Too many words. Better break things up with pictures.

Too many words. Better break things up with pictures.

It’s difficult to review in aggregate a set of notebooks whose paper behaves differently depending on the size of the notebook. I would be interested to know if these differences I’m seeing holds true across multiple other samples and other peoples’ experiences. I’d like to make some recommendations anyway, based on the performance of the notebooks I’ve got.

For a sense of relative scale. Line spacing in the A5: 7mm

For a sense of relative scale. Line spacing in the A5: 7mm

100% fountain pens. They do so well, why not use them? Unless you don’t like fountain pens, in which case I’m making funny eyes at you. This paper did well with every kind of writing utensil except for the Pilot Petit 1, which I’m starting to realize does uniquely poorly on many kinds of paper. Though you could really use any pen with this notebook, for me it will be exclusively the domain of the fountain pens.

Line spacing in the A6: 6mm

Line spacing in the A6: 6mm

The purple A6 is the limit when it comes to fountain pen use—and even then I would only advise very fine Japanese nibs. And even then, when you look very close you can tell that the lines aren’t perfect. You start to get fuzzing, you see more spots of bleedthrough. So really, I wouldn’t recommend fountain pens at all in this notebook. For this notebook I’m feeling super-smooth ballpoints and brightly-colored broad gel pens. This notebook is a good pocket size that’s still big enough to jot down a short story, and for that, I want a pen that flows.

Line spacing in the A7: 6mm

Line spacing in the A7: 6mm

The A7 is a bit too small to write out big chunks of prose. This size—a size that actually fits easily in a back pocket—is more suited to an everyday all-purposes notebook, or perhaps good for poetry. It’s small enough to blend into an everyday carry, while still having enough space to fit a thought on the page. For this notebook, I’d stick with gel pens and ballpoints 0.5mm or lower. I’m particularly loving the look of my 0.38mm dark red Pilot Juice on this paper—it’s perfect for this notebook.

Line spacing on the A8: 5mm

Line spacing on the A8: 5mm

If ever a notebook was made with micro-tip gel pens in mind, it’s this ridiculously tiny notebook. I love miniatures. You want me to impulse buy something? Put out a tiny version of it. This is undoubtedly, adorably the smallest hardcover notebook I own. Pretty sure it’s small enough to qualify as a choking hazard (if your child has a big mouth or is a hinged-jawed python). This is the only notebook without a back pocket (but what would you put in it, stamps?). If Rhodia and Moleskine had a baby, it would be this little notebook: smooth cover and fountain pen unfriendly paper. Bust out your absolute smallest micro tip gel pens—and ballpoints if you have them—and write the tiniest thoughts you can think. Might even be worth getting your hands on a Uni Signo Bit 0.18mm.

A size for however big your thoughts are that day

A size for however big your thoughts are that day

Ultimately, the overall Monologue line of ruled notebooks can’t compare on paper quality to the Rhodia Webnotebook, but then, the Monologue is in a whole different price bracket. And especially if you’re not among the fountain pen obsessed like I am, and regularly do your writing with ballpoints and gel pens, and are looking for that leatherette-feel without paying fountain-pen-paper prices, you might look into the Monologue Ruled Notebook.

Monologue Ruled Notebooks are carried in the Grandluxe online store, and on their Amazon store. And they have their own Facebook page, if that sort of thing appeals to you.





Bags of Love A5 Custom Notebook

22 05 2013

One of my favorite emails to get is when a company approaches me out of the blue and offers me a product for review. Part of me worries for them a little bit, because I have high office supply standards, and I’ll feel bad if it turns out I hate whatever they so nicely offered me, or if it has some major terrible flaw (like a notebook with terrible paper (this has happened before, I contacted the company about it, that review remains in limbo)). LUCKILY FOR EVERYONE, THIS WAS NOT THE CASE HERE! So I can thank Bags of Love for providing this sample without any reservation.

Front, featuring a sunrise from my bedroom window. Back, featuring a sunset in Morocco. Both sides featuring reflection self-portrait shadows!

Front, featuring a sunrise from my bedroom window. Back, featuring a sunset in Morocco. Both sides featuring reflection self-portrait shadows!

The way this company works is they take photos you upload to the site and make personalized gifts—in this case, a notebook. This only narrowly avoided being a notebook of my cat; the pictures I had taken with my real camera of a sunrise out my bedroom window and a sunset in Morocco were better quality than a thousand iPhone cat pictures.

The notebook is a glossy soft cover. It looks beautiful and you can touch it all you want. The photographs I used turned out wonderfully, with solid blacks and rich colors, just as they looked on my computer screen, and the design/upload interface on the website was easy to use.

The downside to it being a soft cover though is I just know these corners are going to get dinged up, and the spine will end up creased and lined like any paperback.

Crease damage to top of spine. Typical for paperback books.

Crease damage to top of spine. Typical for paperback books.

Now for the good news. No, the fantastic news. THIS PAPER IS WONDERFUL. I had no idea. I didn’t have the slightest clue going in. I looked at the cream-colored, unlined paper and braced myself for enough feathering to cover an outdated dinosaur model and enough bleedthrough to designate the notebook a crime scene…and got none of it! Not the slightest fuzz!

EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL

EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL

Even my broad nibbed Pilot Vanishing Point, which throws down ink like it’s going out of style, it was able to handle with ease. You can somewhat see the shadow of the previous page’s writing, but nothing so bad that it would stop me from using both sides of the page.

DSCN0043

Lines crisp and both sides of the page usable

I got the A5 size (8×6″), but they also offer A6 (6×4.5″) notebooks. Says it’s got 150 sides of paper…I don’t feel like counting. I can tell you it is a decent but manageable amount of paper. I don’t like a notebook with too much paper, because then it’s too heavy to carry around in a casual bag. And being unlined, I can use this notebook for writing OR drawing.

A bit thicker than a standard writing utensil

A bit thicker than a standard writing utensil

Price-wise, this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for. This is a high-quality custom-cover notebook. Something from, say, CafePress would be cheaper, but have you ever actually ordered things from CafePress? I have. I got a custom shirt so poorly made that the shirt pieces weren’t properly aligned when it was sewn and there was a hole in the side of the shirt. I have a friend who ordered a custom SIGG water bottle and received a cheap knockoff. Maybe those kind of shenanigans fly when you’re trying to make custom things for yourself, but you want a gift for someone? Bags of Love is going to give you a quality product that you won’t have to be embarrassed about when you give it. And they are capable of some CRAZY fast shipping if you need it. I don’t know how much it costs, but this thing was in my hands all the way from across the Atlantic Ocean within 24 hours of my being notified it had shipped.

Freshly wrapped!

Freshly wrapped! Even on an unattractive plastic table it looks lovely!

Good paper is worth its weight in gold to me. This notebook is full of good paper. My only complaints are those which plague the very nature of all paperback notebooks. This is a solid product, and I would gladly spend my own money with Bags of Love. Thanks again to them for providing this sample!

Custom Pocket Notebook at Bags of Love