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Review: Little Black Notebook

30 Dec 2011 in personal

I’ve recently developed a bit of an obsession with what are know as little black notebooks. These are notebooks styled after a once legendary but now rather commodified notebook made by the company Moleskine in Italy, but now manufactured in China to meet demands of large retailers like Barne’s & Nobles. I’m not trying to trash talk Moleskine because it was their version that got me interested in the books, but during my investigation on their production method I was concerned about their desire for quantity and the potential loss in quality.

These notebooks have a very distinct appearance and from a distance they would all look roughly the same. The dimensions of the notebooks I’m most interested in are 9cm x 14cm or approximately 3.5in x 5.5in to the American folks (like me.) This size is just about right to fit into your pocket so you can carry the book with you everywhere and write down everything. These notebooks also have an elastic band sewn onto the back cover and stretches over the front cover to help keep it closed as it ages. There is also some sort of bookmark built into the notebook; the Moleskine has a satin ribbon for this purpose but some other notebooks have gotten creative with a paper flap. A pocket built into the inside of the back cover stores loose-left notes. Lastly, and the most important in my opinion, the rounded corners to prevent page bending and creasing.

While looking for an alternative to the Moleskine notebook, and just trying to see what else is out there, I found the BlackCover.net blog that has reviewed several different versions of these small notebooks. This site has been fairly inactive for the last couple years but there is still a lot of good information on it; he claims his inactiveness is because there haven’t been any new books lately that are worth reviewing. He did about 19 review before things died off, and even managed to get one of his favorite notebooks brought back into production and named after his site, I’ll talk more about this one in a bit.

The first notebook that caught my eye was the Piccadilly Essential Notebooks. It has the standard 3.5in x 5.5in format, elastic strap, satin bookmark, and rear pocket. The thing that makes the Piccadilly notebooks jump out is their price. Where the Moleskine is between $10 & $15 depending on where you buy it and how many you order (if online), the Piccadilly is $4.99 and seems to go on sale; like now during Christmas. I’ve tried to find information on their production methods but haven’t had any luck yet. I’m not too concerned about the production process of these notebooks because they’re a discount notebook so I’m OK with a lower quality.

I’ve ordered 2 of the ruled notebooks straight from the Piccadilly website. They were on sale for $3.99 each with a flat $3.99 shipping rate. They must be in high demand this season because the only notebook available on their website was the ruled; there is also a plain for sketches and a graphed for more engineering or technical drawings. The only downside I saw during the ordering process was the estimated delivery time of 30 days, so I guess I’ll be waiting a bit for these.

The next book that caught my eye, and the one I’m most excited about, was the Stifflexible by the Italian company Mazzouli. The author of BlackCover.net listed this as his favorite and that encourage me to go looking for one. This particular notebook disappeared for a while, but thanks to interest from the BlackCover blog it was brought back into production; the creator even labeled it the “Black Cover” edition. The one thing that makes the Stifflexible stand out among the rest of the black notebook community is the parallel creases on the front cover allowing it to be both stiff and flexible at the same time, hence the name.

Like its Moleskine and Piccadilly cousins, the Stifflexible is roughly 3.5in x 5.5in, has an elastic band to hold it shut, rounded corners, and a pocket in the back. Unlike its fellow notebooks instead of the satin ribbon bookmark there is a paper flap on the back cover. I’ve ordered two of these notebooks since they have free world-wide shipping till the end of December, so instead of close to $50 for two and shipping I’m only paying about $25, they sell for €9.50 which is currently around $12. I’m really pretty excited about this notebook and I can’t explain why. I’ve been wanting to do more writing lately and I believe this is the notebook that will work for me best.

If anyone get interested in this post I’ll create a followup once I get my notebooks. With the Stifflexible coming from Italy and the Piccadilly’s on a long shipping timeline I figure it will be over a month before I get everything. In the mean time I’ll have to use the Moleskine Cahier I have and transcribe everything once the office notebooks arrive, that is of course if I’m not too lazy.


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