Thursday, 15 August 2019

Cambridge Imprint notebooks

Notebook samples from Cambridge Imprint
Recently, I was asked by Cambridge Imprint to review a couple of notebooks. I should hasten to say, these notebooks are not currently available to buy from them - they were prototypes which they wanted feedback on.

I have a number of Cambridge Imprint notebooks (yes, I know, I haven't reviewed any of them on here yet, but I will). I have a large square softback notebook and a set of three pocket-size notebooks. I really loved the look of their stuff, but wished they did a lined notebook that was bigger than the pocket size, but not as big as the square one. They do have medium-sized notebooks, but they were all plain, not lined. I contacted them about whether they had any plans to produce a lined one, and they sent me these two books to have a look at! They are the same size as the plain ones (18.5 cm x 12 cm; paper size: 18 cm x ~11 cm).

The two they sent me were covered with the Letterpress Harebell paper, and the Elephant paper. There's no plastic (hurrah!) and the papers are absolutely gorgeous!

Elephant paper

So, what do I like about them and what don't I like?


Well, I love the covers - the papers are all amazing (have a browse of their site and see what glorious papers they have). They're hardback so will resist all but the most significant dings. There's a small label on the front to indicate the contents, which is a lovely touch.

Letterpress paper

The paper. I've only used fountain pen in them (and I took out a page to do the tests, as I don't like leaving them in). The paper is fairly toothy, so would work well with pencils too. Writing wasn't as smooth as in a Clairefontaine book, but was a nice experience. My sharp calligraphy nibs jagged a little, but they jag on everything except Clairefontaine! The stubs were great and regular nibs were fine. There was some good shading going on as dry time isn't super-fast (lefties may need to take a little bit of care). There was no feathering, bleed-through or show-through.


Size: Not so large that they would take up too much real-estate on a desk or in a bag, but big enough that you're not starting a new page every second. At a page size of ~180 mm x ~110 mm, they're fairly close to B6 (which is 176 mm x 125 mm).

Ruling/margins: They're pretty narrow ruled, which suits me (even with a chunky nib) but if your handwriting is large, you might struggle. Ruling is 6 mm, with a top margin of 15 mm and a bottom margin of 9 mm. 7 mm might appeal to a wider range of people? As I say, they're fine for me!

Things they don't have, but I don't care:

There's no contents page, page numbering, page markers or a pocket in the back cover. None of these things are deal-breakers for me. If I need page numbers, I'll add them in. If I want a contents page, I'll leave some blank pages at the start/end. I rarely use the back pockets - they can make the writing experience a bit lumpy.

Things I'm less keen on:

The first and last page are glued to the end-papers and there's quite an overlap. I'm never keen on glued spines, because they're hard to open the book out flat, and this is the case here too. I'd rather they would fall open properly - writing in the inner pages will involve a bit of brute-strength!

I hope that they'll make these part of their main range as they're just beautiful!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Life A5 notebook

As Stu says over on Nero's Notes:
Life notebooks are coveted by anybody who values quality paper. The Noble line of Life notebooks in particular are beautiful, featuring Life's superb fountain pen ink friendly Japanese paper, which is cream in colour and finely laid. As you would expect, the paper in the Life Noble notebook is acid-free and archival quality. This A5 sized notebook comes in plain, ruled and graph paper (5mm grid paper and 8mm ruling) and features the LIFE logo, embossed in gold. 
I've been using a ruled Life notebook for making notes on the gazillion things I need to think about/do/investigate ready to self-publish my fantasy trilogy later this year. I'd been umming a ah-ing over which notebook to use (something I suspect only stationery nerds like me do, because we have so many notebooks to choose from...), so let me share my reasoning for why I plumped for the Life notebook over the other million I have in my stash.
Well, first up, the paper is fountain pen friendly. I realise that many people won't care about that, but if you do care about that, you generally really do care about that. A paper that feathers or ghosts or lets the ink bleed through to the other side drives you insane. But, even if you don't give two hoots about this kind of thing, if a paper is good for fountain pens, it's generally amazing for any pen. Or pencil.
The paper is thick enough that there's minimal show-through and there is no feathering at all. Dry time is a little on the long side, so lefties may want to think about that, and you may want a sheet of blotting paper handy too.
My only niggle with the paper is that it's a yellowish cream and I prefer off-white or a light ivory, but that's just a personal preference.
There are 100 pages (sides) in the book. This is a happy medium between the slimmer notebooks available (68 or 72 etc.) and the chunkier 168+ page books. I'll have a lot of notes to make, and a slimmer book will probably be too small, but I hate waste and it would annoy me if I only used half of the pages in a larger notebook.
But one of the things I love the most about these notebooks is this:

The little dots at the top and bottom lines. These are perfect for if you want to add a table, because you don't have to faff about measuring it out. Fear not, the marks are small enough that if you're not needing to draw out a table, they won't distract. They're spaced at 10 mm (which a bit of my brain sometimes squeaks at because line spacing is 8 mm, so drawing vertical lines leads to rectangles, not squares).
Since I'll be making notes on a variety of sub-topics in the book, I'll be putting a table of contents at the front (and may even put an index at the back!), and there may be a number of topics where being able to quickly draw a table is a bonus, for example when I'm comparing different editors or cover-designers.
I also like the top margin with a slightly darker top line. The top margin is 15 mm and I use the space to put a few-word summary of the page contents (like 'print on demand' or 'keywords') so that when I flick through the book I can see what's on each page.
There are no fancy frills like ready-printed page numbers (I've just hand-written them in) or a ribbon-marker or a pocket in the back, but this is a good, solid notebook at a very decent price. Why don't you give it a whirl?
A modified version of this post first appeared on Nero's Notes.
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