For other residents of the United Kingdom, here is a quick note about two inexpensive notebooks to be found in high street stationery shops. (Those outside of the UK might see these around but it probably isn’t worth ordering them specially.)
I still have the Midori Traveller’s Notebook for general journalling but I’ve felt recently that I also need a separate book to hold proper full-scale drafts for a couple of projects I am working on, so I decided to pick up a couple of bag-friendly options from my local WHSmiths. I’ve noticed that there are a lot more notebooks recently that claim to have high-quality paper, 80gsm+ without show-through, but I’m never quite sure how they will feel in practice. Black n Red make some excellent notebooks structurally with 90gsm paper and tough binding, but I’ve never got on with their paper – I like it for calligraphy, where I am putting a lot of ink down, but for general writing it’s too shiny and doesn’t absorb ink as I would like. (Also, Black n Red paper doesn’t like iron gall inks, even the mild FP-friendly modern varieties like Lamy Blue Black and R&K Scabiosa; they leave a very irregular line. I do like these inks.)
The two I got were spiral-bound A5-ish notebooks, the Oxford A5 recycled and the Pukka Pad “Jotta”, and both of them are surprisingly good. (Both £2.99 by the way.) Both are spiral bound, which I dislike but which is manageable. The Flickr set shows quite a lot of the detail, but here is a summary: both sets have…
- spiral binding, with the same wire loop diameter despite their differing numbers of pages
- card covers, reasonably durable probably but not heavy
- wide ruling. For journalling I dislike wide ruling or ruling at all, but for writing drafts, it leaves lots of space for editing and annotating.
- a complete lack of bleed- and show-through from ink on one side of the paper to the other
- micro-perforations on the left to allow the pages to be removed easily without having to rip them out of the binding
- the same height of page
The Oxford has:
- 140 pages / 70 leaves
- 90gsm “Optik” recycled paper. Yes, I know, “recycled” still makes me think of horrible fibrous stuff only useful for writing on with a pencil, but this really is nothing like that. Lovely and smooth with no feathering from inks, but not all shiny like Black n Red paper.
- A red margin and punched holes
- Slightly wider pages than the Pukka Pad. The Oxford’s pages, perforation to left edge, are the same width as the Pukka Pad’s from left to right paper edges including binding.
- A large margin between the top of the page and the first ruling.
The Pukka Pad has:
- 200 pages / 100 leaves
- 80gsm paper that with my wettest pen showed very, very slight feathering. If I wasn’t utterly anal about these issues I expect I would not have noticed, and it doesn’t put me off general use.
- No margin or punched holes.
- A very large margin between the top of the page and the first ruling. I am not sure why, but it’s huge.
There really isn’t a lot between them. On the one hand I think that the Oxford has slightly better paper, and the pages are punched with a margin which makes annotating and filing easier. On the other hand, the Pukka Pad’s paper is perfectly good and some might prefer pages without holes or margins. I’m impressed with the quality of both of them, and would happily use either. I am not sure about larger versions (both companies sell a variety of notebooks up to A4) but if anyone would like to send me any free samples I would be happy to test them….