There is a pocket notebook that offers great quality, lots of pages, is cheaper and more easily available than the competition in Europe, and almost nobody is talking about it. Well, that’s a shame. Let me tell you what you are missing out on.
Why pocket notebooks?
The pocket notebook in its inofficial but de facto format of 14cm x 9cm is defined on the market by Field Notes and Moleskine Cahiers.
As the name implies, this format is very portable, not too small and in an aspect ration that’s close enough to more regular notebooks or writing pads to be instantly familiar and comfortable. It’s been adopted by many smaller manufacturers that have been carried by the popularity of the format. .Word, Calepino and others have quickly gained popularity and success in the enthusiasts market. Accessory manufacturers have reacted and many like NockCo have tailored their products towards this size.
My use case
So what am I looking for in a pocket notebook? I mostly use fountain pens, so paper quality is a concern. Digital ink has been spilled on what “FP friendly” means in the context of a pocket notebook, especially about the absorbent qualities and the resulting drying times. My position is pretty much this:
If you have the time to use a fountain pen, you have the time to wait for the ink to dry.
I am using these tools for the superior experience and the paper I use is a big part of that. Get the best paper you can and write with a gel pen if you are in a hurry.
I would prefer to carry a single notebook. My Raydori (or Timbori) comes close to that ideal, but even that is getting too fuzzy for me lately. I flip-flop between a Raydori with 2 books and a Nock Co Fodderstack XL on my person and a Sinclair in my backpack.
Finally, availability is an issue. A notebook that isn’t readily available in Europe/Germany for a reasonable price is not an option.
And the winner is…
Why aren’t more people singing the praises of Clairfontaine pocket notebooks?
You get the amazing 90gsm paper that will hold up to any ink in any nib that you could possibly use on the go. No feathering, no bleedthrough or showthrough, reasonable drying times.
And they are huge!
96 pages make them flexible enough to be my only notebook for the day, even if I have to work on several different subjects and projects. They are attractive and well made, and you can find them at big online retailers for less than 2€ per book with short delivery times. Get a pack of ten, put a spare in your backpack, order new ones when the stash is running out.
The one downside that I can think of is that they only come squared or ruled. Blanks and dot grid would be welcome additions to the product line.
So what is disqualifying the other pocket notebooks for me?
The Mole is everywhere. You can’t escape them. So in a pinch, you can get a pocket notebook in pretty much every town center bookshop. You can get them in a variety of 3 (bland) colors and they come ruled, squared and blank. The paper is… bad. Not as bad as it’s made out to be sometimes, but I get the feeling that Moleskine is using especially cheap paper for these smaller books. The pages in the back are perforated. Interesting, but not that useful for me. Cahiers are competitively priced at 2-3 Euros per book, and they offer only the “standard” 48 pages that you find in most pocket notebooks.
The O.G. pocket notebooks. They put a spin on the blandness, they examplify this simplicity that gets so often mistaken for sincerety nowadays, and I have to admit that they look pretty cool. They offer the colors editions. These have been hit or miss for me. The paper varies from version to version, and even with the best ones it’s not great. 48 pages. Standard, but tiny compared to the Clarifontaines. But the worst part is that they are very rare in Europe, so they are expensive and a hassle to import. Lately I’ve become burned out by the special edition. I was never a subscriber, but most of the seasonal editions in the last years where either disappointing to me, and when I got one I liked I found it harder to use them, spoil them, than I thought.
Make your own
I have been making my own notebooks in the past. I got card stock for the covers, got nice paper, printed a dot grid on them. I ordered Tomoe River paper and cut it to size. I got tools to do all this…
It’s a hobby. It’s fun. But it takes so much time. It makes a mess, and since I don’t have a workshop, basement or garage, that mess and cleaning it is somewhat more inconvenient. The flexibility to get exactly what you want is nice, but it’s not worth the hassle.
All the other books that I am aware of seem to fall in line with either the Moleskine Cahiers or the Field Notes. They are either complicated and expensive to get, offer the standard 48 pages or use paper that is less than ideal.
So there you go. Clairfontaine pocket notebooks in their different designs are fulfilling my needs for paper on the go pretty much perfectly right now. Flashier designs and more absorbent paper seem to be selling points for users with different needs, but I’m not tempted so far. If you know of a brand of books that offers what I’m looking for tell me in the comments, I look forward to checking them out!
What others say about the Clairfontaine Pocket Notebooks:
Clairefontaine 1951 Collection Notebook Review by Jeff Abbott on penaddict.com
Clairefontaine Pocket Notebook Review by Cody on thepenhaul.com
Review by Azizah on gourmetpens.com
Ed with a counter point to my use case