Muji Notebooks

Since my friend Andreas and I know that small gifts will maintain a friendship, we do tend to surprise each other with ink samples or other nice little presents when we meet up to chat about pens.

This time Andi outdid himself.

What he brought me was this tiny little Muji notebook that is unusual in every way.

Nothing fancy, but very pleasant…

It is A6 in size, so it is bigger than the standard pocket notebook, like a Field Notes or Moleskine Cahier. The design is very minimal, something that Muji is known for. No branding, no special pages for your information in the front. Side effect: you can start the notebook from both sides, it doesn’t really have a front or a back. Strange, but very cool!

The notebook  is stitched together, which I actually enjoy. The paper feels different, not too smooth, not very thick. Ruled, with an off-White color. I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary here.

So vanilla…

Then I tried it with a variety of fountain pens.

Yes, yes, horrible handwriting…

When I turned the page, I was giggling like Ron Swanson.

I don’t know how Muji did it, but they managed to produce a remarkably fountain pen friendly pocket notebook! Nothing bleeds through this paper! Not a broad Pelikan nib, not a sharp cut broad italic.

Ghosting? Some. Bleedthrough? None.

It is hard to believe when you are sitting there with the notebook in front of you, because it is so unassuming, but the paper really is great. Now, with some inks and some nibs in combination, I have seen some minor feathering, but nothing that you wouldn’t get with other paper products, and very acceptable if you consider the following:

The A6 notebook costs 1€. You can get an A5 for 2€.

That is an amazing value. Pocket size Moleskines are three times the money and not nearly as well suited to fountain pens. Field Notes are so hard to get here that you pay even more, and they are only marginally better for fountain pens…

This is ridiculous. This cheap little no frills notebook has no business being this good. If you have a Muji store in your city, get some. Or order them online. They are so cheap that you have to order a bunch of great notebooks to offset the 5€ in shipping. What a great problem to have.

teNeues CoolNotes

The other day I was walking through the supermarket that makes up the lower level of the office complex/shopping mall that I work at and stumbled upon this.

The teNeues CoolNotes notebook is a pretty straight forward Moleskine lookalike. It'roughly A5 in size, the covers are black and the elastic band and the bookmark are in in louder, more flashy and modern colors, like orange in the one that I picked up. The bookmark is adequate, but the elastic band that is closing the book is much too weak and flimsy.

When you open up the book you see the most distinguishing feature of the CoolNotes, a stylish pattern that makes up the inside cover. Other patterns and Colors where available, all of them even more garish and unispired than the one that I picked here.

Same in the back, all the way down to the pocket on the back cover.

The first pages gives you ample opportunity to write down all kinds of personal and contact information. Too much if you ask me, and information of limited usefullness. This looks like it was made for a young person about 5 years ago. MSN? Seriously? As you can see on top of the page I had some trouble with quality control. The first pages where glued together in a spot and had to be carefully separated to remain usable.

The paper is off-white and feels a little thicker than regular Moleskine pages. Unfortunately the actual weight is nowhere to be found, your guess is as good as mine. The left page in a spread is blank, the right page comes with dotted lines. Interesting, but I am struggling to think of a possible use case for this design.

My horrible writing samples show us that the paper has limited use for fountain pen users. Fine nibs work alright, medium and above results in feathering.

Same picture on the back of the page. Writing with fine nibs shows through but leaves the back of the page usable, medium and above bleeds through the page.

Final thoughts

The teNeues CoolNotes came discounted to 5 Euros, down from 10. That's still too much. The paper is not what you want if you are using fountain pens, the quality is at best on par with regular Moleskine and in many regards worse than that. The design is something that you either find tasteful or you don't, but it is hard to argue against the understatement of a regular notebook that fits in everywhere.

Oh, and the books reek. A strong chemical smell that I find unpleasant at regular writing distance. I am not squeamish, acrylic pens like my Ahab or my Edison smell fine to me, but this is bouquet is unacceptable.

I'll stay clear of these books in the future.