Fear not, Peaceable Writer is not about to turn into a blog about notebooks. Many other such blogs far more adept and eager at writing reviews about notebooks already exist. This post will be my final thoughts on the subject for quite some time.
I’m not a doodler, a drawer, a painter or even a journaler. I am a mere writer of words. What I want is a notebook that I can read from clearly after I’ve written in it. I also want a product that comes from a company that commits to being a good environmental steward.
In my continued quest for a green and fountain pen friendly notebook I decided to look at two other widely available products. Both come from big box stores which, having grown up on the philosophy that “small is beautiful,” I have a tendency to shy away from. As I’m trying to rely less and less on mail order and there are no local independent office supply stores where I live, Staples has become my big box office supply choice. (They are close to my home, and they have better, smarter customer service than the other two big box choices.) Barnes and Noble is not my bookstore of first choice, preferring still thriving local independents, but it is a bookstore I visit from time to time.
Big box purchasing has its pluses in that large quantities of a product are available in multiple locations. The downside is, well, that a company needs large quantities of material to make large quantities of product, and there can be initial sourcing issues for the materials needed to create a product.
Staples Composition Notebook made from Bagasse
Bagasse is sugar-cane waste. Often bagasse is used as fuel for a sugar cane plant. More recently we’ve seen compostable products, such as cups, plates, take-out boxes, and toilet paper, being made from bagasse. (The top growers of sugar cane, as of 2008, are Brazil, India and China respectively.)
The Paper Campaign was launched in 2000 to push major U.S. office supply companies into environmental paper standards. Significant changes have been made since then and there is still room for improvement. In the Green Grades 2009 report Staples received a B- down from a 2008 B+ grade.
There’s been a lot of discussion on FPN about Staples discontinuing its supply of paper made from bagasse and that the quality of the paper has changed. Staples has, in fact, discontinued filler paper for three ring notebooks. Notebooks made 80% from bagasse remain part of Staples stock. According to some consumers, recent batches of bagasse notebooks are not as fountain-pen friendly as the initial run of the notebooks. It is hard to know if this is a permanent change in the formulation of the paper in the manufacturing process, a change in bagasse suppliers, or just a “bad batch” of notebooks.
A bagasse-based Staples composition notebook retails for $2.49. The notebooks come in a variety of plain or patterned brown covers and contain 100 sheets. The notebook binding looks flimsily made and it may not survive much wear and tear from lugging around.
The sheets of the notebook were very thin and I thought there was no way this paper could survive fountain pen ink. It was a pleasant surprise to discover there was no bleed through of ink from one page to the other side. There is a fair amount of “show through” of writing from the opposite side. Nonetheless the pages are quite readable. The facing page is very smooth underneath the pen. The page on the other side of the sheet is not as smooth although I would not call it rough.
None of my fountain pens suffered from writing on several of these pages. The inks used included J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis and Diamine Midnight. For me, the bagasse Staples is a good inexpensive choice in a composition notebook. The Staples composition book will find a place in my notebook pantheon, alongside the more expensive Clairefontaine Basic for variation.
Barnes and Noble ecosystem Essay Book
While at a Barnes and Noble bookstore recently I bought a set of the small ecosystem Essay Books. When I first saw the ecosystem display at B&N the two items that caught my eye were “eco-friendly” and “Made 100% in the U.S.A.”
The ecosystem Essay Books are very similar to the Moleskine Cahier notebooks. Like the Cahier the Essay Books are sold in a set of three notebooks. The ecosystem version contains 30 sheets (60 pages) while the Cahier contains 32 sheets. There is no pocket at the back of the Essay Book. A nice feature, however, is that all of the sheets are perforated. (Only half of the Cahier pages are detachable.) Of course, the biggest plus is that Essay Book is made from chlorine-free 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
Honestly I know nothing else about the manufacturing of these notebooks good or bad. I could not find anything from the business journals about the manufacturing of the product.
The paper also handles fountain pen ink far better than the Cahier. The paper is thicker and the inks I’ve used have not bled through to the other side of the page. The quality of the paper is very nice. Not Clairefontaine nice, but very nice. Like the bagasse Staples notebook, there is a bit of “show through” of writing on pages. The “show through” does not detract from the readability of pages.
Your mileage may vary, of course, with ink bleeding through pages if using broad nibbed pens and/or heavily saturated inks. The inks I have used in my Essay Book included J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir, Bleu Myosotis, Cacao du Bresil, and Diamine Midnight.
ecosystem notebooks can be bought online or at Barnes and Noble stores. Sterling Publishing, a Barnes and Noble subsidiary, created the product line. A set of Essay Books cost $6.95.
None of these pocket notebooks will fare well in the jeans back pocket. While the ecosystem Essay Books will do for now, the quest for a replacement to the tiny Miguelrius pocket flexible notebook continues.