Finding Great Notebook Alternatives
There are many people who love their Moleskine notebooks in all their variety. It’s a great line of notebooks with an even better marketing department, but they have their critics as well.
Many fountain pen users find Moleskine papers bleed through and/or spread the ink. Some fashion-oriented people people seek better or more creative design or more attractive covers. Others just want numbered pages. Artists like notebooks which handle sketching, charcoals and paints. Others want a paper product that’s a bit easier on the environment. Many think Moleskines are too expensive. Others are looking for something even more exclusive (read ‘veddy, veddy posh’).
There are even alternatives to the new Moleskine/Evernote scannable pages.
The notebooks below feature fashion, economy, recycled products, and some unique Made in the USA ideas. We now have a section on tree-free notebooks. We also include some links on how to use 3×5 cards for productivity and, yes, even style.
Some International Favorites
Leuchtturm1917 – German Styling, Quality and Value
Leuchtturm1917 is a series of notebooks by the German paper company, Leuchtturm. They use 80 gsm (grams/square meter) weight, fountain-pen friendly paper for their Moleskine-killer notebook. In addition to the normal Moleskine features, Leuchtturm 1917 has numbered pages, a blank table of contents and labels for the front and spine of the journal. The last 8 sheets are perforated for easy removal and fit nicely into the folder on the inside of the back cover. You can also add an easily attachable pen loop (sold separately).
Leuchturm1917 styles include blank pages, dotted pages, grid, lined and, new to the lineup, Whitelines pages that are scannable using the Whitelines Link® technology. Whitelines (which sells its own line of notebooks) features light grey pages with, well, white lines. The lines are less noticeable when writing or reading, and they make it much easier to scan or copy the actual text – which also aids in handwriting recognition.
Leuchturm’s large-size Master notebooks use an even heavier 100gsm weight paper. If you visit the web site, also check out the Jottbook, planners and more. You can also download a PDF of their catalog.
With numbered pages, a TOC, tear-out pages, and an optional pen loop (which costs around $5), better quality paper, and the options for Whiteline pages, this is a very attractive alternative to Moleskines for about the same price.
Clairefontaine is a French paper manufacturer (part of the Exacompta Clairefontaine group) that owns its own paper mills and is renown for its fine quality papers. It offers a wide range of notebooks and paper products, including hard-bound, cloth-bound and wire-bound choices. Their Classic Notebook is a hard-bound version, with a pocket notebook about the same size as the Moleskine pocket notebook. They also have a new Maritime cover design, introduced in 2014. Clairefontaine also offers a vintage 1951 design in seven colors.
Clairefontaine also makes Quo Vadis and Rhodia products.
Quo Vadis – French Paper with a Tropical Habana Attitude
Quo Vadis also uses Clairefontaine paper in their high-end specialty organizers, calendars and notebooks. Their Habana notebooks feature 85 gsm ivory paper. Pricy, but maybe you can get somebody to treat you to one. The company also offers the Quo Vadis Blog which includes links to a wide variety of other blogs on notebooks, writing, journaling and similar topics.
QuoVadis also offers a Multimedia Enhanced Journal or ME Journal which comes printed with a unique, scannable QR code on each page. With a journal and a related iOS or Android app, you can scan the code and link a video, photo, or other media message with your page. You can use your phone to create a new media file or link or use an existing one. Then, in the future, you can see that multimedia file just by scanning the QR code again. Thus you can combine your notebook notes with other media to create a diary, travelogue, or class notes, among other ideas – a very different approach from Moleskine and other notebook media tools.
Rhodia – Quality Paper
Rhodia makes wonderful notebooks famous for the quality of the paper (also from Clairefontaine). Writing pads and books come in blank, lined, grid, and dot grid formats, with their signature orange and black covers, in a variety of sizes including a pocket size. They also offer planners, calendars, art papers, and other notebooks and accessories. Lefties might appreciate the top bound notebooks and “reverse” books.
The Rhodia Webnotebook A6 size is their equivalent for the pocket Moleskine with paper appropriate for fountain pen writing.
Rhodia has a Rhodia Drive Blog too, which offers blogroll links to explore other blogs about pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, ink, writing and more. Also see the complete Rhodia Size and Availability Chart.
Paperblanks – Gorgeous Covers
The prize for design goes to Paperblanks notebooks by Hartley & Marks, based in Vancouver, Canada, but only available from retailers, not direct. They offer journals, planners and address books, designed in utterly gorgeous styles, including a wide array of binding reproductions covering the history of printing and design. (They also take enough pride to describe the history of each design.) They also feature modern designs, too.
The company supports literacy projects around the world, offers scholarships for arts students, and assists a variety of environmental nonprofits (see the website). Their Endpaper Blog is educational, too. With their updated website, Paperblanks comes across as an impressively classy operation. If you like design, you owe yourself a look at the site.
Unique Notebooks from the USA
Field Notes – Getting Work Done, Blue Collar Style
Another uniquely American notebook source is Field Notes which features a series of rugged-looking, manly work notebooks. They are soft-covered, saddle-stitched notebooks with ruled, graph and plain papers. They offer a traditional pack of three pocket-size notebooks for $9.95, plus a variety of other seasonal collections. They also throw in extras: matching carpenter and regular pencils and click-pens. Plus, they feature more videos than any other notebook site I know of. These are notebooks with a workman’s attitude: A notebook is not supposed to be a lifestyle choice; you use it to get your work done. Got a problem with that?
Rite in the Rain – and Anywhere Else – Really!
While we’re talking rugged American-made products, if you work outdoors (and we mean WORK outdoors, in all weather, including: Washington rain forests, Florida wetlands, Louisiana swamps, Colorado mountaintops and snowy Alaskan tundra — or anywhere else short of an active Hawaiian volcano), you need Rite in the Rain notebooks and pens so you can write, well, actually, in the rain and just about any kind of weather. (They work on sunny days, too.)
Their catalog has grown with more page designs than any other notebook collection I’ve seen, plus career-specific notebooks for agriculture, surveying, sportsmen, livestock management, pesticide records, football refereeing, public safety and battle tactical, plus calendars and planners. And if you can’t find the style you need, design it and they’ll make it. You can also laser-print waterproof forms on their all-weather copier paper and keep your notebooks in outdoor-proof cases and binders. If you write or draw in all weather, you should take a look.
Scientific Notebooks – Protect Your Research
And, while we’re talking about unique, made-in-America notebooks, we shouldn’t overlook Scientific Notebooks, which makes a range of scientific, engineering and other research notebooks in which you document people, dates and signatures with the research, perfect for defending your research and patent claims. They also have a new line of Cleanroom Notebooks with synthetic bond paper for laboratory use. There are also student notebooks for $3 apiece or available by the case. They may not work in the rain, but they’re law court tested, which is rugged in another way.
C. R. Gibson – Markings “Think, Create, Record” bargain notes
Looking for a bargain-priced Moleskine-clone? Nashville-based C. R. Gibson offers a bargain notebook line called Markings with a prominent “Think, Create, Record” logo. Offered in three sizes, the pocket-sized version normally sells for $7, but is sometimes on sale for $4, probably the best bargain in this class. Worth stocking up if you find them on sale. These notebooks are well-bound and hold up well to daily use and pocket storage (better than the Moleskines, truth be told). The covers are Bonded Leather or Colorful Leatherette. The paper is 70 gsm weight and printed with soy inks. It’s good paper but not fountain pen grade, but your experience may vary with the pen or ink.
Ecosystem is an American manufacturer of high-quality notebooks constructed of recycled materials. The company appears to be OUT OF BUSINESS, but you might still be able to find some online on Amazon or other distributors. There is no easy-to-find info about what happened to the manufacturer on the web. If anybody has any info, please share.
Renaissance Art – Leatherwork & Style
Another specialized American resource is the Renaissance Art website , which not only sells notebooks, but beautiful leather covers, binders, covers, and slipcovers, some even for Moleskines. If you bring a paper notebook to meetings and want to stand out in the crowd of iPads, phones and other electronic devices, one of these covers might make them envy you. (Note, like most real leather products, these are not cheap.)
More American Notebooks
Stillman & Birn – Sketchbooks Galore
For just sketching and other art projects, look at Stillman & Birn, which offers books for artists in a variety of sizes and with different papers (smooth paper for pen and ink, rough for charcoal, or thick for watercolors. They have a several series of notebook sizes and weights (up to 270 gsm), too, in their Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta notebooks. (Remember your Greek alphabet?) They also offer loose (22” x 30”) art paper, too. Based in New Jersey, they are sold across the country, mostly in art supply stores.
Global Art handbook Journals – Sophisticated New York Attitude
Global Art Handbook Journals is another source of artist notebooks, based in Kansas City, MO, with distribution in the U.S. and Canada.
Cavallini – Attractive Notebooks and Stationary
San Francisco-based Cavallini offers a variety of notebooks with retro designs and other stationery, office and holiday products. They offer a City Guide Notebook series which includes city maps, but these should not be confused with the Moleskine’s city notebooks which feature a great deal more information. The only review I was able to find on the subject said Cavallini notebooks do not take fountain pen and wet inks well, but are fine for other kinds of pens. Check the site’s “Where to Buy at Retail” link to see where to buy them.
Mead Notebooks and Organizers
Mead (owned by Acco) is well-known in the U.S. as the maker of business and school supplies, including DayTimer and DayRunner notebook organizers, Five Star(r) school notebooks, and much more. Their closest product to Moleskine are the hard cover Black n’ Red notebooks, in both sewn and spiral binding, which feature a heavy 24-lb ruled paper. They do not carry a pocket size, but do have 5-5/8″ x 8-14″ and 8-1/4″x11-3/4″ sizes. (Yes, grammatically, it should be “Black ’n’ Red” with two apostrophes. Don’t know where the first apostrophe disappeared to.) Hardly a luxury brand, they are a solid business-brand and you can find their products (especially the organizers) in almost any business supply store in the U.S.
Chameleon like… If You Can Find It
The Chameleon like… website is a wholeseller that offers a variety of journals, binders, and other office products. Their Brites line of colorful hardbound 4″x6″ journals might be of interest to Moleskine users, as might many of their refillable notebooks, binders, pad holders and office products. (It would be nice if the site actually had some suggestions about where consumers could buy their products! I’d start with American business-supply stores and some big box stores.)
Word Notebooks – For Task Management
Word Notebooks are uniquely made specifically for to do lists, with a check circle on each line, to mark when the task is open, important, in progress or completed. To my knowledge, it’s also the only notebook manufacturer to include four different styles of camouflage in their cover designs. (There are solid-color and floral patterns, too.) They are soft covered, stitch-bound, 3.5″ x 5.5″ size with 48 pages of recycled paper, sold in packs of 3, currently for $9.99 US.
The California-based StudioOh! has a catalog of paper product online which include a variety of Deconstructed Journals with nice cover artwork.
More European Notebooks
Whitelines – Invisible Lines and an App to Digitize Your Notes
Another unique notebook manufacturer is the Swedish Whitelines. Their claim to fame is their writing paper which is light grey with white lines, much more unobtrusive than your regular blue or black lined papers. I think it’s a good idea. Leuchterm thought so, too, so they partnered with Whitelines, as mentioned above.
Much has been made recently of Moleskine’s partnership with Evernote to create a notebook and app that is easily scanned by an iPhone or iPad camera and sent to Evernote, the digital notebook. Whitelines actually had already beat Moleskine to the punch with its own Whitelines Links paper and app, which is actually more flexible.
In brief, using special Whitelines Links paper (which includes light squares in the corners and checkboxes on the bottom), you can use a special iPhone or iPad app to scan the page and send it to email, to your Camera Roll (Apple’s photo archive), or to DropBox or Evernote. You can check a box on the bottom of the page to choose which of these you want before scanning! The iPhone/iPad app (which I have not yet tested) uses Apple’s camera to find the four corners, unskews the view, crops the photo to the paper size, checks the light level, changes the background to white, and takes the photo, all automatically. You can download some PDF’s from Whitelines’ website to print Whitelines pages to test the app on your iPhone or iPad before purchasing a notebook. The notebooks are wirebound, so they lie flatter than Moleskine pages (better for scanning) but can be bent out of shape.
Archie Grand – Oddball Notebooks, Gifts and, Wait… Did You Really Say Condoms? (Oh, it’s Swedish.)
Archie Grand makes a variety of notebooks with oddball titles printed on the covers. The basic notebook size is a bit larger than the pocket Moleskine, so it’s probably not as pocket friendly. They also offer a unique, Jumbo 12″x16″ notebook. A high-end Swedish manufacturer, Archie Grand also offers scrapbooks and gifts and, uniquely for a stationery supply outlet, condoms in well-appointed wrapping.
Smythson – British Royal Quality and Prices
Smythson of Bond Street, a British manufacturer and distributor, offers their Featherweight lined notebooks with a unique 50 gsm light-blue fountain pen paper. (No, that’s not a typo – it’s real fountain pen paper with a 50 gsm weight!) It’s probably the lightest weight paper you can find made specifically for fountain pens, a true luxury item. For one review, see here. Smythson’s online catalog includes the highest-priced notebooks and accessories around.
If you really want to splurge, take a look at their Wilde Collection A4 Writing Folder with Crocodile Skin, 6 pockets, lambskin and nubuck lining, a pad of their featherweight paper, and a zipper closure, all for just $7,605. If that’s too much, you can get a Panama Notes Lambskin-covered notebook with the aforementioned Featherweight paper with gilt edge, for $80. (If somebody would like to send me a notebook present, this will do nicely.)
Monseiurnotebooks – Sketch, Write or Draw, Monseiur?
Monseiurnotebooks include regular 90 gsm paper; sketch 140 gsm paper; and Fountain pen papers at 100 gsm with ruled, plain, sketch, dot grid, fountain pen and watercolor variations. These are mostly distributed in the British Isles plus Australia, Germany and Turkey.
Piccadilly – a Notebook Circus
Piccadilly offers an extensive array of notebooks and journals, including their version of the Moleskines, called Essential Notebooks for retail and wholesale.
Fiorentina – Italian Luxury Leather and Papers
Fiorentina is a New York-based distributor of Italian notebooks made in Florence, Italy. They have showrooms in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and Florence.
Fiorentina’s paper is manufactured in Florence, but they appear to also represent various artisanal notebook makers around Italy. Their leather journals are high-end notebooks with old-world style leather bindings. They are available from several distributors but not from their online website.
Fiorentina also offers Ciak notebooks in a more modern style. Ciak’s 3.5” x 5″ notebooks (similar size to the Moleskine pocket notebooks) are pH neutral, acid and chlorine-free, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, and use recycled (pre-consumer) paper, with recycled leather, all made with clean energy.
Fiorentina also makes Cartesio (high-end, Italian-made pocket journals), a Mood brand, and represents Pinetti, Officina Libris and Natalizia. In addition to notebooks, they offer a range of office products, albums, specialty books, as well as other leather products.
Semikolon; Notebooks; Made in Germany
Semikolon; offers a range of notebooks in spiral and bound forms, designed in Germany. Their Il Creativo line of notebooks appear to be well-appointed with a flexible, coated cover, stitched papers, two ribbon bookmarks, a perpetual calendar, a 12-month calendar on the bottom of every page, 152 sheets/304 pages of cream colored paper, lined and perforated, plus 96 adhesive stickers. There are 3 sizes: Large 25.5cm x 19cm (ca. 10″ x 7.5″); Medium 19cm x 14cm (7.5″ x 5.5″); and Small 14cm x 10.5cm (5.5″ x 4.1″). Prices range from about US$12.50 for the large to about $9 for the small. They also have a series of cloth-bound travel diaries which also include a pen holder and a map of time zones. In September, 2014, Leuchtturm bought Semikolon.
Peter Pauper – Not Poor in Options
Peter Pauper Press has been in the books, journals and gifts biz since 1928. They have a wide variety of colorfully designed notebooks. Their Essentials Notebooks are their answer to Moleskine, featuring a hardcover, 192 pages, elastic band closure, ribbon notebook, and a back-cover pocket. It’s difference is that it comes in A5 and A6 sizes (the latter is a bit wider than a Moleskine pocket-size notebook, so it probably would not fit well in a pants pocket, but the wider size would be good for writing. They also claim that their paper is 25% heavier than Moleskine paper! They come in ruled, blank, and grid-lined papers. Their web-site shines with a wide selection of designs and covers, including hard-bound, real leather covers, faux leather covers, sketchbooks, collegiate logo covers and much more, including stationery, calendars, organizers, and kids supplies. Worth a look.
People looking for alternatives to the Moleskine City notebooks (which, we admit, look pretty cool), might look at teNeues’s City CoolNotes which are a bound notebook including 20 street maps and public transport info, and visitor info along with 130 blank and lined pages. Currently they are only available for London, Berlin, New York City, and Paris (which is a start). teNeues also has a useful reporter-style CoolNotes Flip Pads, with 192 pages each, hard-bound, with the lower pages lined and the upper pages blank. It’s in a 3-4/5″ x 5-7/10″ size. Their regular CoolNotes are Moleskine equivalents, with the small being the equivalent of a pocket notebook, plus Medium and XL sizes. A British publisher, see teNeues to look around.
Another quality German-made product is the Brunnen Kompagnon, which traditionally was a black-covered Moleskine-styled book with one basic difference: a loop to hold your pen. Recently they appear to have expanded to an assortment of bright covers and page-edge colors with matching ribbons. You can get lined, blank or grid paper. The notebooks use 80 gsm weight paper. If you want the pocket-size notebooks, get the “klein” (small) size if you can find it. The Brunnen website only offers A4, A5 and A6 sizes. Mostly available in Europe (Germany and England, particularly), you can also order them online through Amazon.
Brandbook.de offers a wide array of stylish nuuna notebooks with distributors in Germany, France, Spain, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal, Scandinavia, and the Phillipines. Some are cloth-covered or hard-bound, and they sound like they may be a step up from Moleskine in quality.
Istanbul-Made Notebooks, from California – with Luxury Pencils
Palomino, the California company that makes the Palomino and Blackwing brands of luxury pencils, now has several sets of notebooks to match. They sell the Fabio Ricci line of hard-cover notebooks made in Istanbul. with 160 pages of acid-free, 80 gsm weight paper. They also have a ForestChoice Flex notebook line, and a hard-bound Palomino Luxury notebook with 160 pages of 90 gsm paper (also made in Turkey), which should work with pencils and a wide variety of pens.
Miquelreus – Paper Variety from Barcelona
Miquelreus, based in Barcelona since 1839, is a merchant of notebooks and other products for school, business, and fashionable accessories, now marketed world-wide. Among the Moleskine alternatives are Premium Flexible Journals (in Pocket, Small and Medium sizes, in ranges of 100 to 600 pages), Easy-Find Flexible Journals, Tech Flexible Journals, Bound Plain Paper Journals, Design Boardbound Notebooks, Leather-Look Journals, plus hundreds of wirebound notebooks of varied design.
PaperThinks – Recycled Paper and Leather Covers
An ecologically minded product line, PaperThinks, comes from Hong Kong and features 100% recycled leather covers and 50% recycled content paper. Their paper line includes plain and lined notebooks, blank sketchbooks, as well as planners and address books. Their equivalent to the Moleskine pocket notebook is the Pocket 3.5” x 5” Ruled or Blank notebook with a generous 256 pages, sewn binding, ribbon bookmark, expandable back pocket (but no elastic strap) in any of 24 cover colors for the leather cover for $12.95. You can also find a variety of vendors to explore on the paperthinks.com website.
Daycraft – Worldwide, from Hong Kong
Daycraft notebooks are designed in Hong Kong and made in China, not sold in US. They offer very clever designs, including a Cookie Bookie line of cookie-looking notebooks, Retro Sketchbooks (with cover designs imitating cassette tapes, rotary phone dials, and vinyl records) and an even quirkier D-sign series for “dangerous ideas.” If you are a klutz who spills coffee regularly, you might like their Expresso series of pre-stained notebook covers.
Daycraft’s high-end Signature series features a cream-colored 100 gsm paper. Their Signature Gutenberg series looks lovely in my browser. All-in-all, it’s one of the most creative collections of notebook designs anywhere. Distributors are located mostly in Asian countries, and sold in Hong Kong, China, Australia, Japan and Korea. (You can order them from their Hong Kong, Australian and UK sites, and Amazon carries part of the line.) On the Hong Kong website, note that the prices are in Hong Kong dollars. Currently, $1HK is about 13 cents US, which reduces the sticker shock considerably.
Apica Notebooks are made in Japan and are noted for the quality of paper (86.5 gsm, acid-free, and very smooth (some reviewers compare it to the upscale Clairefontaine paper) with soft paper vellum covers. They come in A6 (approx. 4″x5.75″), A5 (5.8″x8.25″), B5 (6.9″x9.85″) and a few other sizes, in two series: CD and Basic. Most have lined pages, but there are also plain pages and graph page notebooks.
The CD style comes with a retro-style title and border on the cover with room to identify your notebook. Oddly, the Basics series have more pages than the others. Price ranges $1.80 for the smallest size for a single notebook to $8.80 for the largest Basics notebook, but the number of pages varies between the sizes.
With the soft covers, the Apica notebooks are not pocket notebooks (except for shirt pockets), but work with a pretty wide range of fountain pens and inks. That’s why a number of pen dealers now offer these notebooks, as well as the usual paper suppliers. Check out the reviews on The Pen Addict and Ink Nouveau.
Kokuyo’s paper products range from stationary, office paper, and notebooks, Originally a Japanese company, they bought paper and book manufacture companies in China, India, Thailand and Vietnam, with additional sales in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Their Campus notebooks offer a glued-edge paper and a spiral bound. These appear to be more of a school notebook with high quality paper. The Pen Addict has a review.
Kokuyo also sells traditional Survey Field Notebooks with dirt and water resistant paper, hard covers in a pocket size. Probably only available in Japan.
Banditapple Carnet Notebooks
Banditapple Carnet Notebooks (note, website is in Vietnamese), is a Vietnamese notebook, sold in 3 sizes, with blank, graph or lined pages. According to reviews, the paper is of superb quality for fountain pens and other inks (but not a watercolor paper). See a review on Pens Paper Inks…Whatever.
MUJI Bargain Notebooks
MUJI offers a five-pack of fairly plain, recycled writing notebooks in B5 size (6.9 x 9.8″) for just $3.95 a set. Apparently each notebook has 30 sheets. (It’s not spelled out if this is 60 pages or 30.) According to Sean Flannagan of the DeepLinking blog, MUJI stands for Mujirushi Ryohin, or “brandless quality goods,” so it’s pretty hard to figure out who makes the paper or where it comes from. Some writers love this bargain-priced paper for their fountain pens, others find it bleeds a bit with some inks.
Unique and One-of-a-Kind
In the category of “Things I Never Asked For” comes the Claustrophobic Notebook with wire binding on both sides, forcing you to rip open the cover and pages on one side (or both) to use them. Very Dada-esque.
Crayola Colors for Children
The Crayola Wild Notes Notebook comes with a special pen that allows a child to draw or write in changing colors on the page. See reviews on the Mom Confessionals website and in the Los Angeles Times. It comes with 1 or 2 subject notebooks with white or black paper, special pen included. There are, apparently, Wild Notes Sticky Notes as well. Reportedly, some adults like them, too.
Fans of Harry Potter might like CelesteFrittata‘s bewitching notebooks, made from recycled paper with hard covers that are distressed to to look like old, roughly-used books. They come with titles such as, “Transfigurations,” “Potions,” or “Spells and Charms.” From Italy, they are available online from Etsy. Celestefritata appears to translate as Heavenly Fritata or Fried Heaven. They are a bit pricy at $25.69 a book, and the hard cover probably is too large for pocket storage. A very small operation, last time I checked online, the owner (and the website) was on vacation!
Ogami Stone Paper – Without Wood or Vegetation
Ogami Stone Paper has just started offering notebooks with paper made with calcium carbonite and resin – no wood pulp or other vegetable material – making the “paper” water, grease and oil proof. The site offers a variety of notebooks, but not very much explanation of what it’s constructed of. As of 8/8/2017, the website no longer exists and it appears the company may be out of business.
PooPoo Paper – Animal-Assisted Paper Making
Another unique alternative paper source comes from PoopooPaper, which recycles elephant, cow, horse, moose, and panda excrement to make paper. Apparently these animals eat an extremely high-fiber diet which is badly digested, allowing it to be recycled into paper, with the animals playing their part in breaking down the vegetable fibers. Rather than engaging in some low-brow humor about the products, we’ll just suggest you go to the site and learn more about the company and its unique history.
Lama Li – Nepalese Non-Wood Fiber Notebooks and Covers
Lama Li Pocket Hemp Notebooks are made in Nepal. The paper comes from the bark of the “Lokta” bush and the wrap-around covers are made with hemp with a ribbon-tie closure. Each book has 120 pages at 4.75″ x 6.25″. They are pricy at $23.95 US on at least one site. There doesn’t appear to be a manufacturer’s website, but the books are available at a variety of pen and paper websites, including European Paper as well as the ubiquitous Amazon.com.
Another alternative source of tree-free paper is the leftover part of sugarcane (after the sugar is extracted), called bagasse. Staples, for one, sells sugarcane copier paper and calendar / organizer notebooks, but I haven’t seen notebooks for a while. Sugarcane waste is also used as a substitute for foam plastic plates and take-out containers, so perhaps that is more profitable than notebooks. The sugarcane paper notebooks I found a couple of years back seemed to work surprisingly well with fountain pens. Keep an eye out for it. (I also recently saw a reference to paper using both sugarcane and bamboo.)
EcoPaper – Tropical Agricultural By-product Paper
Another alternative paper source is EcoPaper which promotes its line of paper made from agricultural waste products, including fibers from banana, coffee, hemp, mango, lemon, banana and “other exotic tropical agro-industrial wastes.” Some are sold under the Banana™ brand. The EcoPaper website offers several notebooks for sale, but they appear to be closer to school paper notebooks, not high-end products. If you’ve tried any of them, please let us know.
3×5 Card Systems
These are not notebooks at all, and aesthetically are the opposite of some of the products listed above. But if you like old-fashioned 3×5 inch cards (and there are a lot of Getting Things Done enthusiasts who incorporate them into their productivity system), there are a few online sites you should check out:
The Hipster PDA is more a concept than a product – follow the link to read about creating your own. (It’s not hard.) Then check out the links to see how to use them as productivity aids.
For a high-end concept, check out Levenger Corporation’s Pocket Briefcases, to be used with 3×5 cards and small notebooks. Some models include room for cell phones and passports. Both rugged and fashionable.
Also, Renaissance Art (see above) has several leather covered, ringed folios for notecards, too, for 3×5 and 4×6 cards.
Using a rubber band, you can always include a small stack of 3×5 cards in the back of your Moleskine-like notebook, too. (I find the back envelope is a little too snug for them.)
A Few American Online Vendors
European Paper has one of the widest collections of notebooks and journals from around the world. I discovered a good number of the above notebook brands by looking at their website. You wouldn’t know it from the name, but they are located in beautiful Boulder, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains.
Do You LoveNotebooks.com?
Love Notebooks offers a good range of high quality notebooks. A great place to compare prices and look at photo samples. Geographically, they are located in Portland, Oregon.
Exaclair USA features their own line of fine paper notebooks, including Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Quo Vadis, and Exacompta notebooks, plus many more paper products.
Journaling Arts also features fine notebooks and paper supplies.
Obviously, there are many other vendors around the world, including many of the sites listed throughout this post. Many fountain pen specialists also are featuring fine paper notebooks along with their pens. If nothing else works, there’s always Amazon.com, too, although we have a place in our hearts for smaller, specialized retailers.
Did we miss your favorite notebook? Tell us about it in the comments below.
For more about using Moleskine and other paper notebooks, see our posts, including:
Taming the Wild Moleskine, Parts 1, 2, & 3
This post was earlier published on Sunday, January 29, 2012 on the original Frugal Guidance blog and updated in December, 2012 on Frugal Guidance 2. This version was expanded and updated in August, 2014. A few updates were made on August 8, 2017, mostly to reflect out of business links. Watch for a major update before the end of 2017.
Notebook Still Life by Andrew Brandt. Included photo book (with portrait) is Native Soil, photography by Jack Spencer, published by Louisiana State University Press
Leuchtturm1917 logo and notebooks photo is from leuchterm.com.
The Clairefontaine Notebooks image is from the Exaclair – Clairefontaine website.
The Rhodia Notebooks image is from the Rhodia Drive website.
The Paperblanks notebook cover designs are from Paperblanks.com.
The Ecosystem Build Your Notebook Tool image is from the Ecosystem website.
Field Notes photo is from the Fieldnotes website.
The Whitelines Notebook and App is from Whitelines.se.
The Archie Grand notebook stack is from their website.
The colorful Paperthinks collectio is from paperthinks.us.
The delicious Daycraft Cookie Bookies are from daycraft.co.
The Claustrophobic Notebook image is from atelierexercices.com.
The Ogami Stone Paper logo is from www.ogamicollection.com.
The tasteful Poopoo Paper image is from new.poopoopaper.com.
The Lama Li Notebook image is from European Paper.
PaperThinks photo is from their website.