Book Block Original – Custom Notebook Review

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Notebooks are not something that are hard to find. There’s such a massive variety of brands and products around these days, that finding a notebook that suits your needs isn’t something that’s particularly difficult. However, there are those times when you want something custom, something unique; either to give as a gift, or keep for yourself.

Enter Book Block. They make custom notebooks for you, and ship them to your door. Whilst their normal Book Block service is primarily aimed at large-scale orders (50+), the Original service allows you to order one off notebooks as you like. Their online configurator lets you upload an image (or design one using their tool), choose your paper type, elastic and ribbon colours, and then have it all made up and shipped out to you anywhere in the world (currently with free shipping).

The Notebook

First impressions are largely positive. I supplied a high-resolution photo I’d taken recently on a trip to the Dandenong National Park, and the results are good – print is crisp, colours are vibrant, and the cover itself is nice and smooth. The material is a matte paper/plastic of some sort, but is far superior to the plastic cover of, say, a regular Moleskine, and compares more with the quality you’d find on a Rhodia Webnotebook. It feels nice in the hand, like a high quality notebook should.

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The paper inside bears a similar logo – yes, this is Monsieur Notebook paper. MN is a sister company of Book Block, and if you read both of my reviews of the MN you’ll know I consider it to be among the best. So, you have a high quality, printed Book Block outer cover, with equal quality paper on the inside. Sounds like a recipe for success.

The elastic is perhaps a little loose for my tastes; I’ll have to see how it goes after a while, but it does keep the notebook shut, which is good. The ribbon bookmark is sturdy, feels nice, and doesn’t fray at the end like some of the ones on my other notebooks do. Unlike many other notebooks in a similar form factor, there’s no pocket in the back cover. I never use it anyway, but I thought I’d mention it just in case.

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In Use

I’ve been using the notebook as my primary for the past couple of weeks, and it’s a top performer. You can pick up dot-grid, ruled, or blank paper (“sketch” or normal) with each being 90gsm or more – great for fountain pens. Whilst a lot of my at-work writing and note-taking is done on an iPad Pro, I very much enjoyed going back to the experience of writing in a notebook I designed.

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The reverse - a bit of showthrough, but only the Sharpie exhibited bleedthrough, with a couple of specks on the other page.

The reverse – a bit of showthrough, but only the Sharpie exhibited bleedthrough, with a couple of specks on the other page.

Fountain pens feel smooth as long as you use a relatively wide nib. I used my EF vanishing point, and the tooth was much more noticeable than the satin-feeling Rhodia paper, to the point of not being a nice experience. The EF is a needlepoint, so anything wider than that should be fine!

I would say that on a scale from 1 to Rhodia, it’s a 7. Rhodia performs just a little bit better than the Book Block paper, but wouldn’t sway my decision away from purchasing the Book Block. There was a tiny bit of feathering, I don’t think Diamine Steel Blue agrees with this paper.

The book sits very flat, there’s almost no resistance in the pages – this is excellent. In fact, I think this is one of the best notebooks I’ve used in this regard. Some pages do rise up when the notebook is placed flat, but cracking the spine (ie opening the book beyond flat) fixes this in seconds, making it a joy to use!

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One negative I should mention is that some of the pages have a weird, defined crease in them towards the spine (see below) that was present when I received the notebook. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but they do make these pages quite difficult to use. Maybe it was just a one-off in my book, but it is something to look out for.

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Conclusion

You can buy other notebooks that are cheaper, better, bigger, whatever, but I can’t really think of another service off the top of my head that offers one-off, custom notebooks, let alone one that does it with this level of quality.

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And basically, that’s the real point of the Book Block. Other notebooks don’t have covers that display something you’ve designed, something that you can show off, and something that you know nobody else will have. Despite a couple of fairly minor niggles, this is a solid purchase, and something I think anyone would enjoy having. Pick one up as a gift for a friend and you have something that that will remind them of you every time they write in it – it’s pretty cool, and priced well. One notebook, shipped anywhere in the world (for free) is 18 euros ($27 aud, $20.50 usd, 14 pounds), which is a fairly standard price for a non-customised notebook, let alone something you’ve designed yourself. Awesome.

Make your own custom Book Block Notebook here

Thanks to Book Block for providing the product for review.