5 July 2010

A Notebook Review

My favourite time of year is those days as Summer slowly turns to Autumn. The days are still warm, but the evenings become gradually darker and you can almost smell the roasted chestnuts and warm stews to come. The fringes of trees and shrubbery burn brightly in golden browns, deep crimsons and vibrant oranges. The look of the landscape also changes as the intense Summer sunlight is punctuated by grey clouds with the promise of wind and rain. The celebrations of the Harvest, of the plenty before the darkness of Winter, is wired almost biologically into us.

It is also the time of year when the new School year begins. As a child the return of School was always met with anticipation and joy. It was rather contradictory in all honesty, as for me it signaled a freedom and excitement beyond the confines and boredom of Summer at home. The upcoming new School year filled me with a tentative hope, of new classes, new routines, growing up, and perhaps even new friends. It signaled the start of something new, and change is always exciting.

What I enjoyed the most in anticipation of the new School year was the preparation for it. In particular it was stationery shopping that I looked forward to each year. By the start of Summer my fountain pen was invariably chipped or broken, my pencil case grotty and torn, my rubber misshapen, and my ruler snapped at some point, held precariously together by tape. There was an immense sense of pleasure to be found in buying new pens, pencils, and most importantly that new pencil case. Lining up pens and pencils at home before gently placing them within the new pencil case was oddly enjoyable, but I think it is perhaps something all children of a certain kind enjoy.

Of course the one thing I had no control over in those early years was what I would actually be using that new fountain pen on. Exercise books were handed out at the beginning of each new subject class, and it was important to write your name as neatly as possible on the front, as that would be the front you would be using for the rest of the year (unless of course you filled the book and could receive a second). In that way the presentation of your book was almost a presentation of yourself, and in that respect I suppose for me it shared a link to dress and self presentation on the whole.

Yet with age comes more freedom, and one of those freedoms where academia was concerned, was the ability to choose your own paper and notebooks. As such I thought I would review a notepad that has rather taken my fancy as of late. I may write up a review of my much loved Muji Craft lined notebooks, or the Rhodia notepads, in the future. Today however, I would like to direct your attention to the Asda Executive Notebook.

Oh yes, Asda.

Asda Executive Notebooks
(Plain or Squared)
A4 - £4
A5 - £3
A6 - £2
Single back pocket on the A6 version
Triple back pocket on the A5 version

Coming in either plain or squared paper, I tend to choose the squared option as it is far better suited to my needs. The light grey 5mm squares are printed on a creamy and smooth paper, which is deceptively thick (see the writing test later on). The notebooks consist of eighty pages woven to the spine. In an earlier iteration these notepads featured perforated pages, however I have yet to come across such an example in person. As I do not tend to require the ability to remove pages from my notebooks this is not a particularly bad thing, however a reasonably clean tear can be achieved if needed.

Glue ended ribbon marker

The most important factor for me is always the quality of the paper. As a fountain pen user the traditional Moleskine leaves me infuriated and perplexed. Bleeding and feathering usually leads to me throwing (well...gently placing) Moleskines into a corner to be used only with biros and pencils. Thankfully these notebooks use a delightfully smooth 90-100gsm paper. Yes, each page really is that thick! Writing with a fountain pen using black ink I do not experience any bleed through. The actual writing experience is smooth and ink dries quickly, meaning that the notebook would be well suited to those left-handers who curl their hands around when writing. Even when using the reverse side of the nib, as I often tend to, the experience is far from scratchy.

The all-important writing test
(please do excuse the slightly messy writing)
No noticeable bleeding except for the Sharpie

As you can see, ink distribution is clean with no noticeable feathering or blotting. The only exception is the Sharpie, which also bleeds through the page. However if you tend to write in notepads using only a Sharpie...well there is no helping some people. For the majority of users bleed through is a non-issue, which I wish I could say about Moleskines.

The notebooks are bound in a soft leather imitation, which although often not fully glued down (you can notice slight puffing at the corners of certain versions) is still nice and attractive. The elastic is decent, and to my touch is actually thicker than the Moleskine elastic. Overall the notebooks are thicker than your average Moleskine, as not only are the covers thicker (and softer), but the quality of the paper adds considerably to the bulk. For me however the thickness has never been an issue, and indeed I invite the higher quality of the paper.

With such an obscenely low price (they really do all cost under £5, with the pocket version costing a mere £2!) I think it is hard to go wrong with these. Although they may be thicker and the construction quality a touch under the Moleskine, the quality of the paper and the notebook as a whole is certainly better. Do they beat the Muji Craft notebooks? In paper quality alone, yes, however the Muji Craft notebooks are about more than just the paper.

(For those of you reading this and feeling slightly confuzzled, fashion-related posts are coming)

Currently playing: Maybe (Hindi Version) - Jay Sean



  1. I've got a lot of note books !
    I adore !

  2. Asda fauxskine? Really? Lets all take a step back, go read http://scription.typepad.com/
    and quietly contemplate that for a moment.
    Yes, some of us are horrible, horrible stationary snobs!

  3. Oh my God, you have just tapped into my considerable fetish for stationery, and notebooks in particular!! I bought a bunch of moleskines a few weeks ago, but haven't tried them with my fountain pen :( But I will definitely be looking these out - the price is much more to my liking!! Can you get them online?

  4. These notebooks are oh-so gorgeous. Delightful!

  5. You have such neat handwriting!!

  6. Now that is one beautiful notebook. I'll be keeping that in mind when I got shopping :)

  7. yessss, i love anyone who appreciates the need for a decent notebook! x

  8. A wonderful and very useful review. I admire your handwriting and the tidiness of your presentation, in fact, I'm in awe as someone with spidery, illegible, slanted writing who constantly crosses-out.

    I do love Moleskines (more particularly, a fabulous week-to-view diary which has a page for notes -lists!- on the right). But I am a (fine) ballpoint pen user (much as I love cartridge pens my writing looks terrible when using them). But I need at least 4/5 notebooks on the go at one time so I shall definitely check these out!

  9. you have such beautiful handwriting.

  10. notebooks are so great!

  11. These are just so beautiful.

  12. You have really nice handwriting. I actually cannot get over it.

  13. new school supplies is indeed one of the things i miss most about class. office supplies just don't carry that magic :)
    xo s

  14. Oh such a well written post!!!
    I'm with you with those days as Summer slowly turns to Autumn... so special days...
    You brought me back so many memories... (no these aren't tears, just a bug in my eyes..)

    These notebooks are gorgeous and what a nice handwriting you have. Mine is awful after I've broken my wrist in my accident.

    Loved this post.


  15. wow surprised they are from asda!

  16. That IS a gorgeous notebook...and you're handwriting is fabulous too!

  17. Syed...I love this because I had the very same feelings of excitement buying new books and stationary just before term started. I also would do handwriting tests with my favourite pens too, haha!! You have beautiful handwriting too.

  18. soo cool!


  19. love your handwriting, lol. i'm gonna spend a couple of hours to practice emulating it now, xx.


  20. You do have such gorgeous handwriting! Your notebook is eons more neatly organized than mine. This was a very cool post as I've never read a review on notebooks, but as a bit of a lover of good stationery myself, I do appreciate!

  21. I really enjoyed the introduction. There is nothing like starting a school year with brand new equipment and finishing it with the equipment in pieces.

  22. I am obsessed with stationary and notebooks. I am a bit of a Moleskin freak, but these look just as good. And they are so much cheaper!

    I just discovered your bloag and I love it.
    Christina x

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