Notebook review - Book Block Original

Have you ever wanted a notebook that was completely unique to you?  Are you a large company that can afford to order dozens of these things?  If your answers were "YES!" and then "No..." then your time has come.  Book Block Original is a service that allows you create one-off custom notebooks.  You can actually find some more details about the process here, on the page from their Kickstarter.

Things I like:

  • Finally we can get customized notebooks on a small scale!  These things were formerly reserved for companies willing to place orders in the hundreds, but no more!  For a very reasonable price ($18 US), you can get an A5 hardcover book with whatever you want printed on the cover.
  • The notebooks feel nice.  The cover is some sort of "soft touch" paper and there is no tactile difference on different parts of the design.  The colors are saturated and crisp and there is a fairly good rainbow available for the ribbon and elastic so that you can match it all up.  The lines on the design are crisp and clear, but as you can see my cover is pretty basic so I can't speak to incredibly detailed photographs.
  • The paper is decent.  It can handle porous point pens, gel pens, and fountain pens on the fine end of the spectrum.  Pencils softer than HB are also great performers as the paper has just a bit of tooth so they don't smear much.  But this is not a super glossy, ink-resistant paper so triple-B nibs just won't work.  For most people, this paper will be as luxurious as they could ever want.
    • Note - the paper used in these books is from Monsieur and it is my first time using paper from that company. 

Pen testing, on the front side of the sheet.  The big blob of grey at the bottom is from a waterbrush.

The back of the testing page.  

Things I don't like:

  • This is 100% on me, but I am a little bummed that I did not get to experience the full order process.  At the time I was contacted by the lovely folks at BBO, I was still struggling to keep my head above water at my new job and I did not have time to come up with a super awesome cover design.  So I had them pick a design for me and I do quite like the result.
    I have poked around on the website and the ordering process does not seem like it could be simpler.  You just upload your artwork, size and position it, and then pick your elastic and ribbon cover and paper ruling.  (And then pay, of course, the difficulty of which depends on where you keep your credit cards.)


I really like that now regular people like you and I can order a well-made custom notebook.  And we don't have to jump through a bunch of hoops or sell an organ for one.  As an everyday notebook or even an extra special bullet journal, I don't think BBO is a bad choice at all.  Here's some other ideas I just came up with for how to use a customized notebook:

  • for a once-in-a-lifetime trip
  • as a journal for a special time in your life, like a pregnancy or first year of college or wedding planning
  • to help promote a small business 
  • for a long term learning project

I really enjoy minimal branding on products, and it's nice to have it color coordinated with my design.

This product was sent to me free of charge to try out.  All opinions above are my own and you are free to disagree with them if you like.  I am not being additionally compensated in any way for this review.

Stay tuned...

Definitely just ordered a passport-size Midori because I wanted something smaller for a vacation at the end of this month. I'm going to try to record a quick video when it arrives showing more detail of my setup and how it is being miniaturized. 

April in the Midori Travelers Notebook

For the past month, I have been using a standard Midori as my daily carry notebook.  Other than a few shopping lists, everything has gone into the Midori.  My weekly schedule, tasks, blog post drafts (including this one!) - it's all wrapped up in a well-worn piece of leather.  This is not my first dance with the Midori, but there are some elements of my current usage that are really making it work for me.


The aesthetics
This is what always brings me back to the MTN.  The look is so Indiana Jones and my life is so not.  But I can pretend it is when I am toting around a leather notebook.  I also really like the dimensions of the standard Midori.  The tall, narrow format does not work for everyone but it fits my brain perfectly.

No accessories
I know that some users love to deck out their MTN with pockets and card holders.  For me, more is just too much.  I don't need my notebook to be my wallet and I try to keep extra bits and bobs out as well.  There is not even a bookmark in my cover because little bits of string hanging out would be too distracting.

Current notebooks (both Fabriano A5 cut down to 4.25" wide)

A junk notebook
I have exactly two notebooks in my Midori.  The one in front is the one that I keep "nice" for the sake of archival posterity.  The other is a madhouse and that is what keeps the front book pretty.  This junk notebook is where I test new pens, color/create endless owl doodles, scribble notes during presentations, etc.  As soon as something is no longer relevant I cross it out with a highlighter pencil so I can flip through and quickly see what is still active.

A page in my junk notebook that has no active material

I really do draw a lot of owls.  They aren't all winners

This is not specific to the MTN, but it is really working for me and thus worth mentioning.
I used to be a prolific journaler but now life gets in the way of that.  But I still want to be able to look back and see what I did in a particular week.  So I have started to fill my weekly planner pages with little bullet points about my day.  The limited space absolves me from not giving too much detail so all I need to capture is the big picture.  At this point in my life it is a method that works well and the activation energy required to do it is so low that I rarely miss days.

A completed week

This week so far