hand*book journal co. – BETTER Than Moleskines

The people who market the current line of Moleskine products have done a fabulous job. They’ve turned a rather mediocre product into something with a cult following. The hype they publish about VanGogh, Picasso, Hemmingway and Chatwin using their notebooks is pure mythology. Those people used notebooks of a bygone era, notebooks that were published by a firm that failed and went out of business long ago. Today’s Moleskines are similar in name only. Whoever bought the brand name bought the legend, and the myth too. Fabulous marketing!

I have a couple of Moleskines and use them for sketching, but nothing more serious. The standard notebooks, the ones that have a manila or yellowish paper are OK for pencils and some pens. Some of the pens I favor don’t work well with them, and as others in a workshop have noted, they’re really not good at all for water media. Most water media makes the pages buckle too much and gets so absorbed that the colors turn out as pale pastel images of what they should be. I like the Moleskine watercolor books better. They have WHITE paper in them and it works well for most of the media I use.

…and as we have heard recently, new Moleskine notebooks from China have a tint and paper quality that many people don’t like.

hand-bookThere is a BETTER Alternative. At least in my opinion. A new firm, based in Kansas City Mo., has popped up recently. Their notebooks, “hand*book journal co.” have many features similar to Moleskine notebooks, but far superior paper. I find the paper for more suitable for the media I use: pencil, pen and ink, colored pencils with and without water, and watercolor. (I haven’t tried them with acrylics, gauche, or other media.) First, the paper is not as yellow. It is called “buff,” what I would label as ivory. It has good tooth for pencils, but not so much as to be difficult with pens. It accepts light water application and, best of all, water based media stays rich and vibrant instead of fading away. I’ve found that they also handle erasures well. Some fairly aggressive scrubbing with a plastic eraser failed to damage the surface.

Click the image at the right to see my test page, actually the back page of a landscape size regular notebook. Included is part of the envelope inside the back cover.

The covers are fabric, available in several colors. There have the usual features: a ribbon place mark, an elastic band, and a clear plastic pocked inside the back cover. They are labeled as acid free. BTW, these are made in India. Here’s hoping they don’t show up someday with a green tint like that batch of Moleskines.

Here are some other opinions:
http://ducly.wordpress.com/2007/03/30/handbook-journal-co/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/snowangels/2349323389/
http://ymzalawalks.wordpress.com/2008/08/14/hand-book-journal/

Here are some places to buy: Amazon and Dick Blick

Oh yeah, they’re also cheaper than Moleskines.


4 Responses to “hand*book journal co. – BETTER Than Moleskines”

  1. Anne Says:

    Hi Bob
    I am doing the same class (love your journal – with Jessica) and I would like to say I really appreciate your comments. So please remember there are some that like to know all the information at any given time.
    Enjoy yourself.
    Anne

  2. Notebook Stories Says:

    I posted a comparative review of 4 sketchbooks, including HandBook.

  3. Mike Says:

    Would these notebooks be suitable for writing as opposed to drawing perhaps with a standard ball point pen?

  4. Melissa Says:

    I use this as my “Doodle Journal” for the program I run. I love the paper! I use pastels daily and the paper takes them beautifully! Only problem is I have to skip a page because it bleeds when the pages come together. But, it’s worth it! LOVE them!