teNeues CoolNotes, a Moleskine Alternative06/07/2010
Are you fond of the Moleskine form? If so, then teNeues has an alternative for you called CoolNotes. The company sent the larger version for review and it certainly has some features that distinguish it from the Moleskine. Color and size are but two of the differences.
Overall dimensions are 6 1/4″ x 8 5/8″ while the page size is 6″ x 8.5″ with 192 pages total. So that makes it larger than a Moleskine but with fewer sheets. While I don’t know the paper weight for CoolNotes, to the hand it feels very much like a Mole. There is a sleeve in the back for bits of paper but no easily removed perforated pages.
The paper is cream colored and indistinguishable from Moleskine. However, the CoolNotes journal has unobtrusive gray dotted lines printed only on the right facing page. If you want to write on the back of a sheet, those faint lines are barely visible on what is effectively a blank page.
The big difference is the line spacing. At 9.5 mm there is a lot of room for even the boldest handwriting. Whip out your fat italic nib, the one that overwhelms that puny 6 mm spacing in a Moleskine, and enjoy filling pages with ease.
For those of you keeping track, the pages are sewn and lay quite flat. Despite the new book aroma, the journal arrived with a broken-in feeling that instantly made it seem like an old friend.
CoolNotes come in a variety of colors so there is nothing shy about it. I have the Black Argyle Orange which is lined with a lively take on the old pattern making pink, orange and red actually look good together. The light green cover is my favorite especially for spring or summer writing but the brown might tempt me as well.
Form factor aside, CoolNotes is an odd journal in some ways. Fountain pen ink feathers slightly though that is surely ink and pen dependent. It is not unlike what I have experienced in a Moleskine with tiny, spidery lines of ink traveling along the occasional paper fiber. In fact some pen and ink duos performed better on the CoolNotes paper. Other writing tools worked very well on my sample page. However, nearly every pen I tested produced a distinct enough image on the back of a page that I could easily read my writing. Less saturated or pale fountain pen inks and non-fountain pens performed best.
Not everyone will care about this issue especially if there is no need to read what is written at some later date. In a way the show-through reminded me of reading a vintage journal, the sort with faded purple ink. Still a wet broad nib may deposit too much ink for your comfort level.
Bleed-through even if only an occasional dot is far more of a deterrent for me. Only three of eighteen ink samples showed so much as a hint of those marks in the CoolNotes journal. That is less often than my Moleskine test journal and a point in favor of the newcomer.
The lack of printed lines on the backs of pages might suggest they aren’t for writing but I did find them useful for line work and diagrams. That puts a drawing on the left side with written entries on the right and allows for interesting possibilities for both the inveterate doodler and the artist alike. This is my favorite use for the CoolNotes. A page of notes next to a sketch done with soft colored pencils or a mechanical pencil with a 0.5 mm 2B lead sounds just about right.
While I am not sold on the teNeues CoolNotes journal for all fountain pens and inks, it can certainly work well with fine nibs. I suspect my Parker ’51’ Aero would be excellent. My Lamy Safari custom italic with Montblanc Racing Green performed well except for a small amount of that spidery feathering common to Moleskine paper. I found it quite tolerable but it might deter someone who is very picky about such things.
The sheer size of the large journal and generous line-spacing make it worthy of consideration. For fine point gel pens and assorted other instruments, a CoolNotes journal is a good choice especially if you like a flash of color in your writing arsenal.
teNeues CoolNotes are available at Papernation.