My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

ETA: I’ve added an important review/story from a reader to the bottom of this post. Please read, especially if you are considering ordering a custom notebook from Bookblock.

Life is filled with good things, one of those being notebooks. I’m not picky. I like notebooks of all shapes and sizes, any thickness, any paper, any cover. However, I do appreciate a really well-made, high quality notebook for all my most valued words or art – and I know you do to.

This is my custom made Bookblock Original notebook. I designed the cover and picked out the inside pages as well as the color of the elastic band and ribbon book mark.

Now, here’s an important disclaimer and a little harsh truth telling: I was contacted by Bookblock ten months ago (back in August 2015) and they asked my if I was willing to review their notebook on my blog if they provided the notebook for free, a.k.a. a sponsored review. So I researched their work and decided to agree. At that time they had a Kickstarter campaign running to raise money for industrial book binding machinery and to launch their business. I really loved what they offered and decided to support their campaign with enough money that I was entitled to receive a second notebook. I submitted a design and waiting commenced. I received a few emails from them over the next months asking me to promote and requesting a link to my blog review of the notebook – which I had yet to receive. I kindly responded that I would do the review as soon as I received the notebook. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense to review something I haven’t tried or used – that’s just dishonest and it’s not how I roll. They didn’t respond to that and more waiting ensued. Fast forward five months to March 2016 where I received an apologetic email out of the blue saying that my notebook was finally done and if they could get my shipping address again. I reminded them that I was waiting for two notebooks (the sponsored one and the Kickstarter rewarded one) to which they agreed and asked me if I wanted a different design on the second book. I submitted a second design a few days later. Then two months later in the beginning of May 2016 I finally received a package from Bookblock. And wouldn’t you know it, it only contained one notebook – the one I had paid for via Kickstarter. There’s still no sign of the sponsored notebook but I decided to go ahead with the review anyways.

In short, I’m not impressed with how Bookblock has handled their promo work. Being a small biz owner myself I get that there are mess-ups and delays sometimes. I’m very forgiving (it’s just notebooks y’all) and I always give people the benefit of the doubt. Still, I feel like Bookblock fell short in this instance. They were still not on top of their work even 6 months after the Kickstarter frenzy had ended. They are sweet, well-meaning people who may have bitten off more than they can chew.

I’ll let you enjoy a few photos and notes, and I’ll share my final review further down.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

The Bookblock Original notebooks are made in partnership with Monsieur Notebooks, an established brand. You can see there’s also a place to write your name and any details you wish.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

Testing my watercolor brush pen on the paper. There is some bleed-through.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

There is also some ghosting through blank pages on top of written pages.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

My main concern: There are quite a few bad creases in some of the signatures of the notebook. Both in the front, middle and back of the notebook, but always at the top of the pages and always in that strange pattern. It must be a manufacturing flaw.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

You can see the ridges a bunch of the pages from the top as well. I estimate that a 10th of the pages are creased.

The cover is really beautiful, though. It’s has a matte velvety coating and seems resistant to wear and tear. You can see how snug the signatures are bound. It does not come off as clunky or amateurishly hand-made. It’s very sleek and both the elastic and ribbon feel securely attached.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

There is no pocket in the back like you may be used to from Moleskines and Leuchtturm notebooks. It’s simply bound with a white cover sheet and you can just slightly see where the elastic is secured. I’m quite impressed with the finish of the cover binding.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

The Bookblock Original is A5 sized which means it’s slightly wider than both a Large Moleskine and a Baron Fig Confidant.

My Custom Bookblock Original Notebook | Review

It is taller than a Confidant and as tall as a Large Moleskine.

 

Pros and cons summary

Pros

  • Beautiful matte coated cover.
  • Excellent customization options:
    • Custom cover design
    • Choose your elastic band color
    • Choose your ribbon bookmark color
    • Choose inside pages (blank, ruled, dot grid or 140 gsm sketch paper)
  • Sturdy and well-made binding.
  • Ribbon bookmark and elastic band are securely attached.

Cons

  • A couple of the signatures had some badly creased pages.
  • Quite thin and see-through 90 gsm paper that reminds me of printer paper. You do have the option of thicker 140 gsm sketch paper inside though.
  • No back pocket.
  • No page numbers.
  • Poor communication from the company.

I can’t say if I give the Bookblock Original notebook a clear thumbs up or thumbs down. If the possibility of creased pages bother you and the possibility of poor communication makes you anxious then don’t get a Bookblock notebook. I’m curious if these same faults would occur in the future or if anyone else have experienced the same as I have.

Would I order a Bookblock Original notebook from them again? Likely no, but maybe as a personalized gift or with the thicker inside pages for an art journal.

As you’ll see in this review there are excellent features with the Bookblock notebooks that I thoroughly enjoy. However, there are also many more excellent notebooks out there – like my newly discovered love, the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook – that I would get on with just fine. I feel like the idea behind the Bookblock Original notebook is awesome and would make for an ultimate notebook. The execution however leaves some things to be desired.

Please let me know if you’ve tried these notebooks and what you think about them.

Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day!

xo Nina


ETA December 2016: I received an upsetting comment from Carly that I want to highlight. She had an awful experience with Bookblock recently (although drawn out over a long time – again they exercise very poor communication). Here is Carly’s experience with Bookblock:

Hi Nina! Thanks for sharing your review. I’ve just had an absolutely terrible experience with Bookblock and wanted to share here. I placed quite a large order of custom printed notebooks as a small business owner / artist to sell at my holiday markets. 

First off, Stefan was incredibly condescending and difficult to work with through the entire process. After I had already sent him all my files, picked out the ribbon and elastic colors etc. he e-mailed me during a very busy time asking me to place my order AGAIN through their website. I started to, but realized that it was going to be a pretty big time commitment to do so when I’d already placed my order so I asked him to just continue with the order as planned.

He then e-mailed me the day before my shipment was due to go out to tell me they didn’t have the ribbon that I’d ordered a MONTH previous in stock, and could I choose a new one? I was on a tight deadline so I did. 

The shipment arrived the day before my market halfway torn open with nearly all of the notebooks having creased pages in the middle, corners and covers dinged and scratched. Neither the elastic nor the ribbon were the colors I’d ordered and the artwork was significantly cropped and blown up so my design was pixelated and not at all the look I was going for. Additionally the pages were quite flimsy and cheap feeling as you’ve noted in your review.

When I e-mailed Stefan again about the issues with the order, he basically tried to shift blame for the issues with the order to me instead of owning up to the poor quality and service. He offered nothing to try to make it right, and when I followed up to ask how he planned to make it right he actually said “I have no choice but to refund you the money as there’s not much I can do about your issues now” – 4 days later I have yet to see the refund.

Totally disappointed as I was looking forward to a high end feeling journal, but this whole process has been an absolute nightmare. I now have $355 worth of trashed notebooks I cannot sell or honestly even give away as gifts, and I’ve spent innumerable hours placing the order and now dealing with the problems arising from it. 

To anyone reading this I urge you NEVER to work with Bookblock!!!!

Thank you Carly for sharing your experience with us. I’m very sad that you had to go through all this turmoil and still have unfinished business with Bookblock at this time. I hope it gets resolved and that your story combined with my own far-from-satisfactory interaction/transaction with Bookblock will be a warning to all. – Nina