5 Unusually Useful Notepads

Hi. My name is Dustin, and I’m addicted to notepads.

I first realized I was addicted when I found myself prowling office supply stores in the wee hours of the afternoon, trying to score a college-ruled composition book. Pretty soon, I couldn’t go anywhere without my works – a battered red Moleskine and a black Sharpie click-pen.

And it got worse. I started thinking, “maybe there’s a perfect notebook out there for this particular project.” My Moleskine’s 192 leaves bound in pocket-sized covers wasn’t enough to satisfy my growing need for specialty papers.

The worst part is, I liked it. And I stand here before you, still liking it. Loving it. Yes, my name is Dustin, but I”m not a mere addict. I’m a paper enthusiast, a connoisseur of the carnet, a gourmand of the grid line, a foodie of foolscap.

Let me show you a few of my more exotic finds.

1. Rollabind

20100202-Rollabind

Also marketed as the Levenger Circa system, the Rollabind (or just “Rolla”) is an infinitely customizable, assemble-it-yourself notebook made using a Rollabind punch and Rollabind discs. Basically, you take the pages you want to assemble, punch the binding edge with the special punch, and insert the discs into the punches to hold it all together. The holes are open on one side, so you can remove and insert pages at will, and the unique design allows the whole thing to be opened flat, making them easy to write on.

The system can be used to compile planners, address books, journals, or just about anything else you can imagine, using pages of your own design, pre-printed pages akin to those sold for Dayplanners and the like, or templates from the DIY Planner site. Both Rollabind and Levenger sell a range of kits with punches, discs, and covers (from simple pressboard to luxurious leather). Circa/Rolla notebooks are a bit pricey compared to off-the-shelf notebooks (though some of the expenses, like the punch and reusable discs, can be amortized over years of notebook-making) but are pretty comparable in price to organizer sets from DayRunner or FranklinCovey.

2. Whitelines

WHitelines vs. REgular Lines

Whitelines paper has white lines. Seriously.

If you’ve ever, say, tried to photocopy something you wrote or drew, you already know one use case for paper with white lines. If you’re a creative sort who maybe needs some lines to keep everything at the same scale but would rather not have to compete with those lines when displaying your ideas, you know another. And Whitelines has you pegged, because they make paper with white lines.

So here’s the deal: Whitelines notebooks are made with a lightly toned paper lined or gridded with white ink, so you can definitely see the lines while you’re working (meaning you avoid the “over-the-cliff” curve you get when you write on unlined paper) but step away just a bit and the lines fade away. And there are bindings for everyone, from hard-bound Moleskine-like notebooks to perfect-bound paperbacks to glue-bound notepads (so you can tear sheets off),

Available in the US only through specialty retailers (mostly book stores), Canadians and Western Europeans can find them at your national Amazon stores as well as in several chains. Prices are comparable to Moleskines of the same size and format. Use the store finder to find out how to get yours.

3. Behance Dot Grid Book

20100202-behance

Behance notebooks are beloved of creative professionals, and the Dot Grid Book and Dot Grid Journal are a pretty good indication of why. Designers want the precision of a grid, but they also want the grid to “disappear”, to get out of their way so they can work. In other words, they appreciate good design in notebook grids as in everything else.

And these notebooks from Behance are nothing if not good design. The “Book” model has a semi-hard “suede touch” cover that is spiral-bound to lay flat on a table or other surface; the “Journal” model is hard-bound like a Moleskine for portable knee-top use. Both have a super-light but functional grid of dots to guide without constraining so you can do layouts, tight design work, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

4. Aquanotes

Aquanotes

The age-old problem of how to capture notes in the shower may have found a solution. No more messy bath crayons or grease pencils – here comes Aquanotes! Aquanotes are suction-cup-mounted notepads made of 100% waterproof paper that can be written on however wet they may be. So you always have a notepad handy at what experts say is our most creative time, shower time.

The only problem is, where do you keep your pencil?

5. Notepod

NOtepod

Got an idea for an iPhone app? There’s a pad for that.

Notepod is an iPhone-shaped notepad, with an unlined  writing area where the iPhone’s screen would be and gridlines on the back, packed in 100-page board-backed notepads. The implementation is new, but like the iPhone itself, the idea goes back a long ways, to the original battery-less paper Palm Pilot. Of course, you don’t have to be an iPhone developer to use a Notepod – it works just as well for on-the-fly note-taking and jotting down phone messages or, for the real low-tech, replacing your iPhone entirely (though you need a really good arm for the text messaging function…).

Know any other cool, super-functional (or just super-neat) notepads out there? Let me and the other addicts- er, afficionados know all about them in the the comments!

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