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The BookFactory Engineering Notebook

The folks at BookFactory.com were generous enough to send me a sample of their hardcover engineering notebook for review, and I’ve had a chance to use it for a while. I’ll compare it to the Leuchtturm1917 book I’ve been using as a journal for a while now, since that’s the only other large book I’ve used in the past few years.

I’m using it to hold notes for a business research project, and so far it’s been a good book.

A half-filled Leuchtturm1917 Master size book shows some bag wear

Cover thickness compared - BookFactory on top

I love the heavy, stiff covers. This is one area where the European competition is weak. Is a smaller book it’s not a big deal, but with a full size book it’s critical that the covers be thick and strong enough to support being written on. You can see the Leuchtturm1917 A4 size book I’m using is starting to get bent, and also how much thicker the BookFactory cover is.

8×10 is a nice size. Actually 8.25 x 10.25, but big enough to have the big-book feel without the slightly too-big hassle that can come with A4+ size Master books. For example, the RedOxx Gator bag I’m thinking of getting would fit the BookFactory book no problem, but is actually 3/8″ shorter than the Leuchtturm1917 master dots. The LT will probably fit if angled a bit, but I’d rather have something that fits easily. Many bags I own were designed around fitting a letter size sheet of paper or not, and the BookFactory book fits just under that threshold where the Master is a tight fit.

Comparison of tables of contents. Leuchtturm1917 on top. Note the date column on the BookFactory book.

The table of contents is the best I’ve seen. Having one entry per page makes it easy to jot down what’s there. For me this makes the difference between a table of contents that gets used, and one that doesn’t. I can deal with the task of summarizing what’s on a page in a few sentences. I have a hard time deciding when a particular entry is important enough to warrant using up one of a limited number of TOC entries. Making it even better is the date column. Many times I know what date I’m looking for, and scanning down the TOC to find that date would be easy.

The paper is white and thick enough. I haven’t tested it extensively with fountain pens, but it feels more like 100gsm than 80gsm to me. About the same as the Leuchtturm1917, and performs the same. I’m not a heavy fountain pen user and most of mine are fine, fairly dry writers, so bleed and so on aren’t an issue for me.

You can see the Leuchtturm1917 page numbers are much less obtrusive

The printing is toner based and is very bold and dark. I imagine this is to ensure it comes through on photocopies, but it makes me feel like I’m filling out a form. I much prefer the gray printing in Leuchtturm1917 books. You can see the difference in the page numbers.

The writing area is framed, which is strange. I’m used to grid and dots books with no margins, so having a window to write in does provide some structure. In the other hand, there’s a half inch of wasted space all around the sides. The spot at the top to write the “continued from” page number, and the spot at the bottom for the “continued to” page number are handy. I know I could just write it on any page, but the space is nice to have. It will sound a little silly, but the form at the bottom with date and signature and witness blocks makes me feel like what I’m writing is important. Don’t know if I’ll ever use them.

Flysheet reinforced with fabric tape

Fly sheet also stitched

Last but not least, the construction of the book is very sturdy. The book block itself is fastened securely to the fly sheet via tape, and the end sheets are also stitched. This book should survive just about any reasonable use, and the heavy covers will make it a lot more durable in the bag.

Conclusions

The BookFactory engineering notebook has been refined to suit a particular purpose over a long period of time and it shows. Whether or not it would make good place to record thoughts depends on what one plans to do with those thoughts. I find the table of contents very attractive, but the page design distracting for anything but straight writing. I feel too much space is wasted, and I don’t care for the ruling. Is the table of contents good enough to overlook the rest? Probably not for a journal, but as a notebook for any purpose where sketching isn’t likely to be involved I think it would be my first choice.

So what would make this the perfect journal? Basically, the covers and construction and table of contents of the BookFactory with the page design of the Leuchtturm1917. Specifically:

  1. Pages with 5mm dot grid in gray/halftone, without the border – have the dot grid overlap all edges.
  2. Unobtrusive page numbers in the upper outside corners, also in gray/halftone.
  3. Include the “Continued from page:” and “Continued to page:” entries in gray/halftone, in the upper left and lower right corners, respectively.
  4. BookFactory style table of contents, with one entry per page and a date column.
  5. 300+ pages, so I have more history with me.

I’ve spoken to the folks at BookFactory about creating a new version with some of these features, and it’s possible. The challenge of course is meeting minimum order requirements. The good news is that I don’t need to order hundreds – fifty would be enough.

Would you be interested in a book described above? Would you rather have dot grid pages or plain pages?

8 comments… add one
  • Ira April 18, 2012, 7:31 am

    I use the Leuchtturm 1917 as a journal for rough drafts of correspondence. I would be interested in the notebook you describe but would suggest one change, that is, that the page numbers not be printed in the TOC so as to allow for “documents” that span more than one page to be entered neatly.

    • Steve April 18, 2012, 9:38 am

      Hi Ira, thanks for the feedback! The Leuchtturm1917 TOC doesn’t have page numbers, so it might be a better choice for you.

  • Jim April 18, 2012, 2:28 pm

    Put me down for one. I like the larger size of paper for writing but it is hard to find a book with the hard cover. The moleskine I’m using now is ok but could be larger. I would use either grid or ruled. Let us know if you can get the order through.

    • Steve April 18, 2012, 8:12 pm

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for the feedback! Have you ever tried a book with a dot grid?

      • Jim April 18, 2012, 9:44 pm

        No I haven’t. How would you describe the difference? The grid paper I used was in an old styled comp book. Is there one you would recommend? I now use a moleskine large as a journal and Levenger letter sized annotation pads for my work notebooks.

        • Steve Duncan April 20, 2012, 5:16 am

          I used to be a grid user, and then Moleskine decided to make their grid lines extra-thick and dark. I like a little guidance, but not that much.

          So I tried a Leuchtturm book in 5×8, in dots. The dots are much, much less obtrusive. I can easily ignore them if I like, but they’re easy to see if I want to. The biggest difference is that when I look at sketches they basically disappear. But they are nice for writing, keeping my lines straight.

  • Mike April 18, 2012, 2:39 pm

    Hi Steve,

    Interesting comparison. I’ve used a couple of notebooks from The Book Factory and I was very impressed with their quality. I’m curious, which notebook did they send you? Under “Engineering Notebooks” there are lots of different configurations.

    I liked your suggestions – I think it would make a great notebook.

    • Steve April 18, 2012, 8:19 pm

      Hi Mike,

      They sent an 8×10 engineering notebook in grid format. The grid is really ruling with fainter vertical lines. They aren’t the same weight. It’s a nice book, and for writing or calculations it works very well.

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