Notebook Review: Michael Roger Decomposition Book (pocket size)

We all love the humble but might composition book. But, have you ever tried a Decomposition Book? Michael Roger, Inc. has engaged in a little bit of witty wordplay with their well-known series of notebooks, the pages of which are made from 100% post-consumer-waste recycled materials.

Although the Decomposition Book started as a spin on the thread and tape bound comp book we all know and love, they’ve expanded into a full range of different sizes and formats. I thought I’d dip my toe into their products with a spiral-bound pocket-sized notebook that I picked up in Seattle (please excuse the wear on the book — it’s traveled 1,500 miles with me!) So now, after making the journey from the Emerald City to the City of Lights and Flowers, I’ve prepared my review.

Design

The spiral-bound pocket-sized Decomposition Book spans an area 6.25 inches tall by 4 inches wide. They don’t specify how many pages are inside, but if I can count correctly, it’s composed of 60 leaves of paper plus a rigid cardboard cover.

One of the coolest things about the Decomposition Book is the cover art. If you check out their website, you’ll notice that their are myriad options as far as artwork is concerned — all of it pretty whimsical and cool. I chose the “flying sharks” theme. One thing I didn’t notice at first, though, is that the inside of the cover contains artwork as well. I think that’s a really nice touch, and way cooler than a table of US to Metric conversions or whatever they put in the traditional comp book.

The spiral binding is solid. It doesn’t seem to hang up, and the pages are cut and bound with enough space that they don’t get caught on one another. The notebook lays open nice land flat.

For what it is, it feels pretty durable as well. As I mentioned above, I’ve traveled quite a distance with this thing and it survived being manhandled by baggage throwers, the TSA, and yours truly with only minimal surface wear. The stock of the cover is nice and thick and feels quite rigid.

Paper

I’m going to be honest: part of the reason I’ve dodged the Decomposition Book in the past is that, with the pocket version coming in at around $5 and running up to the $10 range for a traditional comp book version, I felt like that was just way too much to spend on a composition book — even a composition book that scores points with the Earth Mother. Indeed, the layout and format mimics what you’d find in any generic schoolhouse notebook out there. But once I cracked it open and messed around with the paper, I can see that it’s definitely an upgrade over the typical cheap notebook.

The pages are made of a plain, cool white paper. Thankfully (in my opinion) the pages are not super bright. They’re a little muted compared to most other notebook pages. Each page is perforated along the edge for easy tear-out, but the paper seems to stay in the notebook and avoid accidentally coming loose along the perforation.

Each page is lined with a standard blue college-spaced rule. There’s an ample margin along the top, although they omitted the typical pink side-margin rule (at least in the pocket-sized notebook). The ruling is printed consistently and with a moderate weight, although the lines look a little “gritty”, if that makes any sense.

The paper feels, and looks, like it’s got a fair amount of tooth to it. The pages are also a bit more substantial than traditional composition book paper; it’s not the super heavy stuff you’d find in fancy notebooks or anything, but it seems like it’ll hold up better.

I like the feeling of writing in the Decomposition Book with pencils. I think the texture of the paper plays well with graphite, especially “playing up” harder pencils and coaxing them to lay down a good line. There’s only a slight amount of show-through of the pencil lead on the back side, and the heft of the paper resists push-through. The one downside I see is that the grain of the page kind of transfers to the pencil mark, resulting in a line that’s not quite as uniform and precise. Overall, though, I think this is a great notebook for pencils.

Ink, not so much. A basic Bic Stic works fine, laying down nicely and not bleeding through. Thinner inks, though…watch out. The Pilot G2 .10 (which is usually pretty tough on paper) made a fine mark but does show through a substantial amount on the backside of the page. Then, there is my Cross fountain pen with the “OEM” ink. It feathered like nobody’s business. It soaked through the back of the page and even bled through onto the next one, by a substantial amount. I’d say that this is not the notebook for fountain pen users, or really any pen unless you use a thick ink (like generic ballpoint ink) or a fine line.

Conclusions

The pocket-sized, spiral-bound Decomposition could be a big hit, or a flop, depending on what you use it for.

Personally, I give it a thumbs up but, as you know, I prefer pencils. A Penchant for Paper and Comfortable Shoes Studio have also written up some reviews of Decomposition Book products, and they come to largely the same conclusions, but form a different overall opinion on it; as ink users, both expressed overall disappointment. And I can see why.

I think it’s safe to say, then, that the Decomposition Book (or at least this particular model) is a great notebook for pencils — and not so great for ink.

Is it worth five bucks? I’d say that’s a fair price. At 60 sheets, they pack more of a papery punch than Field Notes, Rhodia, or Moleskine pocket notebooks — two or three times as much, depending. You’re getting more paper for your money with the Decomposition Book, and if the visual aesthetic and eco-friendly feels appeal to you (or the fact that it’s made in ‘Murica), that should further tip the balance in its favor.

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