Asda Notebooks

For those outside the UK, Asda is one of our biggest supermarkets, and it’s owned by the US chain WalMart. Whilst in there this morning I picked up a selection of their own brand notebooks to see how they measured up. I’m not sure if any of these are available in the US from WalMart (if you know, please tell us in the comments).

Quick Summary

ASDA Notebooks

(Click on any pics to see them in Flickr, with any notes and comments, and with larger sizes avaialble.)

I’ll go through each notebook next, but in case you don’t have time to read all this, you just need to know that there’s one real surprise – the last one turned out to be the best. No, I wouldn’t pick it over a Moleskine, but at a fraction of the cost, and with a real suede cover, I would if I was paying with my own money. Yes, there’s a real suede-covered notebook in this list that cost me less than £2 (that’s around $4). Keep reading for more…

The Notebooks

Kaleidoscope Notebooks with Elastic Closure

  • A5 and A6 available
  • Cost: A5 was 42p, A6 was 24p
  • Brightly coloured card cover
  • Red Elastic Closure
  • 80 sheets

Seen as a Moleskine alternative, these aren’t good, but seen as a cheap notebook with a nice extra feature – the elastic – they’re certainly good value.

Looks

Very bright and colourful. Personally, I’m not keen on them, and you probably wouldn’t want to use one in business, but for kids or for odd bits of notetaking, they’re ok.

ASDA Kaleidoscope Notebooks

Feel

Well, they feel cheap, but not as cheap as they actually are. The elastic is held on by big metal studs, and has a satisfying snap to it. The corners are neatly rounded off. The problem is that they’re a bit difficult to hold flat, and the paper is a bit poor.

Cover

Just simple cardboard. A bit too bright for my tastes, but functional enough. The elastic closure actually works much better than I expected.

Paper

Lined, and not lined neatly. The paper is also very thin, and my Lamy Safari fountain pen ink goes through – a good scribble will not only show through to the other side, it will soak right through and mark the next sheet. I usually think of Moleskine paper as being a bit thin, but the Lamy ink doesn’t get through that at all. It would probably work fine with a ballpoint, but if you use anything with liquid ink, you might have problems.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t use this notebook at all – it’s too bright to look good, and the paper is too thin to use my favourite pen. If you’re looking for something for rough notes, though, and you use a ballpoint, you certainly can’t complain at the price.

A6 Notebook

  • Cost: 46p
  • Thick card cover, with textured covering.
  • 80 sheets

A simple little notebook, but with quite a nice feel.

Looks

Nothing too special, but the gray pinstripe gives it quite a nice look.

ASDA Notebooks - Red and Grey

(This one and the next side-by-side.)

Feel

The pinstripe effect on the cover is quite textured, so it feels rather nice to hold. Doesn’t open flat very well, so I’d probably stick to using just one side of each sheet. At the price, though, you could probably afford to waste a bit of the paper.

Cover

Nothing special, but good and firm. Feels like it will take a few knocks.

Paper

I thought this was the same paper as the elastic closured Kaleidoscope notebooks above, but it surprised me – the ink doesn’t go through on this one at all. The paper is still thin, and the lines are still a bit untidy, but it’s usable enough.

Conclusion

It’s a little too big and square to be pocketable, and a bit too small to be worth carrying, but it’s actually quite a nice little notebook on the whole. I could find a use for this, and at 46p, it’s a bargain.

Wiro Bound Notebook

  • Cost: 86p
  • Spiral bound
  • Thick covered card covers
  • Perforated pages
  • 120 sheets

If you need a notebook that can lay flat, this does the job for very little money.

Looks

Pretty much as above, but red, and with the word “notes” embossed into the cover, and with black wire binding.

Feel

Good and solid. Feels a lot bigger than the above A6 notebook, and probably does have a bit more usable space, just because it opens flat.

ASDA Notebook - Red Wiro Bound

Cover

Same textured covers as the above notebook. Has the word “notes” embossed subtly into the bottom right corner of the cover. This could have looked really tacky, if they’d inked it too, or tried to put gold or silver in the lettering, but the plain embossing looks ok. I’d rather they didn’t bother really – I know it’s going to contain notes – I’m going to put them there, and it’s a notebook.

Paper

Same as above – not great, but quite usable.

Conclusion

The extra size compared with the plain notebook above doesn’t quite seem worth it, though you do get an extra 40 sheets in there. The fact that it will lay flat, though, could be important to some people. No problem with holding the other side in place whilst writing, and it takes up half the desk space. Excellent value.

A4 Fabric Covered Kaleidoscope

  • Cost: £1.65
  • Fabric Covered hardback
  • 80 Sheets

Contrasty colours might be too much for business users, but it’s a nice-feeling notebook.

Looks

Bright red, with bright, light blue contrasting lines. Might be a bit bright, but it’s certainly a bit different, and I would imagine kids would like it. For anything other than business use, it looks neat enough for adults too. The fabric also gives it a touch more class than most.

ASDA Fabric Covered A4 Notebook

Feel

The cloth cover feels pleasant and firm. The contrasting blue looks like it’s embroidered, but it feels slightly rubbery. It’s a stuck-on layer, that may entice kids to spend hours picking it off bit-by-bit.

I like this notebook, mainly because of the way it feels – it’s oddly tactile.

Cover

Hardback (though still a bit flexible), with a stuck-on red cloth covering. The blue patterning is another layer stuck on the top, so feels a bit 3D. The spine doesn’t go flat too well, but only expensive books usually do, and the loss of a couple of cm in the middle isn’t so bad in an A4 book.

Paper

ASDA Fabric Covered A4 Notebook - inside

Damn. Just when it was all looking good, I had to go and try the paper. It’s the same as in the other ‘Kaleidoscope’ books above – too thin, and the fountain pen ink goes right through to the next sheet. No use at all to me.

The pages in the one I got were badly cut too, so many of the pages started slightly stuck together and had to be pulled apart at the edge before use.

Conclusion

A bit of a shame, this one. I love the cover, and was really expectig to like the whole book, but the paper is so thin as to spoil the whole experience. Bummer. So close.

Extra Special Suede Notebook – A5 and A6

  • Cost: A5 was £1.69, A6 was £1.05
  • Real Suede cover
  • Ribbon bookmark
  • 100gsm paper (thicker than ‘normal’ copier paper)
  • Presentation box

Even on the shelf, these have a look of quality. The firm clear-fronted presentation box protects it and shows it off. ASDA cearly want you to think this is something really special. But they’re £1.69 or £1.05 – so they can’t be all that nice – can they?

ASDA Suede Notebooks - Stacked

Looks

Well, I’d have left the cover blank rather than embossing it with the word “notes”, and the bookmark ribbon feels a bit cheap, and looks a bit yellow.

Yeah, I’m being fussy. It’s a nice thick notebook, and the cover is made from a real dead animal. It’s actually made from light tan suede. There’s even some almost-matching stitching around the edge, rather than just being glued together. It looks good.

It definitely looks like it cost a lot more than it did.

Feel

It feels soft.

It feels reasonably well put together, and the paper feels nice and thick. The only downside of that is that it means the whole book is quite thick and heavy.

Cover

I can’t say anything bad about the cover. A sweet little piggy died for this cover. Love the cover. Eat the pig.

ASDA Suede Notebooks - Stacked with Moleskine

Paper

ASDA Suede Notebooks - Top of Spine

Here we come to a slight drawback. The paper is thick, but it’s also quite absorbant. It takes fountain pen ink very nicely, but it lets it soak through a bit too much – even through to the next sheet. I couldn’t use one of these with my favourite pen, or at least not for drawing.

The paper has a little bit of texture to it, and works pretty well with pencil, so if you don’t use a liquid ink pen, you’ll be fine. And, to be fair, it was only when I filled a large area with solid black that I got any bleed-through, so it would be fine for writing in fountain pen, just not for drawing.

Conclusion

It’s a shame I couldn’t use this for drawing in ink, but for almost anything else, it’s a very good notebook. The really amazing part is that it’s real suede, for such a low price.

Overall Conclusions

None of these notebooks are really bad. Even the cheapest Kaleidoscope ones are decent value, and would be fine for making notes and lists with a ballpoint pen. The A4 was a disappointment, because it was so nice until I tried the paper. The biggest bargain of the lot has got to be the suede books, though.

They don’t have the pocket or closure of a Moleskine, and they’re a lot bulkier, but the paper is thicker, and the cover is suede. And where an A5 Moleskine will cost you around £10, this would cost you just £1.69. For the price of a single Moleskine, you could get six of these. Or, to put it another way, by time you’ve bought two notebooks, you’ve saved enough for a really nice fountain pen.

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