Do you get excited by notebooks and journals? If you do, you’re my kind of person and you’re going to be interested in these high-quality notebooks from Germany. The X17 and X47 series of notebooks may remind some people of Midori Traveler’s Notebooks because they feature removable inserts. That’s where the comparison ends though because the notebooks take refillable notebooks to the next level both in style and price. I was sent a selection of X17 and X47 notebooks to try. Let’s start with the X17 A5 sized notebook.
X17 A5 notebook
This particular notebook is available in several colors and materials including leather, bonded leather and polypropylene. I chose a vegetable tanned Belgium leather cover in cognac. The leather is thick but still feels soft and flexible. It also looks and smells wonderful.
When you pick it up, you can tell that this is a quality notebook. The leather has a nice grain, but no imperfections that I could find. The stitching around the edges is straight and matches the color of the cover.
You can purchase versions of the cover that can accommodate 2 to 4 notebook inserts. The inserts are held in place with rubber bands. X17 refer to these notebooks as ringed binders, but they aren’t like the 3-ringed binders like the ones you and I grew up with. This is why they remind me of Midori Traveler’s Notebooks. But where Midori uses elastic bands that are very stretchy, the bands on the X17 notebook are quite stiff and stretch very little. The X17 bands go on the outside of the spine too. The bands allow the inserts stay in place really well, almost to the extent that it really feels like a bound book.
But instead of being a bound notebook, the X17 can be refilled and rearranged just by removing the inserts by sliding them out from under the bands.
The notebook comes with an extra band that can be attached to one of the bands on the spine and used to hold the notebook closed.
Small slots on the edge of the cover keep the tight band from marring the leather.
I was sent a X17 cover that can hold 4 inserts. Each of the basic inserts has 61 numbered pages pages.
The X17 notebook does not have any branding on the front or inside covers. The only branding is a small embossed logo on the back cover (not shown).
The notebook is able to open and lay flat, which is a feature that I absolutely look for in a notebook.
The inserts are staple bound and can be purchased separately in blank, dotted, lined or grid versions. If you buy a complete X17 package, you’ll receive one of each of these basic inserts. X17 carries more insert styles in their online shop. They offer several calendar styles, music staff inserts, registers, logs and more.
The basic inserts have white paper that feels pretty heavy. It had no problems accepting ink from a Sharpie ultra fine point marker and a Kaweco pen using a Pilot G2 refill. There was no feathering or other problems on the written side of the page. However, the Sharpie marker did bleed through a little on the other side of the page.
I really like the X17 notebook but there is one issue that disappoints me. Check out the image above, see how there’s an insert that’s too wide and sticks out past the cover? That’s another A5 sized notebook that I already had from a different company (Mujo). It’s too wide for the X17 which is supposed to be A5 size. A5 size is 5.83″ x 8.27″ (148mm x 210mm). The Mujo notebook (the one sticking out) has those dimensions, but the X17 notebooks are 5.63″ x 8.27″ (143mm x 210mm). Since standard A5 inserts are too large, that means you’ll need to buy official X17 refills instead of finding your own. 🙁
Pricing for the X17 notebooks depends on the material it’s made of and how many inserts it can accommodate. The price for the cover with 4 inserts as I’ve reviewed it here is 74.90 EUR ($84.84 US). Extra inserts of the basic styles (lined, blank, grid or dot) come 2 per pack for a little over $11.20.
X17 A5+ Horizontal notebook
X17 also offers a landscape oriented notebook that they call the A5+ Horizontal. Like the A5 notebook that I reviewed above, this one is also available in different materials like leather and bonded/regenerated leather. The version you see above is made with a bonded/regenerated leather cover which feels a little bit like rubber. Don’t worry though, it smells more like rubber than tires.
The A5+ Horizontal can accommodate 2 inserts. The notebook comes with a blank and a grid insert, but additional inserts are available in the same types as the vertical version (calendar, blank, grid, dot, lined, logs, registers, etc).
This notebook does a pretty good job of laying flat when open.
Prices for the A5+ Horizontal notebook start at $29,90 EUR and go up to 74,90 EUR ($33.71 – $84.84 US). These prices include two inserts.
X17 also offers what they call Mind Papers. Mind Papers are available 4 different sizes including the smallest size that they sent me. The A7 size which is 2.9 x 4.1 inches.
It’s basically a cover that holds a stack of cards that are similar in thickness to the index cards like we have here in the US. The cover wraps around the cards and is held in place by a leather clad binder clip that doubles as a pencil holder.
I’m unsure about the pricing because it’s not listed on the X17 page at the moment.
X47 A5-Steel notebook
X47 Steel notebooks come in A5, A6 and A7 sizes. I was sent the A5 size which is 5.83″ x 8.27″ (148mm x 210mm). It has a very attractive thick chestnut colored leather cover.
I was sent a X47 A5-Steel notebook with 3 inserts, but it also is available in 1, 2 and 4 insert sized covers. Instead of using black bands like the X17 notebooks, the X47 uses stainless steel spring rods which give it a very distinctive look and feel.
How do the spring rods work? There are two parts. There’s the rod the goes around the outside spine of the cover and there’s the rod that’s attached to the spine of notebook insert.
The notebook inserts snap into the spring rods similar to how the pins of watch band spring bars snap into the lug holes of a wrist watch. Removing the notebook inserts is very easy. You just press up and pull out.
When I was first researching these notebooks, I was under the impression that the notebooks slid under the steel rods much like they do with the rubber bands. So I was very surprised when I learned that the bars were attached to each insert. See the extra staple in the image above?
This system holds the inserts securely in place and gives the X47 notebook a wonderful bound book feel.
The notebook cover opens and lays flat. You can see a plastic card holder insert in the image above. I believe that’s included with the notebook, but I can’t confirm due to the German-only description on their shop pages.
As far as I can tell, the notebook inserts are identical to the X17 inserts. The 3 insert version came with a blank, grid and lined insert, but you can also buy calendars, registers, logs, etc. Refills are expensive. A 61 page blank, grid or lined notebook with a black cover is priced at 11,90 EUR which is $13.41 US. If you want the same notebook with a different colored cover, the price goes up to 15,90 EUR which is $17.91 US.
The X47 A5 Steel notebook with 3 inserts is priced at 105,00 EUR which $118.29 US.
The X17 and X47 products (specifically the A5 notebooks) are extremely nice. I love the craftsmanship, look and feel of them. I just wish they were true A5 size so I could easily add my own inserts which would be less expensive than buying the official ones from Germany because shipping is very expensive to the US. Just ordering the X47 A5 notebook costs $53.63. Ouch… However I noticed that I could order up to 15 of the same notebooks and the shipping price didn’t change. So if you wanted to splurge on some luxury notebooks, you could get a few friends other and share the shipping. If the price doesn’t scare you away, you’ll love these notebooks and you probably will have a hard time finding another person with the same one – at least here in the US.
After I posted my review last year, I put the X47 and X17 leather covered notebooks in my growing stack of blank notebooks that weren’t being used. A week ago I finished a Leuchtturm1917 notebook and faced with the choice of what to use next. I ended up choosing the X47 and now I’m asking myself what took so long. I love the A5 size and the paper in the inserts feels really good when writing on it with my current favorite pen which is the Big Idea Design Ti Arto. I’m liking this notebook/system so much, that I’m probably going to order some extra notebook inserts from Germany if I can’t find anyone that carries them here in the US.