ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook review – customize your notes, endlessly

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CROWDFUNDING REVIEW – One notebook, endless possibilities. That’s the value proposition presented by the ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook. This Kickstarter campaign is for a notebook system that enables you to configure and control every aspect of your notebook setup from the paper to the page templates. Let’s explore this unique design for recording your brilliant thoughts. To the review!

What is it?

The ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook is a customizable notebook system.

What’s in the box?

My test kit came with all the components required to customize a notebook:

  • The recycled leather cover
  • 2 book binders
  • Assorted page samples
  • The A5 adaptor kit
  • The paper punch for adding pages
  • An EDC envelope

Your ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook kit will vary based on which pledge level you choose for the Kickstarter campaign.

Design and features

The Book NOTA Notebook is a build-it-yourself design that enables you to configure your notebook to your personal needs. It starts with a heavy-duty cover and a metal spine that serves as the base of your build.

My tester’s cover is made from a recycled leather composite that’s tough, flexible, and is just a bit rough around the edges (in a good, natural feeling way). You can upgrade to a vegetable-tanned leather cover, but I really like this material.

The notebook spine is backed by an inlaid strip of cork for a classy accent. An elastic cord & tab that matches the cover fabric are mounted in the center of the spine…

… and used to close the notebook when filled. The closed dimensions of the binder are roughly 227 mm tall and 166 mm wide.

This foundation for your ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook is now paired with binders to build out your customized solution. These binders are made from an aluminum alloy with a magnetic strip that runs the back of the binder.

You have two options for filling your notebook. The first involves inserting your pages into the binder as shown below.

You’ll then use the included silicone rubber bands to lock the pages into place.

Then you’ll snap your insert into place when the binder magnets connect with the notebook spine.

One of the unique aspects of the Book NOTA Notebook is that you don’t have to purchase proprietary paper to use with the system. You get a punch tool with your kit that puts those end notches in any A5 sized paper, or you can use A4 paper folded in half. The Book NOTA team even provides templates online for different paper formats (grid print, weekly planners, task lists, etc.) that you can print, trim, and punch to build whatever configuration you like.

Note that the binder will take up to 20 folded A4 pages or 40 individual pages at 100 GSM weight or less for a maximum of 40 pages per fill. They also recommend that A4 pages are trimmed by about 20 mm before folding and inserting for a better fit.

The second option for paper is an A5 notebook adaptor. You’ll start with the binder and silicone band from the previous examples, but this option adds a felt insert for the binder and an additional elastic cord.

The elastic cord is threaded around the felt insert, which then tucks into the binder.

That insert is then locked in with a silicone band, and your notebook slides under the elastic cord.

That binder now snaps into place against the book spine with those magnets, and you’re off and running!

You could use pre-made A5 notebooks for this, or create your own from loose paper.

The ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook team also makes additional accessories like pouches for receipts and loose items &  business card holders.

Performance

If you want to control every aspect of your notebook experience, you’re going to find a lot to like in the Book NOTA Notebook. This system is a tinkerer’s dream come true, with endless possibilities for configurations.

Here’s an example of how I’ve been using it. I like to keep my notes separate from my task lists. I’ve been using the A5 notebook insert for my running notes…

… then I flip my notebook over to get to my task list in the second section. I’m using grid paper here, but I could print to-do list templates, daily planners, etc.

I particularly like this setup, as I use a rough variation on the bullet method for my note-taking. I keep my running notes in one notebook, and my collated “to-do” lists in the other.

The double notebook configuration works really well in general, with plenty of room for even a third notebook if you had an additional binder. I’d do that for some of the additional add-ons like the pocket sleeve and card carriers. The cover design allows for some pretty deep expansion, too.

I’m particularly fond of the way the individual sheets can be popped out of the notebook on the fly. I’ve seen some other refillable solutions that aren’t particularly secure. Paper falls out. This anchoring system is tight, but still allows you to quickly pull out a page if you want to share pages.

I also appreciate the ability to bring my own paper to the party. You don’t need to pay a premium for proprietary refills here. Pick your paper type, print your templates, and use the punch to make any paper part of your book. I’m still playing with different formats to decide what I want to keep in my running kit.

I will note that the binder/spine design has some good and bad points. The binders stay locked in place with those magnets, so there’s no worry about them falling out. But the design does mean that you have multiple layers of stuff on the spine of the notebook. Things don’t lay quite flat, especially if you have two binders in use.

I did also notice that the A5 notebooks can float a bit. They’ll pop in and out easily enough, but they will shift as you open the book and get settled. You could pull the notebook out to avoid some of this.

When I first started using the ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook, I found myself to be put off by some of those fiddly bits. It just kinda felt weird to me. But after leaning into it for several weeks I have found it to be a minor issue. You may need to do some tweaking to get your page to lay flat, and you may lose a little of your page margins. But those issues are offset by the flexibility of the design.

I’m also not worried about the construction quality here. I’ve seen no wear on the core components so far. The build is simple and extremely well done. I could see the silicone bands wearing down, but Book NOTA sells those component parts as replacements if you need them.

What I like

  • Infinitely configurable, refillable design
  • Bring your own paper, and create your own page designs
  • Well built
  • Supports both loose paper and pre-cut A5 notebooks

What I’d change

  • Pages don’t lay completely flat

Final thoughts

After an initial adjustment period, I’m really enjoying my time with the ANTOU Design Book NOTA Notebook. The design is different and takes a little getting used to. But I’m really warming up to the possibilities of adding my own templates and configurations to the notebook to match my working style, knowing that I can change things up as I experiment with new techniques.

If you like one big ol’ book with hundreds of pages for extensive note-taking, this probably won’t be your thing. But if you struggle with finding a notebook that meets your specific organizational needs, this may just be your jam.

Price: Kickstarter pledges start at $115, which gets you the recycled leather cover and the basic set of accessories. Upgrades include options for vegetable-tanned leather covers and assorted accessory bundles. You can also add individual accessories to your pledge.
Where to buy: Kickstarter
Source: The sample of this product was provided by ANTOU Design.

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