Erin Condren is a popular stationery, planner, and design company based in California. In the planner community (desk and personal organizer enthusiasts), the company is known for its colorful agenda, the “Life Planner,” with its personalized, interchangeable covers and an array of accompanying stickers and snap-in and other accessories.
Erin Condren also sells personalized “Take Note” notebooks, also with interchangeable covers. Creative Writing purchased one such notebook in the large size “deluxe” model, with the calendar option included, to have a look at it with usefulness for the writer in mind.
Both Erin Condren planners and notebooks of this type are coil-bound (the company does sell journals of roughly 5″ x 7″ size that are glued). One of the key pluses of spiral-binding, of course, is that the notebook can be easily folded back on itself for ease and convenience in writing.
The size of the large notebook is 8.5″ x 11″. (There is also a 7″ x 9″ size). Covers front and back are 10 ml laminated, and the paper is a thicker quality.
The cover of this particular notebook features a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”:
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you have imagined.”
It is is then personalized with the writer’s name. Customizable features available for the cover included colorway, text, and the option to add a photo to both front and back.
The notebook comes with a 9″ translucent ruler with teeth that allow it to be clipped to the coils and easily removed. The top of the ruler peeks above the pages, making it visible as a bookmark. This notebook came with a light green ruler decorated lengthwise in a white floral design.
In both sizes of notebooks, there are 132 college-ruled pages (66 sheets) and 21 blank pages (11 sheets). Each ruled page is decorated with a color-block strip across the top varying in colors with each page and the signature Erin Condren asterisk in the matching color at the bottom outside corner of the page.
The blank white sheets have a color-block border all the way around with the matching color asterisk centered at the top inside the frame. A decorative page with the saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” closes the pages of the notebook.
The deluxe notebook with calendar option includes a 12-month, month-on-two-pages calendar coiled in at the front (the calendar is a $15. extra charge). Each month starts with a solid, color tab divider; the tabs are laminated with the name of the month on both sides. There is a saying on the tabbed page and then this page features the first page of the month on the back.
The second page of the month displays a page of ruled paper on the back with the subtly printed suggestion in small, light gray print at the top, “Jot down your lists, goals and to-dos for the month.” Each monthly spread also includes a vertical, lined section for “Notes” along the right-hand side with a mini calendar for that month in the current year, and the same month in the previous year, at the bottom right-hand corner.
The calendar comes undated — that is, the months do not feature numbers for the days. Instead, Erin Condren includes numbered stickers in colors matching the monthly spreads that the user can apply to circle spaces on the calendar. Presumably, this is to allow the writer to customize the colors on the page — if he/she did not want to match the design, for example, a choice for an alternative color could be made. The user could also choose to write in the numbers or apply other stickers s/he has on hand for the dates instead.
At the back of the notebook are two pages of plain, .5″ x 1.5″ color-block label stickers in 12 different colors. There are 15 stickers of each color, for 180 total. Following the stickers, this deluxe notebook also has a “Keep It Together” slick card-stock folder with a pocket on each side, as well as a plastic, 6″ x 9″ zip-lock style pouch. The pouch is clear and lightly decorated in white.
The layout, in order then, of the deluxe notebook with calendar option is: tabbed monthly calendar with a month on two pages, ruled pages, blank pages, label stickers, 2-pocket folder, and the plastic pouch. There is a “Simple Notebook” available without the extra features.
Pluses and minuses for the writer with this notebook? As with any coil notebook, pluses include the ease of folding the notebook back on itself to the page in use with half the horizontal space needed for an open book. The coil on this book is about 1″ in diameter and is also much sturdier than a coil notebook one would typically find in a discount store, etc.
Other pluses for writers could include the personalized feature of the covers and the wide range of cover designs and colors available. Removable dividers in several designs are also available that could allow for separation and organization of projects, notes, etc. within the pages of the notebook.
Writers who like to change up the covers of their notebooks may enjoy this interchangeable feature. There are slits cut in the holes of the sturdy covers that allow them to be removed and refastened.
The calendar option allows buyers to choose which month they would like the calendar to start (it includes 12 months total but begins where the buyer chooses). This could allow writers to plan or track project progress, deadlines, payments, royalties, etc. in the same notebook where they jot down ideas or hand write outlines, creative work, budgets, grant proposals, anything at all.
The included folder and pouch allow room for storage, and the stickers could be used to highlight dates on the calendar or as headings in the notes section. In other words, the customizable features of this notebook make it more unique than the typical notebook one can pick up in a local store.
Disadvantages for writers on the go and/or on a budget will definitely include the price and weight of this large notebook. The deluxe notebook reviewed here, with the personalized removable cover and calendar option included, cost $55. Shipping within the U.S. was approximately $10 more.
Wait time for this personalized item was about a week. Contrast that with any number of spiral notebooks with a similar number of college-ruled pages (albeit usually of much thinner quality) that one can leave one’s study right now and go out, purchase, and bring home for $10 or usually far less.
The large, thick coils, heavier paper, and extra items in the back of this 8.5″ x 11″ deluxe version also make this notebook fairly heavy to carry around. No doubt the 7″ x 9″ version would be lighter and more portable.
Erin Condren products are known for their liberal use of color. This notebook is a colorful one where the color palette has been chosen by the company. If a writer is also an artist or craftsperson who would not enjoy this much color or who would prefer to decorate or add colors of his/her own choosing, this notebook may not be the best choice.
Another disadvantage is that the order of things in the notebook is set. For example, if one preferred to have the calendar section in the back, it would require dismantling the notebook as is and doing some paper crafting of one’s own to make it happen.
Clips can be purchased from EC to affix to other papers, photos, etc. a user might like to snap in a spot of his/her choice. Most people, it might be argued, do not purchase a coiled notebook if they want to be able to shuffle the order of its contents. They will likely choose a binder option instead.
Erin Condren is currently refreshing their notebook line for a 2016 launch to happen on the site soon. Announced changes include a smaller diameter coil, the option of dot grid paper, perforated sheets, metallic cover options, and a lower price point. For more information about the EC notebooks, see the EC website.
If a writer expects to use a notebook like this for a specific purpose or project, and if s/he likes the flexibility of changing covers or adding personalized dividers to match seasons, projects, etc. — or if being able to do that would help extend the life of a notebook for some users for perhaps multiple purposes over its lifetime, this notebook is a quality option that may earn back its investment over time.