Pitting my newly acquired Hamelin notebook and Scribzee app versus the Everlast Rocketbook
The word is out — I’m a note taking geek.
At least that’s what some people at Hamelin think. Maybe my impassioned confession on my affair with Google Keep tipped them off. Or perhaps it was my fascination with Everlast’s reusable notebooks that sealed the deal. Regardless of the cause, the fine people at Hamelin sent me a sample package of their notebooks and introduced me to their Scribzee partnership — an app that zaps handwritten notes to the cloud. Of course, their intention was for me to write a review on their product, and of course, I will happily oblige.
A Notebook With Superpowers
That’s how Hamelin describes their notebooks, with an emphasis on their non-bleed through Optik Paper, and again, the aforementioned Scribzee app. However, the first thing I noticed about the notebooks were the way they felt. They just feel professional, sporting hardcovers that are meant to protect the precious thoughts scribbled within the pages, along prominent page dividers and an accessory pack with bookmark tabs attached to the spiral coil. If you subscribe to the whole, “Look good, play good,” or the, “look good, work good,” mantra, Hamelin has you covered. Plus, their hardcovers colours are vibrant and the paper feels good to write on (note, I use Frixion erasable pens).
The Optik paper and the non-bleed through issue is coincidentally something personal to me. For the average user, seeing writing on the other side of a sheet of paper is distracting and not pleasing aesthetically. For myself, difficulties quickly focusing my depth of field from one plane to another causes headaches, dizziness, and at times nausea. I actually prefer reading digitally due to the issue, and have quite expensive blue-light filtering eyeglasses that combats that potentially destructive light that beams from the screen. If you read a lot or suffer from eye strain you’ll be quite pleased with the quality of the paper Hamelin offers.
As for the Scribzee app, it leaves something to be desired, but I’ll get to that as I compare it to the Everlast Rocketbook below, along with a few suggestions for alternative digital notebook management.
Everlast vs. Hamelin
For those unfamiliar, the Rocketbook notebook company offers reusable notebooks along with a cloud based app to send your notes to the cloud. I started with Rocketbook using The Wave, a notebook whose pages were erased after spending a few minutes in the microwave with a cup of water. I then graduated to the Rocketbook which is erasable with a little wipe of a damp cloth.
Hands down the Hamelin notebook feels much better to write on than the Everlast (and The Wave). If you search online forums others will tend to agree that the Rocketbook doesn’t feel great to write on (it feels like writing on a whiteboard) but to be fair that’s not Rocketbook’s selling point. With the Hamelin you’ll definitely notice the difference between not only the Rocketbook, but other standard notebooks, or just paper in general. Plus, for $9 for 150 pages, the price is well-worth at least an investigation into my claims on the feel of the paper.
The Scribzee App
Scribzee, the designated cloud notebook app for Hamelin, essentially scans your notebook page and allows you to place it in a designated folder. It also allows you to place other images into a sub folder within your scanned note.
Scribzee baffles me. Why create an app like this when clearly there are alternatives that are much more effective? You’re merely taking pictures and storing them in a folder, which is fine if you only want a backup, however, functionality after capture is limited.
Scribzee does have Evernote compatibility, meaning you can scan your notes directly to Evernote. If they added this sort of capability to other note taking apps and cloud systems, from Microsoft’s OneNote to Google Drive, it would make more sense. As an alternative, for $4 you could also get Readdle’s Scanner Pro which turns your phone into a fairly proficient scanner, and in turn saves your files to the cloud service of your choice, or you can send it to your favourite note taking apps. You can share your Scribzee scans too, however, Scanner Pro’s scanning capabilities are indeed more professional.
Scribzee needs to grow in functionality in order to be a legitimate contender in the note taking app industry. I’ll use the document scanning feature built into OneNote to backup my notes to the cloud, or Scanner Pro — depending on how and where I want to store them—rather than use Scribzee. From there I can annotate the notes and add text and images.
With climate change being an obvious big issue, reducing one’s carbon footprint comes into almost everything we do — including choosing a notebook. When you look at reusable Rocketbook products versus one-time use Hamelin products you’d automatically assume that reusable products are much more eco-friendly, which would give Rocketbook the win in the sustainability contest. However, we can’t automatically come to that conclusion given the information we’re presented.
Rocketbook touts the recyclability of their products, given the Everlast is largely plastic. However, we know that most plastic never gets properly recycled. Also, plastic is a petroleum (fossil fuel) based product, and as we know, the process of extracting and shipping fossil fuels is problematic to our fight against climate change. On the other hand, Hamelin touts its focus on sustainability on its website, which references its forest management practice and its impressive eco rating. Without access to a reliable peer-reviewed study, that would also have to take into consideration the shipping of the product, it’s near impossible to say which product is more environmentally friendly. However, it is nice to see that both companies are aware that their customers are indeed interested in the environmental sustainability of their products.
When I got my hands on a set of Hamelin notebooks I wondered how it would affect my notetaking workflow given that I’ve been almost exclusively using Everlast products for the past few years. Being a teacher and part-time writer I find that my notes essentially fall into three categories: brainstorming; documented assessment of student work and/or texts we cover in class; and miscellaneous reminders, jottings, phone numbers, and tasks.
When I got my Hamelin notebooks I essentially moved my brainstorming sessions to the one-use paper product. I still use erasable Frixion pens, so I still have the ability to erase (which actually works awesome on the Optik white paper) however, I felt like my notes were more intentional and thought out switching to paper. It actually changed my mindset for the better. The statement might sound somewhat pretentious, however, if you’ve read a notebook review article that’s this in-depth and to this specific point you’ll likely know exactly what I’m talking about, or you’ll soon discover it if you find yourself in a similar situation.
The Everlast still remains a great tool for day-to-day jottings and quite handy while assessing students in the classroom, especially given how easy it is to scan and send notes to my handy digital classroom assessment notebook in OneNote from the Rocketbook app.
I’m going to fill the pages of my Hamelin and reassess my workflow to see if I’ll purchase more. I’m also finding myself a big fan of writing on 8x10 inch pages, so regardless, I’m going to be looking at a size upgrade. Given my above mentioned mindset shift and the improvement of my notes, along with the quality of Hamelin’s products, I’m likely going to become a customer.