Story Supply Co. Exposition Notebook Review
Story Supply Co. is a stationery and design firm that provides notebooks, writing tools, and accessories. A few months ago their new hardcover notebook caught my eye. Ordinarily I’d spend more time on this intro, but I figured I’d dispense with the exposition and jump straight into the review.
Materials & Construction
Story Supply makes use of a stiff board cover on the Exposition. It’s wrapped in a linen fabric, but it’s noticeably slicker than other fabric covers I’ve experienced, such as those on Baron Fig’s notebooks. The result is a cover that doesn’t feel as soft to the touch, but does appear to be more stain resistant. One unfortunate aspect of the fabric cover is that the folding on the corners is a bit inelegant. Rather than a gently rounded edge, the folded fabric corners on the cover are sharp and abrupt.
This notebook is stuffed with 192 pages of 70# Cougar Natural. It’s acid-free and archival quality and has all sorts of certifications that let you know it’s environmentally-friendly. The paper is cream-colored and smooth to the touch. Corners are rounded and are generally cut cleanly, though some pages do have excess material on them.
The binding on this notebook is one of its standout features. Specifically, it’s a Smyth-sewn binding, also known as “section sewn.” What this means is that the pages inside are divided into folded subsections (called “signatures”), and each signature is sewn individually with threads going through each page. Because these signatures are physically sewn and then further reinforced with adhesive, the resulting binding is quite durable, while still allowing for a lay-flat design. The binding has held up well to my testing, and the notebook does lay flat no matter which section I’m using with minimal unusable “gutter.”
The Exposition includes a ribbon bookmark but I’m not fond of it. It’s made of a really thin material and is quite narrow and overall just feels kind of cheap. Moreover, the glossy finish on the bookmark only further contributes to the less-than-premium vibe. Lastly, the bookmark was frayed out of the box and has only gotten worse over time.
The Exposition notebook is available in two different colors: a “Burnt Orange” version, as well as the dark blue version seen here, which they refer to as “Sea Depth.” The Burnt Orange edition includes a blue bookmark, while this Sea Depth version has a yellow one. The fabric has some grain to it that provides some depth to the color and the result is more visually appealing than a simple solid color would be.
Story Supply describes the Exposition as “A5-ish.” At 5.25” x 8”, the notebook is slightly shorter in each dimension compared to the typical A5 size (5.8” x 8.3”), but it’s not that noticeable a difference. The standard blank, lined, and dot grid layouts are available. I opted for the dot grid version, which has subdued gray dots that pair well with the cream-colored paper.
The Exposition is a no-nonsense, straightforward notebook; every page is printed with the same dot grid design, and there are no perforated pages or any other accoutrement. In fact, the only bit of adornment in the entire notebook is a simple stamp on the back of the last page which displays Story Supply Co.’s logo, wordmark, and “MADE IN U.S.A.” Though I enjoy the simplicity of the minimalist design, it does also feel a bit...austere. Personally, I think it would have been nice to see some design elements on the inside covers or some other additions to add some character to this notebook, but if you prefer something a little more stark then the Exposition might be a good fit.
Writing in the Exposition is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the paper is perfectly fountain pen friendly. With normal writing I don’t experience any feathering or bleeding. Show-through is minimal, and I never feel as though I can’t use the reverse sides of pages. The same can't be said when doing flex writing or using markers, however.
Perhaps the best aspect of the paper is that dry time is lightning quick. Seriously, fountain pen ink dries on this paper faster than almost any other paper I’ve ever tested. Ink that usually takes 15-25 seconds to dry on glossier paper like Rhodia often dries in as little as 5-7 seconds on the Cougar Natural paper in the Exposition. I suspect this notebook would be a good option for left-handed writers.
On the down side, the paper seems to have a certain quality that makes the writing experience less than pleasurable. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I want to call it ‘gritty,’ but I’m not sure that’s completely apt, as the paper feels smooth to the touch. Perhaps ‘chalky’ would be a better word for it, but ultimately it’s really hard to describe. Using the Exposition side-by-side with other notebooks I own, it just feels like the nibs on my pens don’t quite glide on this paper. There’s a certain resistance that the paper provides that I don’t experience on any of my other notebooks. It’s as if there’s some microscopic toothiness to the paper that creates drag and, apart from the stellar dry times, I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of it.
As of the time of this writing, Story Supply sells the Exposition notebook for $24.99 on their website. Though both colors of the notebook are sold out at the moment, I contacted Story Supply and was told that they will be doing limited releases later this year.
At a $25 price point I struggle to deem this notebook a great value, particularly when comparing the Exposition to other A5 or A5-ish competitors. For example, the Exposition is nearly 40% more expensive than Baron Fig’s Confidant ($18), which offers a more satisfying writing experience, albeit with slower dry times. The Confidant also offers a handful of perforated pages, which I’ve come to value more and more as I continue to test notebooks. Similarly, the Exposition is around $5 more expensive than A5 offerings from more well-known brands like Rhodia and Leuchtturm1917, and I just don’t see what you get for that additional $5. Finally, even the Nanami Paper Seven Seas Crossfield is $1 cheaper, and I thoroughly enjoyed that notebook, though admittedly the Tomoe River paper in the Seven Seas offers a completely different writing experience with significantly slower dry times.
One thing that does help explain the higher cost is Story Supply’s social responsibility program. For each notebook they sell, they provide a “Supply Kit” to one of their partner organizations who, in turn, distribute the kits to children enrolled in tutoring, writing, and arts programs. It’s a noble effort, but you’ll have to judge for yourself if it justifies the higher price point, and I try not to factor such considerations into my reviews of the products themselves.
Ultimately, unless you really need the quick dry times the Exposition offers, I think you’d be better served sticking with one of those other options and saving yourself a few bucks.
Final Thoughts & Score
- excellent dry times
- Smyth-sewn binding allows for lay-flat design
- durable cover in attractive colors
- Cougar Natural paper feels a bit 'chalky,' has a bit of drag
- ribbon bookmark looks and feels cheap, isn't as durable as the rest of the notebook
- more expensive than many other A5/A5-ish competitors