A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Levenger Circa Dimensions Notebook

Levenger Circa Dimensions Notebook(UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Latonya Ramsey.)

 I soured on the Circa notebook system some time ago, at least for work purposes. The big obstacle to using it for work is the punched edge of the paper, which catches on everything once you remove it from the notebook and try to stick it in a file folder, run it through a scanner, or whatnot. I could cut off the edges, I suppose, but for now, it's not a realistic option for work. (If you're unfamiliar with the Circa disk-bound system, read about it here.)

That said, I haven't ruled out using Circa for some personal things, like an ink journal or some writing projects. And Daniel Marshall, Levenger's marketing manager, was kind enough to send me a bunch of sample notebooks and papers after he read about my beefs with (and praises for) various Levenger papers. So, I have to try 'em out! Then I have to give 'em away!

The Review

As Circa notebooks go, there are lots of cool things about the Circa Dimensions Notebook, and the paper's pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. I'll save the paper for the end and look at everything else first.

I know it's just a matter of taste, but the cover is probably the coolest I've seen on any Circa notebook. The outside looks like a carbonesque prism tape, though not quite as shiny (the inside is gray), and it's translucent. It has the kind of texture that makes a "zip" sound when you drag your fingernail on it.

Flexible Cover of the Levenger Circa Dimensions NotebookIt's also quite flexible. Consider this a soft cover notebook that requires a hard surface underneath it to write on comfortably. In fact, the cover — indeed, the entire notebook — can be curled around on itself. One bog benefit of the cover, in my opinion, is that it is so thin compared to the stiff leather covers, thus taking up a lot less of the disk when folded completely behind the notebook.

The cover seems way too big for the paper at first blush, extending quite a bit beyond the edge of the sheets (at the side only, not at the top or bottom). However, this is apparently to accommodate the use of tabbed dividers, and it's actually a good feature. The notebook comes with a single tabbed divider, nice and sturdy, probably to whet one's appetite for more.

It's almost impossible to tell the back cover from the front. As is typical, there is a Levenger logo at bottom center of the back cover, but it's so buried in the carbon fiber pattern that it's virtually invisible. You may need to reference the tab or put some mark on the cover to know which end is up.

Levenger Circa Dimensions Notebook
The beautiful designs of some of the Circa disks (Kyoto, Golden Tortoise, and the various aluminum disks) are what made me try Circa in the first place. The disks that come with this notebook are 3/4-inch diameter shiny aluminum and  are a perfect match for the cover. They really make the notebook stand out with a futuristic, hi-tech look.

The pages turn very easily. That could be due to the size of the disks (my experience is that pages don't turn as well on larger disks), the fact that they are aluminum instead of plastic (these are the first aluminum disks I've tried), or both. I can't be sure.

Levenger Circa Dimensions Notebook - Nice Cover and Disk Combination
Aluminum disk and carbon fiber pattern cover are a winning combination. Yes, those disks are solid, but the reflection makes it look like the paper is passing through rings.

Levenger Circa Dimensions Notebook - Paper Layout, top and bottomNow, the paper. It's what Levenger calls "annotation ruled", very similar to Cornell note-taking ruling. Levenger calls the paper "soft white," and the margin is shaded gray.

There are two blank fields at the top of each page (front side only), and a perpetual calendar at the bottom of the margin on the front of each sheet for circling the month and the date. It's not very intuitive for me, because the dates are arrayed like a calendar, and the actual date may fall on a different day than it looks like on the paper. On the perpetual calendar, it looks like the first is always on a Sunday, the second is always on a Monday, etc. I suppose one would get used to it over time. But the perpetual calendar hardly seems necessary with those two blank spaces at the top of the page, the smaller of which is just perfect for writing in the date.

The paper is very smooth, both to the touch of the hand — really a pleasure to handle — and the touch of the nib. It's fairly heavy (100gsm) but does not feel as sturdy as the paper in Levenger's notepads. I didn't really give the notebook a workout, so I can't say how durable the the paper will prove to be when it's been moved over the disks a lot or removed and replaced repeatedly.

The paper is far more hospitable to ink than the paper that came with the Circa sampler kit I bought around two years ago. Only the most saturated fountain pen inks bleed through. Dry writers and less saturated inks should do fine. And I didn't get feathering with any fountain pen, rollerball, or gel inks that I tried. The showthrough can be significant, though. Choose your pens and inks carefully.

At $39, this notebook strikes me as a little pricey, but consider that the disks alone sell for $22 and the refill paper goes for $16, and it's not out of line if you're a Circa fan. (The disks do not appear to be available separately at present. Update: I was wrong.)

As usual, you can find more photos of the product (in my trademark poor photography) in the Flickr photo set for this review.

The Giveaway

All you've got to do to enter is send an email with the subject line DIMENSIONS to me at notebookeresqATgmail.com. That's it! No blog comment, Twitter tweet, Facebook "like" or anything like that. Just a simple email. But the subject line must read DIMENSIONS, or your email might be left out of the drawing.

I'll keep the contest open to entries through at least Sunday night (March 25), maybe a little longer. The winner will be selected at random and will be notified by email. If the winner does not respond in three days, I'll pick an alternate. And so on.

Good luck!



  1. Thanks for the review. I too have been wondering what the point is of the perpetual calendar!