Apica Premium C.D. Notebook

John Bosley Reviews 8 Comments

Apica notebooks are not quite as popular in the fountain pen community as many other notebooks, but they are still very fountain pen friendly. You might remember my review of the Apica CD15 notebook. Today I’m going to take a look at the more upscale Apica Premium C.D. notebook.

First Impressions

It doesn’t take much to tell that this is a premium notebook. The design and cover material all appear to be top quality, not to mention it says “Premium” right on the cover. Compared to the Apica CD15 notebook, this definitely looks much nicer. It also has significantly more pages in it. The paper feels very smooth and fountain pen friendly. With as much as I liked the CD15, I’m excited to try out this notebook!

You can see that the cover is quite attractive.

The Details

Here are the details for the Apica Premium C.D. notebook.

  • Pages: 192 (96 sheets)
  • Paper Weight: 86.5 gsm
  • Binding: Stitch
  • Page Style: Lined (7mm), Grid (5mm), Blank
  • Size: A4, A5, B5

Ink-handling characteristics (A table with the following properties can be found at the bottom of this post)

  • Sheen: Very Low
  • Shading: Low
  • Bleeding: Medium
  • Ghosting: Low
  • Feathering: Medium
  • Dry Time: Fast

Other features

  • Includes a front index page
  • Top and bottom margins
  • Attractive cover material and design

Actual Use

As I mentioned, my initial impression of the Apica Premium notebook versus the regular notebook was very positive. It’s easy to tell that this notebook is something that is high-quality. The cover material has a subtle shimmery glitter in it, so while the images you see here might look like just colored paper, it has a bit of depth to it in person.

This notebook says right on the front that it’s Premium.

Opening up to the first page, you’ll see that this notebook has an index. For anyone who enjoys bullet journaling or simply wants to keep track of where to find certain things, this is a great feature. Unfortunately, there aren’t any page numbers, so you’ll have to come up with a system that works best for you. The stitch binding is very nice and, due to the small size of the signatures, allows the notebook to easily open and lay flat.

This notebook has an index.

You can see how many signatures this notebook has

Many small signatures allows it to easily open and lay flat.

The paper is very smooth to write on. Unfortunately, in my tests it didn’t perform nearly as well as the regular non-premium Apica notebooks. In fact, in almost every way the regular Apica notebook paper outperformed this “premium” paper. This paper showed significantly less sheen and shading, while at the same time showing more feathering and bleeding. While the design might be premium, the paper is not. That’s not to say it is bad paper. It is definitely much nicer than regular paper and tests better than some other notebooks on the market.

Looking a little more closely at the paper’s performance, it doesn’t show much ghosting at all. I would be comfortable using both sides of a sheet. I did observe some feathering and bleeding, especially with broader nibs. Because of this, using both sides of a sheet might be problematic. Fortunately, dry times were quite fast.

Unfortunately, fast dry times usually mean lower amounts of sheen and shading, which is what I observed. Sheen was almost non-existent, and shading was very low. This is not at all what I’d expect from a premium notebook.

Apica Premium CD paper test – Front

Apica Premium CD paper test – Back

Conclusion

To be completely honest, I have to say that this notebook was a disappointment. My first experience with Apica was with the “basic” notebooks like the CD15. Those notebooks have wonderful paper, which made me excited to try out the premium notebooks. Unfortunately, the lack of sheen coupled with bleeding and feathering make these notebooks, in my eyes, inferior. One interesting thing to note, though, is that while the actual notebooks are much more expensive, these premium notebooks actually cost less-per-sheet than the non-premium versions. Still, they’re not worth it. For the same price you can pick up a Life Noble or Midori MD notebook and have a superior writing experience.

An easy way to identify the Premium version is this paper band that it comes with.

It’s a very pretty notebook, so it’s too bad the paper doesn’t live up to the cover.

If you’d like a bit more information about how I test papers and notebooks, I wrote an article about my paper rating system.

Interested in trying this paper before buying a notebook? Head over to my shop and pick up a paper sample pack.

Apica Premium C.D. Notebook
  • Sheen (higher is better)
  • Shading (higher is better)
  • Bleeding (higher is better)
  • Ghosting (higher is better)
  • Feathering (higher is better)
  • Dry Time (higher is better)
2.8

Fountain Pen Love Overall Rating

Pros: Attractive, very smooth paper, fast dry times
Cons: Very little sheen, not worth the cost
Value Rating: 2.86 Stars, Cost per A5 sheet: $0.13
Who this notebook is for: Anyone wanting very smooth paper and fast dry times
Upgrade to this notebook from: Rhodia Notebook
Upgrade from this notebook to: Midori MD Notebook

Comments 8

  1. Great review, John! Agree completely about the higher quality paper in the CD11 and CD15 notebooks compared with the premium notebook. It’s too bad, really, because I do like how the premium notebook looks and the number of pages.
    One note, when comparing cost per page, I noticed that the Apica CD11, which is A5, is much less expensive per page than the Apica Premium notebook. I noticed that you were comparing it with the CD15, which I believe is B5 size rather than A5 like the Premium notebook. The CD11 can be purchased for only $1.75 from Jetpens (I’m not affiliated in any way with them).

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you! I completely agree with you. I’ll have to check out Jetpens. I just use what I paid as a reference when figuring the cost per sheet and $1.75 is extremely inexpensive! Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. I’ve recently found your set of paper reviews and they are some of the best and most consistent I’ve found anywhere. I really appreciate it. That being said, i feel like I have to irrationally come to the defense of the Apica Premium A.Silky 865 paper here. As you mention elsewhere, the objective measurement system can’t really capture some aspects of paper and the writing experience, and you haven’t included that. Normally some minor comments in your reviews I think adequately address these more subjective elements, but in this case, I feel that the Apica Premium paper really suffers under the objective measurement system when it has a lot to offer that isn’t covered by that rating. In particular, despite having Midori MD, Life Noble, Tomoe River, Rhodia Premium, and some other papers, without a doubt, when I think back on which paper consistently gives me the most pleasure to read and write, it has to be the Apica Premium stuff. I think the term “Silky” that they use to describe this paper really captures it. There are papers that show more sheen and shading and less feathering and ghosting or less bleedthrough or that dry faster and so forth, but there’s a subtle combination of feedback, texture, silky smoothness, softness of the paper, just-right thickness, and color of the paper that make writing and reading with a notebook of this stuff more enjoyable for some reason.

    In my own tests, I’ve had this paper outperform many papers that are higher ranked in your system in feather, ghost, and bleeding, but what isn’t captured by those measures is the quality of line that you get with this paper, especially with something like a Platinum Music nib. The way the feedback and cushion of this paper work, there’s a sensuality of writing with a music nib on this paper that gives a really great sense of control and line definition. It’s nearly effortless to control and lay down very precise lines, which can’t be said for other papers in the same class, and the way the lines appear on the paper is really nice, to my eyes. And while there is less sheen and shade in this paper, I think it can really appeal to those who appreciate the color definition and line quality that can be afforded by high quality uncoated paper. I think what this paper gives up in sheen and shade it makes up for in the color representation of the “foundational” color of an ink. To me, the inks lay down on the page and just pop with a sort of vibrancy and life that isn’t to be found on some other papers. In particular, I’ve been really disappointed with how the base color and line shows up on my Midori MD and Life Noble notebooks (both cream) compared to the smooth white Apica Premium with its lower shading and sheen. I actually like the look of the ink on the Apica Premium more than these (Tomoe River obviously looks great, too).

    So I guess, all that is to say that while the objective rating system might be a downer for the A.Silky 865 paper, I think it deserves a closer look than the rating might warrant because of what I think is a truly exceptional and unique writing experience, great line quality, true, rich color on the page, and a luxurious feel when you go back to read through a notebook filled with a good color and this paper.

    Anyways, just had to throw out a little love for this paper. I think it doesn’t get enough attention for how technically well executed it is (besides the notebooks being of very high quality construction) because the design of the paper clearly didn’t optimize for some of the properties that are used as common objective shortcuts for evaluating paper. It might not be what everyone is looking for, but I definitely think it deserves the moniker “premium” on its own merits.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you so much for leaving such a detailed and passionate comment! I certainly haven’t used this paper as much as the regular Apica notebooks like the CD11 (which I love). Sounds like I need to go back and give it another shot and pay a bit more attention to the non-technical aspects . That is definitely the downside of a paper rating system… you kind of have to go with what you can measure and not focus as much on the aspects that may appeal to different people in different ways. Looking forward to giving it another go!

  3. Thanks for being so passionate about paper! LOL I will say that my current daily workhorse notebooks are Apica CD15 B5 notebooks. They’re absolutely terrific, and I can’t find anything that comes close to them for the price. One place where I think the Premium really shines, and where I spend the most time with the paper is in the 5 year diary that Apica has. It uses the A.Silky 865 paper, and gives you a real full A5 size hardbound archival quality book. I think the choice of that paper for that project is a perfect paring. I use well-behave iron gall inks in the book, and the result is a really nice looking end product that is very pleasurable to look back on. I think that’s a case where this sort of paper really shines and I think it’s one of the best such offerings out there right now.

    My heavier use of iron gall inks (which are some of the most well-behaved inks out there) combined with broad edged nibs probably biases me a little bit more in favor of the A.Silky paper than others might. The cushion and absorption qualities mean that I get much more control over the lines without the paper being fussy or hard to write with, whereas MD paper gives good thin lines, but poor and hard to control broad lines (a swiss cheese edge effect exacerbated by hand oils), making the Apica Premium more pleasurable by a wide margin with that combination and much more forgiving. If I were using ball tipped points that didn’t have too much of a sweet spot, the MD paper would be exquisite because of the feedback on the page, but with a broad edged pen, the story switches in favor of the Silky paper. I give up a tiny bit of maximum line variation, but I retain full control and pleasant feedback.

    Just for kicks, I tortured my Life Noble, Apica CD15, Tomoe River, Midori MD, Clairefontaine and Apica Premium A.Silky 865 paper with Noodler’s Legal Blue (one of the most aggressively penetrating inks I’ve found) with a full drop of the ink to see how it would feather. That ink bleeds through all paper, but only Tomoe River had no feathering; it also never dried. The others were in order of best to worst: MD, A.Silky 865, Apica CD, Clairefontaine, and Life Noble a very, very distant last. Apica Premium had the fastest dry time but also resisted feathering much more. MD paper took an order of magnitude longer to dry, but feathered just about as much as the Silky paper (most people probably wouldn’t even notice the difference in the two drops). The Life Noble paper instantly feathered out like a math fractal in a crazy pattern and had almost no redeeming qualities in this test. MD showed a little more resistance to bleedthrough, but when taken in total, I don’t know that the much greater ghosting and long dry times are worth it over the Premium paper if you consider the total package of choosing an ink, paper, and pen combination. Like I said above, I’m probably a little spoiled for paper choice given that my iron gall inks of choice are so well behaved across the board that I can afford to choose based on other factors rather than finding the most feather/bleed resistant papers.

    Obviously, that’s an extreme test, but I think it’s interesting as it let’s one see the extreme of how each paper takes ink, and in this case, I think the Apica Premium has a really nice balance of feather resistance combined with more absorption and the benefits that come with that.

    Anyways, I’m rambling, the net effect of all of this is looking at the feel of papers with broad edged music nibs and the line control you get with various inks. In that particular use case of mine, I’ve found my experiences with Apica Premium significantly better than some other people who probably rely on a different set of ink/pen combinations. For reference, I use mostly a Platinum Music nib with Platinum Blue Black ink. I love the Platinum Blue Black ink color.

    1. Post
      Author

      I didn’t know that Apica makes a 5-year journal! I’m currently using the Leuchtturm version, which is decent, but would love to change it up next time. I’ll have to keep this in mind!

      Sounds like quite the torture test you’ve done to your papers. 🙂 Thanks to you, I now have a new blog post idea about paper texture, nib size and line crispness. I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to try it, but one of these days I’m sure it will happen!

      Thanks again for your input and detailed info. It’s great to know that there are people out there who are as passionate about paper as I am!

  4. I look forward to your latest work, keep up the great content. I don’t know if anyone has the desire to buy enough of the 5 year diaries out there to test them all (that’s a lot of money!) but I do think it would be interesting to see how they all compare. How are you liking the Leuchtturm version?

    1. Post
      Author

      It would be interesting to compare the different diaries side-by-side, but you’re right… that’s a lot of money. The Leuchtturm is fine, but not the most exciting paper. I do think that the faster dry times help make it more useful.

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