Engineer's Alternative to Moleskine

I know this may be heresy to the Moleskine-loving crowd -- of which I'm an unashamed member -- but I have an issue with Moleskine notebooks, and an alternative solution. I'm a programmer, and my company has been getting stricter about using proper engineering notebooks. These are notebooks that can stand up as legal evidence in defense of a patent, or defending accusations of patent infringement. The physical requirements for such a notebook are simple: pages must be bound, non-removeable, and numbered (not hand-numbered).

Being an avid Moleskine customer, I notified Moleskine US suggesting that they make some models with numbered pages. No response. So...gotta go somewhere else.

My company ordered a bunch of custom notebooks from BookFactory, so I decided to check there. It turns out they have both big, hard-bound notebooks (like my company bought), plus smaller 8x10 hardcovers, and "pocket" notebooks. All can be ordered with tons of options regarding cover printing, page type, number of pages, and so forth -- including journals and sketch books. The options are incredible. The prices, for better or worse, are on par with Moleskine.

I ordered two pocket engineering notebooks (5.25"x8.25" size) with the intent of carrying one with my Moleskine large memo pocket book. They're the same outer dimensions (BookFactory notebook on top, Moleskine on bottom):


Another view so you can get an idea of the thickness:


The engineering book is about 0.25" thick (center), 0.30" (spine). Note that BookFactory counts the front and back of each physical page as a "page," so there are physically only 48 pages despite its listing as 96 pages (92 normal, 4 index). IMHO they should be more clear about this on their web site. In any case, it's a good, easy-to-carry size. The pages also lay open pretty flat.

Speaking of pages, a shot of the notebook interior:


The headings across the top (right page) are: book number (you write in), project, date, page number. On the bottom: signature, date, witnessed by, date. All good stuff. The rules are 0.25" apart.

Overall, I'm very happy with these books. I'm going to use them for documenting my open source work. I have no intention of seeking patents, but should I ever find some lawyer questioning my work, I'll have solidly documented legal-weight proof of what I did and when I did it.

(Note: I have no affiliation with BookFactory; I'm just a customer.)

UPDATE: pen is a Rotring 600 Rollerball.


That's a nice pen/cil, what kind is it?

Hi David,

It's a Rotring rollerball, but I have no idea what the model name is. I tried some googling but I couldn't readily find it. I bought this pen last year but didn't use it much, then "rediscovered" it just a few weeks ago. It's lovely to write with! Very solidly built, too.

Best regards,


Just found this. The pen is a Rotring 600 series. Loads of sets on Ebay in the UK so they look pretty popular. Must have a look for one.


I think Levinger sells Rotrings.


For my money, the best engineering notebook in the world is the National brand 43-648 Computation Notebook ( Not the most stylish in the world, but they are nearly indestructible, have bound numbered pages, and very high quality paper that's a joy to write upon, especially with a Pilot Razor Point II pen. The only problem with this notebook is that it doesn't like to open and lay flat, at least when it's new. After some use, though, the spine will loosen and it will be easier to lay the open notebook flat.

Hi Jim,

I have a National 43-648. It's been the "standard" notebook of many companies for years. I'm still working through mine (for day job stuff) and I'll transition to the large-size BookFactory one afterwards.

I personally don't care for it much. I prefer ruled white (or white-ish) paper over gridded green. (The quality of the paper, however, is excellent.) As you point out, it doesn't lay open well, and writing on the backs of pages is awkward as a result. It's also larger than I'd prefer, so I usually don't keep it as close at hand as I'd like.

Of course, those are mostly issues of preference, and it's a worthy notebook, no doubt.

Thanks for your comments,

Josh, have you looked at (Scientific Notebook Company). I've been using them for 2 years now. They are about $3.00 cheaper than BookFactory, and offer pretty good bulk order discounts. (I order them for the company). BTW, I have no affiliation with SNCO except as a customer.

BTW, the Pen laid across the notebook: What kind is it?

Hi Greg,

The pen is part of the Rotring 600 series.



Greg, thanks for the link to Scientific Notebook Company. I like that they have options for spine numbering and printing the book number on pages inside the book -- very handy! I prefer BookFactory, however, for the variety of sizes and page styles.

Best regards,

Another idea is to number your own pages with an auto-numbering machine from Staples.

Hi Dave,

I checked out the numbering stampers. Looks like a great idea, but I think that still falls into the category of hand-numbered pages. The idea behind printed numbers is that they're numbered at the factory before the book is bound, so by the time you get it there's no way to tamper with the numbering (i.e. adding or removing pages). I think that using any means to number the pages after receiving the notebook would be effectively the same as numbering them by hand.

Best regards,

Are Bookfactory books available with light blue grids?

Note: the National 43-648 does not have a sewn binding, but rather a glued, perfect binding. For legal standing it's apparently much better to have sewn bindings, ... and to have the numbering done by the factory (not by hand later, per another post).

As a logbook user I have come across these excellent books from a company named Log Books Unlimited. It seems they can create just about any kind of book you could ask for.

Robert Aldimont

Thank you for the information about how the pages are "actually" numbered for the Book Factory.

Post a comment