Top critical review
Great Idea; I hope they can refine it and make it better.
June 21, 2017
It's a great idea, but has a few shortcomings. For what it's worth, I ordered a four pack bundle from the Indiegogo campaign. We got two executive size notebooks (for my wife and myself), and two letter size (for our kids). Long before we received our notebooks, I installed the app and tried it out with the downloadable pages you can get from their website; I also ordered a pack of Frixion pens to try out.
Make no mistake: the magic here is really in the pens (without which this product simply wouldn't work) and the app. I won't review the pens here, but since the app is integral to the use of the notebook's reusability, I will mention a few things about it, but first the notebook.
It's an extremely nice notebook; the covers are very durable, the back is quite firm which allows you to write most anywhere without needing a firm surface to put the notebook on. I like the look of the pages; it's a grid of dots that helps you keep your writing and pictures from being crooked. In the bottom corner (left or right depends on whether you are on the "top" or "back" of the page) is a QR code, and along the bottom are a number of icons. These are used together by the app.
The concept is that you can write in your notebook, scan the pages, wipe the pages clean, and reuse it "infinitely." It's a wonderful concept - I can't imagine how much paper would be saved if all students used something like this instead of paper. My work involves a variety of technical things that I'm constantly taking notes for. I go through a couple of 150 page notebooks a year. With the Rocketbook, I can scan my notes at the end of the week and wipe the pages clean.
However, all is not as wonderful as I'd like it to be. I know they did a lot of work trying to get the pages as paper-like as possible without sacrificing reusability, but it falls short. The pages seem somewhat glossy, and the Frixion pen (the "clicker" style - I think .5mm) struggles to work as well on the Rocketbook pages as it does on paper. It works, but it's not that great. The .7mm capped style Frixion pens I bought seem to work a bit better, but they still don't come close to writing as well as they do on paper. The pages also do not absorb the ink (I suppose that's part of the point). While Frixion pens are pretty smudge free after just a few seconds, the ink stays wet for much longer on Rockebook pages.
The inside cover of the book has an index of the icons that are shown on each page, with space for you to write what each icon represents (again, more about the app below), but the cover is very glossy, and the Frixion pens don't write well on it at all. I suppose it's not something they thought you'd be erasing - perhaps they thought you'd use a fine marker, or at least a different style pen... but I like to keep my options open, especially having had it such a short time, and may want to change around how I do things, so I'd rather keep it erasable.
Now about the app; firstly, this app is free. That's great - I think it should be after buying a $30 18 page notebook (for the executive style, counting pages like any normal notebook would count pages). So you need to sign up for an account, which I didn't have a problem with; I've been signed up for months and have not received any spam from them or their partners (I use the gmail "+rocketbook" trick, so I'd know if they were selling my email address). The app has two basic functions: scan and send. This is where, for each icon on the bottom of the pages, you can select where you want your document to go. For example, the first icon is their little Rockebook insignia; in the app I configured that icon to save a PDF to a particular folder in my Google Drive account. A number of different services are supported, including DropBox, or you can configure it to send email to a particular account. On each page in your notebook, you check or "X" the icon representing what it is you're taking notes about, and when you scan in your notes, that's where they go.
Scanning takes a little getting accustomed to. Definitely prefer a lot of light; the app guides you on centering up the page you want to scan; it lets you know when it's scanning, and if it's good. You then immediately move on to the next page - you do not have to press a button to scan, you just position over the page, when it's good it scans, then you move onto the next page, and repeat until you're done. If you've configured to auto-send, it will do just that; otherwise, if you're happy with the scans, you tap the green check icon and it uploads to your accounts (or email, or whatever you configured).
There's some magic in the scans - even if you were off angle or not centered up perfectly, the app uses the guides on the page to automatically correct for distortions and center up just your page. For whatever reason, when I scanned in the first six pages of notes I took this week, only on the last page did it seem to struggle... it couldn't seem to find the top corners, the "correction" actually made the scan worse than if it had just taken it verbatim without editing. I was fairly straight on. Luckily, you can tap on the scanned images and delete them and try again. All but the last page scanned perfectly, and only when I moved to where lighting was slightly different (it was all fairly bright, though), was I able to capture the full page correctly.
A few moments later, and I can look up the PDF in my Google drive account. Excellent.... just need to make sure you have really good lighting and a good angle on the notebook.
The bottom line is it's a great idea; I like the styling and concept of the notebook. The pens are great whether you use them with Rocketbook or not; the app is excellent. The problem is in the paper. You could conceivably just print a bunch of their test pages (downloadable from their website); maybe even take the PDF to a printer and have them make a notebook for you. No idea how much that would cost. Alternative, Rocketbook DOES sell a regular paper "single use" notebook with 140 pages. I do not have one. Given the way they count pages, it might only be 70, which makes sense when compared to other "standard" spiral bound notebooks. Still, even at 140, the price they are asking puts the cost at over 10 cents a page. That doesn't seem very cost effective. In any event, either of these options defeats the ideal of saving paper.
I will continue to use my Rocketbook. I like the results, I like having my variety of notes stored in their own folders, in chronological order (the app will include the date in the filename if you don't change it). I will continue trying both the .5mm and .7mm pens, and I may just use a sticky note inside the front cover to remind me of what my icons are linked to. I don't know if there's a great solution. Perhaps a decent tablet computer (something that needs a quality active pen). Simply typing notes doesn't work for me - too many diagrams and arrows pointing all over the place in my notes; extra notes scribbled in margins, etc. There's also the fact you can use Frixion highlighters, too, which is something the kids need.
If you feel the need to organize your notes "in the cloud," or really want to save paper, this might be a great choice for you if you're willing to put up with something other than "real" paper. I've been using regular paper for decades, I've gotten accustomed to it; perhaps given time I can get accustomed to this.