I'm currently on my 8th Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbooks since I wrote about my search for an ideal sketchbook 1-1/2 years ago. I thought this would be a good timing to wrap up what I found out.
Note that all the sketchbooks were purchased by myself and the only one I received as a free sample was the "Beta" series book which I'll also talk about in the end.
Explaining in a nutshell, I really like the Alpha series sketchbook - it works well for me and fits my needs.
I talked about this in the previous thread but the only thing I personally find missing is the elastic band that was on my Cachet Sketchbook (and seen in others such as the Moleskine).
A while back when speaking with Michael from Stillman and Birn, he mentioned that they really thought about adding this option but moved away from it due to cost which is completely understandable. I'm sure there's a bunch of sketchers who have no problems without the elastic or even prefer to to not have one.
As seen below, I've continued to add the elastic on myself which works well, looks quite professional, and is quite easy to add on too. I just ordered a years supply of the Alpha Series and documented the process in adding the elastic here.
The sketchbook does take water color quite well, but it does buckle and expand the pages.
For me this doesn't bother me much since the pages do scan quite well with minimal adjustments to remove any unnecessary shadows created from the buckling.
You might notice one sketchbook in the middle in the photo below which has minimal to no buckling. This is the "Beta" series book and all others are the "Alpha" series.
Last year Michael sent me one to try out. It was a sample he created for a customer in the format of a wire bound 10" x 7" landscape which I really like and only use.
A side by side comparison really shows the difference.
Buckling of the pages were minimal to none and when scanning in the pages, I rarely had to remove any unnecessary shadows from the scan since it created none. This was a huge time savings.
One aspect that makes the buckling minimal is the thickness of the pages. Alpha series has 50 sheets and the Beta series has half the amount of 25 sheets and the weight of the entire book felt quite similar when holding them.
I'm glad I got to test the beta series out and really enjoyed it.
For me personally, I can live with the buckling on the Alpha series and since I go through the pages quickly, I like having more pages (50 sheets) instead of half that amount. And the decision makes it easier for me since the landscape 10" x 7" wire bound format only exists in the Alpha and the Ivory color paper version of Gamma. (This Beta series sample was just a test one they created)
So I just received my order for 6 Alpha series which should easily last me 1 year.
It's a sketchbook that works well for me and it makes me happy using it!