Friday, August 6, 2010

Notebook Review and Paper Prize-a-Palooza

Six years ago, I gave up a job I'd held in San Francisco, the job that lured me out of the midwest to the palm-and-fog-kissed shores of Northern California. I don't regret the move, or giving up the long commute, or no longer being the un-hippest person in a very hip city. Sometimes, however, I do regret giving up the convenience of working right in the middle of an urban center, where a walk of a few blocks could take me through North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf, and in sight of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate, or (when our offices moved), the bustle of the financial and museum districts. There were two stationery stores that I haunted regularly during my time in the City (always capitalized) but trading that in for a job far closer to my suburban home meant swapping urbane and cool for strip malls and chain stores. (Rest assured, I'm still very much the un-hippest person on my commute.)

This is a long-winded way at getting at today's topic: a review of the Rhodia "Webbie" journal that was graciously arranged by Stephanie of the Rhodia Drive blog, and Karen Doherty of Exaclair, Rhodia's U.S. importer, and who I now envision as an orange-clad Santa Claus. Stephanie asked if I'd be willing to review a blank Webbie here, given that I've whined very publicly about the impossibility of laying hands on one at any of my local retailers. Here in the uncool 'burbs, we can only get hands-on time with Rhodia at Borders Books or Target. The latter focuses on their pad-style products, and the former neglects them almost entirely, in favor of their house-brand journals and a big Tower o' Moleskine. I'll come back to that.

Anyhow, Stephanie offered, Karen hooked me up, and the package showed up yesterday. Here it is:

Rhodia Large Web Notebook ("Webbie")

Pretty, isn't it? Like most of their products, the webbie comes with either a black or orange cover. I happen to like the orange, since it shows up best in the depths of my massively over-packed bag. And the orange is a distinctive Rhodia color: those-in-the-know can spot a Rhodia user from across the room. You can't help it: these suckers are bright.

Technical specs: the webbie comes in two sizes, A5 and A6 if you're keen on the ISO standard paper sizes, or "half page" and "quarter page" if you're not. This is an A5 size, dimensions are 5 1/2" x 8 1/4", and overall thickness of the notebook is about 5/8" closed, with the pocket empty. There are 192 pages inside, divided among six signatures sewn into the binding. The pages will lie flat with a little encouragement at first: work through the pages from both ends and run a finger along the spine to spread them out a bit. The binding is loose enough that you can write very far into the fold without problems.

Pages lie flat in a Rhodia web notebook ("webbie")

Rhodia appears to be positioning themselves against Moleskine here, as the webbie sports the same general features list: sewn signatures, attached ribbon bookmark, expanding pocket on the inside back cover, elastic closure. Unlike Moleskine and Rhodia's own line of pads, the covers of a webbie are a cushioned material around a stiff center. Their web site says this is "Italian leatherette," though to my hand it feels slightly rubbery: not unpleasantly so, just slightly squishy and padded. It's stiffer than the oilcloth cover of a Moleskine, and provides enough firmness that you can write without a surface behind it in a pinch. I tried writing on it while sitting in a variety of postures -- including sitting up in bed -- and it was comfortable to hold.

Binding, bookmark, pocket, cover: parts of a Rhodia web notebook ("webbie")

Also unlike Moleskine, the webbie uses Clairefontaine paper, which is French-made by a gaggle of delicate cream-skinned maidens. I'm not quite sure about that last fact, but I do know that Clairefontaine paper is famed for its fountain-pen friendliness. It is wonderfully smooth paper, and takes ink without feathering or bleeding through to the opposite side, and with minimal show-through. The webbie product has undergone some revisions as the first production runs did not use a pen-friendly paper. Stephanie posted details about this, and I'm pleased to say that the revisions were worth it. The paper may appear white in these photos, but it is actually a light cream color. This might matter if you're an artist or artistically inclined and want a true white background. As a writing notebook, the color of the paper is fine.

Testing the pen-friendliness of a Rhodia large webbie

Torture-testing the paper in a Rhodia web notebook ("webbie")

The webbie withstood my "new notebook torture test" with flying colors (ha! ink pun.) If you cannot read my scrawls, I hit the page with:
  • An extra-fine steel-nibbed pen inked with Parker Quink black. EF nibs can catch and snag on paper.
  • A Parker Latitude fountain pen (the silver one pictured above), also inked with Quink. This has a particularly wet nib and is my firehose of ink. It makes note cards weep.
  • A Levenger True-Writer inked with Levenger "Bahama Blue," which I am currently using on my brain-dump notebook for NaNoWriMo. Levenger inks are pretty dye-heavy, and I can see bright colors showing through paper better than dark ones.
  • Some "generic" writing instruments: a #2 pencil, a "hard"-lead pencil, a couple of ballpoints in different colors, a wax crayon, a magic marker and colored pencils from my daughter's art kit.
  • Three Sharpie markers: the regular sized one ("fine" if you believe that), an extra-fine one, and a super-wide one, meant for yard sale signs and the like.
  • I also hit the page with some soak-through tests: drawing dense crosshatches and scribbles in one place, going back over sections later with a pen, and using a cotton swab to paint a section of the page.
The paper is thin enough that some of the writing will show through to the opposite side, but I don't think it's bad enough to worry about. More notable is the amount of ink that does not show through, including the swab test and my dense scribbles. Those are barely discernible. The only issues I had were:
  • The hard lead pencil is faint against the cream colored paper. I suspect the paper is too smooth to really give the lead enough friction. The #2 pencil shows up fine.
  • The Sharpies soaked through, especially the super-wide one. The extra-fine one did bleed in spots, so if you like to use these for writing or drawing, you may require a heavier paper.
  • The paper puckered slightly when it was particularly wet -- for the swab test, for instance -- but it smoothed out upon drying.
  • I was bitten by drying time for some pens. There is a small amount of wait for ink to fully dry on the paper, and if you're the impatient type, eager to play with a new notebook (me, in other words), you'll find that some of the ink transfers to the adjacent page. You can see some ink spots on the orange end-paper in the photos. Some folks carry a couple of sheets of blotter paper in their journals to slip between fresh-written pages. It's something to consider if you're using a fountain pen.
Show-through on the paper of a Rhodia web notebook ("webbie")
Some show-through on the paper, but it's not distracting

Bleed-through
Sharpie was the only pen I could get to bleed through

Allow some drying time: Rhodia web notebook ("webbie")
Allow some drying time, unless you like Rorschach blobs

Otherwise, the Clairefontaine paper held up like a champ. I've heard of paper issues with Moleskine notebooks, and never being one to stop a juicy rumor, I'll repeat it here. As I understand it, they have different suppliers for different size notebooks, and some pen aficionados are upset about this (rightfully, IMHO.) If you're going to drop your hard-earned on a snazzy notebook, you should be assured that it's not going to feather all over the place. The performance of the paper in the webbie is on par with the performance of the Rhodia pads, of which I'm a vocal fan. And availability online is quite good, even if your local options are limited.



Entries are closed, I'll post winners in a new topic.

And if your local options are limited, then let me introduce you to the first-ever Clickthing Paper Prize-a-Palooza, or Stop Me From Showing Up On That "Hoarders" Show. Part of the deal for getting my hands on a review notebook is that I would also receive a second notebook to give away. And let me tell you, this is a tough thing to do, since I am a mean, selfish person. But the spirit of Exaclair Goodness is upon me today (are you paying attention, Karen?) and so I'm giving to you, lucky reader, the chance to win a Webbie of your very own. Covet it. Write in it. Name it George. All you need to do is leave a single, non-spam comment on this post, perhaps raving about your love of paper products, or how great you think free stuff in the mail is, or how great I am, or all of the above. At some point in the future, I will count the comments and run them past the magic robot at random.org to pick a lucky winner of a twin webbie to my own. This one, in fact:

Prize #1
Ooooh!

If this doesn't sway your heart to the Power of the Orange, then you are a cold, dark person. But I don't judge. And because I'm simply suffused with the power of good right now, I'm also clearing the shelves and handing out these additional prizes, for folks who don't win the webbie...

Second Prize: a pair of leather-covered "M" journals from Staples. A5 size, lined paper with a classy gilt edge. Pay no attention to the Clearance stickers on the paper band. These would make really nice gifts, which is what I thought when I bought them, and then realized that all my gift-receiving people are heathens and slobs who don't deserve nice things. But you do.
Prize #2
Aaaah!

Third Prize: a trio of Canson 4x6" hardbound notebooks. I keep one of these around for testing new pens and inks, but I don't need all of them. One has a small nick on the spine (not shown in picture.)

Prize #3
Hmmmm!

Consolation Prize: four boxes of Southworth "Fine Granite Note Paper" in ivory, each piece is 5"x5", and there are 275 sheets per box, so, um, a lot of note paper. You will never want for note paper again. Ever.

Prize #4
Huh?

Yes, that's right. I like the Clearance racks. But now you can too. Just leave a single, non-spam comment below and you'll be entered for the drawing, to happen as soon as I feel like there's enough comments to make it worthwhile or I get tired of looking at all this stuff on my desk. I will announce the drawing before it takes place, and will contact winners by email. Please make sure I can do this through your comment.
I will pick a bunch of winners, and the first one I can get in touch with gets the webbie, then the second gets the pair of journals, the third gets the mini notebooks, and the fourth gets a big honking box full of notepaper.

You will need to pass your mailing address to me in private if you win, so please be prepared for this. I will ship reasonably, but cheaply, especially if you live somewhere really expensive to get to, like Mars.

OK, you made it to the bottom. Go forth and comment!

93 comments:

J said...

I would love to try any of these notebooks or paper! :)

Thanks for offering this!

irbyls said...

Wow! Any of these things would make a great addition to the collection of any paper hoarder. Great giveaway!

This is "irbyls" on FPN, by the way. :)

Pen Fanatic said...

Great blog post and great deal!

Congrats on the clearance buys, nice deal on the Staples journals!

Karen at Exaclair is wonderful for contributing items for so many people to review and provide interest in their great products. Rhodia, G. Lalo paper and more!

Ok, here's hoping I win! (fingers crossed)

Shawn Newton said...

I want to win cool paper!! YEEPA! Nice reviews by the way. I also buy notebooks whenever I see them on sale.

DJ said...

As a raving Canuck I'm already closer to the trees than most. I love all things orange and black, and would delight to find an A5 or A6 webbie in the hollow tree stump.

Gavin said...

These Orange 'webbies' are like the proverbial rocking horse poo here in the UK, so if you are giving one away - I'd love it thank you please!

Besides, I have someone who works with me who's nickname is 'Webbie' and my favourite colour is orange. As if that wasn't enough, I'm a fountain pen user - signs it should be me!!!


Seriously though, great revue and it makes me want one all the more. Good job!

Surfbits said...

Another fun to read post, thank you, and thanks for the
chance to win some more paper!
Keep the review coming and especially more Rhodia talk.

Lloyd from FPN said...

Looks like a nice notebook. Thanks for the opportunity.

R.E. Wolf said...

I just drooled.
Are you happy now?


Want.

JTH said...

I wpold just love to win a fountain pen friendly journal, but the ruuner-up stuff looks pretty good as well.
BamaPen on FPN

deek said...

Oh, baby! Those are some fine looking covers.

And just the opportunity I need to rapid-fill my current notebook with voluminous and crappy poetry.

Don't let me down, lady luck!

Migraine_Madness said...

I just absolutely adore these webbies... I need more, more, more!

John said...

Great Stuff!
Thanks for the chance!

ravensmarch said...

Well, I was just yesterday making fun of myself for making my own botepads by folding a piece of cheap copier paper over thrice. Some kind of decent paper would be a treat and a half. Sign me up!

Clean and Green said...

Here's wanting to leave my comment for a chance to win one of these. Thanks.

Christian said...

Great review and excellent photography. I'd love to get my hands on one of these! Thanks for the chance!

Wally said...

Yay! More paper! I love getting stuff in the mail!

Joe V said...

Randomness doth intervene in the affairs of men (and gals, too) when it comes to the chances of winning a Rhodia. Thus, thank goodness this ain't no writin' contest, fer sure!

Thanks for the review, and your non-selfishness in sharing your Rhodia fortune with us poor anonymous ones on the interwebs.

~Joe

Douglas G. Turner said...

Thank you for the review, and the opportunity to win a Webbie! :)

Mike Speegle said...

Mike C. is a god among men, a truly cyclopean bastion of benevolence and verisimilitude. Woe betide the man that compares himself to the Clemens, for it is like unto comparing oneself to a paragon of genius.

Little Flower Petals said...

Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

Wait...what? You said a non-spam post? Oops...my bad.

Nice review, Mike! The testing of different pen types and widths was very helpful. I hadn't heard they'd finally come out with the blank version of the Webbies, which is what I'd much prefer to lined. I covet. I covet greatly.

Greg said...

These are great notebooks. Better than anything similar I have tied.

CMaxx said...

I saw those webbies somewhere online, and also lamented the fact that I live in the non-big-city part of the midwest and have nowhere to go to put my ink-stained hands on one.

I use fountain pens in the Rhodia pads I have (which is 80g paper) and don't have any issues with it, so I'm guessing that 90g stuff is even better.

Thanks for a nice review. Now I'm even lamentier!

Philip said...

Wowo thats a great review and such a generous offer. Thanks for this review I always thought the webbies were not good for fp ink.

DarkSideDuc said...

Ooo! Cool giveaway! I haven't tried any of the papers you're giving away but the Rhodia and it's fantastic! Super fountain pen friendly.

Ledeaux said...

Yo! I have enough paper and notebooks to sink a battleship. And I don't 'do orange.' ;-) So thank you, but I don't want to win any of these loverly items. Just wanted to say what a superb review this was: thoughtful, well-written, and full of empathy for what your fellow writers need to know. Aces! (p.s. Gavin - "rocking horse poo"? Geez, I snorted my tea on that one!)

typograph said...

Count me in! They look like great notebooks!

4ravens said...

I have yet to come across the webbie notebooks here in Australia - although I do live 700km's from the nearest city!

Bill Gibson said...

You are a very nice person. I like your blog. We are not at all strange, liking simple things like ink, and paper, are we?

Professor Estevez said...

Oh I didn't know there was a blank larger Webbie available! I have the lined one, but prefer blank always. I'll have to check back at my online Rhodia sources for a blank one...not that I wouldn't also like to win one!

Carys (aka ~Cats) said...

I'd love any of those! And thank you for offering them!

Lila | Thanh said...

I wanna try the Webbie. I'm using the ePure right now and wonder how the Webbie differs from it.

Count me in nonetheless - I would love to try any of these notebooks :)

michele said...

I heart Rhodia- have since first grade(France)
till this day I have boxes of vintage 60's
and 70's pads collected and hoarded over the years in the garage! I pull one out for each trip I take. At any given moment, an orange pad Is available in a corner for your writing pleasure.

Terry Murray said...

You are a most generous blogger! I especially love orange, but would not refuse any gift that a random number generator might select me to receive.

Nigel said...

Rhodia's amazing! I keep a no.12 dotPad in my pocket all the time and have a no.16 margin ruled notepad (or three...hey, it's not my fault! They came in packs of three!), but I'd love a webbie as well. Seems more suitable for journaling.

RAY said...

I want a Webbie. Rhodia and fountain pens are the perfect match

Charles said...

ooo this is a non spam comment about how I love free stuff

thanks!!!

Rosemary said...

I love GOOD paper, so I usually with journals that have a nice heft to the page, can hold the ink, pencil or paint. I will confess that I am down on my paper stash at the moment.

carpedavid said...

Nice review! I'm a huge fan of Rhodia as well. All of my ink reviews are done on Rhodia or other Clairefontaine paper for a reason - it's simply the best.

Kooky Chick said...

I have a tendency to pick up random things from the clearance racks, too. Love that you're sharing some of your goodies! Thank you! :-)

major_works said...

I'd like a chance to win a Webbie!

dottedyellowline said...

MEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEME! I linked to you once, so all five of my readers have heard of you. And I'm going off to restart school, so I am by definition in need. And I have a manual typewriter that is definitely not portable, and two polaroids - all inherited. I am a blueblood hipster. Me. Definitely me.

k

rino said...

That orange colour is simply HOT. It makes you want to write smart and sassy song lyrics just looking at it.
And detailed review too.
reens

The Archer said...

Hi! Great giveaway! I understand your situation, looking for a notebook that's hardly available. I live in the Philippines and the Webbie is almost a no-show here, except when somebody goes to the US and buys for us, which does not happen often.:)

lowks said...

I want to win paper!!!

Lee Smallwood said...

I actually have a similar Rhodia notebook on its way to me, but I'd welcome a second. Great giveaway and excellent consolation prizes.

indigo said...

free stuff in the mail, yes!!! especially fountain-pen-friendly paper! w00t!

Nic said...

anxiously waiting
contest on the internet
webbie — sweet release

David Valdez said...

Great review and I am interested in trying Rhodia stuff, but my local area is not kind to paper!

ginigin said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your review, almost as much as I would enjoy getting a Webbie. I love blank paper and the orange cover would likely double as an alarm clock if my batteries die. Of course, anything paper would knock my socks off ... assuming I was wearing them. Thanks so much for your generous give-away!
PS - have you tried Dot Pads?? <3

DenisM said...

If I could only find a notebook that could fit into one of my 37 typewriters...

James Watterson said...

Wow is right! 52 and counting!

Rhodia has such a great feel to write on. The paper is smooth making this notebook a dream I'm sure to write on

MissManda said...

All of those are lovely, especially the Webbie. Good lord, if I won that it'd be near impossible to lose in my purse or bookbag. As for the clearance buys, nice deals and its the only way to go half time time!

Louie said...

Webbies are great!

M said...

Nothing like the feel of a fine pen on lovely paper....thank you for the chance to win!

range said...

I'd love to win these. Cool review!

Fr. Matthew said...

Very nice review! I've been interested in trying out a new blank Webbie for some time now. Would love to win the Lotto on this on!

Will said...

A very helpful review - your rigor in testing is appreciated! An orange Webbie would be eye-catching to say the least.

dangold said...

Make today my lucky day, Thanks for the great blog post!

David Neves said...

Holy crap! Not one, but four prizes! I think I like it here already!

stelter said...

Love my orange Webbie. Dream for us Fountain Pen users.

Erin said...

I've never had a Rhodia. Would love one. Thanks for nice review and I like your Pen Test!!

Hope said...

I love Rhodia as well as the chance to explore other kinds of paper. Thanks!

Plum said...

I LOVE the Webbie! I was one of the other bloggers to get a Webbie, so if I win that one, switch my name for something else (that note paper is nice!) in the interests of fairness. Otherwise...
YOU'RE AWESOME! :D

Christi said...

Take pity on a poor girl stuck in the boondocks of West Texas and send me an orange Webbie!

Brian said...

Great review! I especially like your methodology of testing with a wide variety of inks and markers - very good stuff!

Wilson Hines said...

Christi and I both need these notebooks. Both of us don't have access to Rhodia products. I live in rural NC and I can't find anywhere at all within 200 miles that has a selection of Rhodia whereas I can truly get a hold of the product in my hands.

T said...

Hi, just clicked through from the Rhodia blog. Your notebook torture test is very informative. And what a fun giveway!

jayeme said...

Put my name in the hat, please!

Tomas said...

Tomas from FPN
Thk's for the chance of a new experience!!!

tj said...

Nice post - I so volunteer to win any of these wonderful notebooks or paper!

teabird said...

Please enter me for any of the above - thank you!

teabird17 atyahoodotcom

Mike said...

I would like a chance at trying and reviewing a Rhodia as well.

Aaron said...

Count me in!! Lot's of great prizes!

Kevin said...

So, free stuff in the mail, Staples (and Office Depot) Clearance, paper, and sarcasm are on my list of top favorite things. I think I'm a good fit for any prize! No really, I don't know how you'll let them go but thanks for the offer.

...do you visit the office supply stores once a week looking for clearance like I do???

Webster said...

Oh God! How can I get your attention? What are you looking for? What about why I NEED a Webbie.

I live in a City where you go into a stationary store and ask for Rhodia, they say HUH? Do you have any Noodlers ink...Wha?? Clairefontaine lives over on Cherry Lane. SMALL TOWN.

I collect fountain pens and have to write in blank artist sketch books to have decent paper. Alright! Alright, I have a couple of Molskine's. There are no shortage of Molskine's in this city/town but I dream of pulling out that Orange Baby in Starbuck's and laying down a line of Waterman 'Havana Brown" while drinking my grande "Americano' and scarfing a Lemon Poppyseed ( crack to me ) Torte.

Did I mention that my middle name is Webster?
My blog name is Webster?

Your probably going to give your Webbie to some young big chested blonde who thinks her blue bic is a fine writing instrument and not some old, fat, flat chested (I wish), white haired fart who thinks that owning four fountain pens is only a start to a collection.
Look at me I'm practically begging for a Webbie. Practically HELL, if you could see me, you would see that I'm typing this on my knees and I don't think I will be able to get up because I lost all the feeling in my legs.
....How sad is that!
Send me my Webbie. You'll have to dig deeply into your pockets though because I live in Canada.

Richard said...

There is none better!

Thank you for the great blog on it!

Richard

StoneZebra said...

I'd love to win a Webbie - shoot, I've love to win anything! Your consolation prizes look pretty nice too. Thanks for the excellent review and generous give-a-way! (you really know how to shop, where do you find all this good stuff?)

Maria said...

I have been wanting to try Rhodia stuff for awhile. Awesome review! And free stuff is cool too. :P

Killoran said...

Oh man. That pen is killing me. Rhodia is so good.

Donna Peach said...

thoughts await Webbie
who can coax them to come out
mischievous playtime

cheers,
donna peach

Truppi said...

Oh, oh pick me!
I hope I win.

Jeremy said...

Awsome paper. I love Rhodia and look forward to contest. FPN username is tarheel1

RobbW said...

Great review, I appreciate your thoroughness. I'm delighted that Rhodia is now using Clairefontaine paper in their notebooks. It's my favorite fountainpen friendly paper because it is smooth, and at 90 gsm does not bleed through. I also really appreciate the rouded corners of the webnotebook. It's a seemingly small detail, but it makes such a difference in writing comfort, not having sharp corners run under your forearms.

Teya said...

All those notebooks look fantastic, but he Camsom and the Webbies have a paper that the nibs of my pens want to meet.
Great way to give others the chance to test them, very generous of you!

Will said...

Thanks for the detailed writeup. I really like my Rhodia Academic notebook, but I've been eyeing one of these for next year! Cheers for the opportunity from "wrl" at FPN.

Castle said...

Please enter me in the Webbie drawing!wildblueroan from FPN

Dan Merriman said...

Please pick me.

Julie (Okami) said...

If I win the Webbie, please drop me down - I'd be very interested in the other items you are giving away. Passing on the Webbie, because I have one to giveaway myself. LOL.

Contact me at okami0731[at]verizon[dot]net

Anne said...

Great review and great giveaway! Thank you for doing this!

Slainte, FPN

Erin C. said...

Webbie-a-Palooza! This is the Woodstock of giveaway postings for the Webbie. My chances look small, but better than not entering at all. Thanks, to you and Karen at Exaclair.

Sara said...

Great review!

there is nothing wrong with clearance - its a great way to know you have "great timing" :)

Thank you for the chance - you've made this quite the giveaway! ^^

Hellmark said...

I'm really curious to how this performs with my pens. Some of mine are picky, and even rejects some nicer paper.