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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Some show-through on the paper, but it's not distracting
Sharpie was the only pen I could get to bleed through
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:
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.
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.)
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.
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!