Go to this blog post for more photos of the small Rhodia Webnotebook still in the wrapper and stacked up (literally) with a few other common notebooks! :-)
(As always, please click on any photo to enlarge it.)
Karen Doherty, VP of marketing of Exaclair (US distributor of Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Quo Vadis, Exacompta, and J. Herbin), kindly sent this advance copy of the Rhodia Webnotebook for review! Thanks, Karen! :-)
Note--this Webnotebook has the 90g Clairefontaine paper. The US distributor (Exaclair) requested a change from the previous 80g paper, which was made in places such as Singapore/Japan, and behaves quite differently from this paper. So if you want this notebook, make sure you're purchasing the 90g version (some places are still selling the 80g version).
The Rhodia Webnotebook has been greatly anticipated by many who are looking for a Moleskine replacement. The paper band that encircles the notebook has the pertinent stats:
It comes with black or orange covers, an elastic band, a ribbon bookmark, and a back pocket. The small version measures 3.5" x 5.5", and is lined with 6mm ruling. There are 192 pages (96 sheets) of 90g ivory paper. It also comes in a larger version, which measures 5.5" x 8.25", and also has 192 pages (96 sheets) of the same lined ivory 90g paper.
Here's the front cover, with the debossed Rhodia logo (the two trees are rumored to represent the two brothers who originally started the company):
And the back cover:
The cover is a little difficult to describe--it's definitely a hardcover notebook. However, it has a rubberized surface to it, which gives it warmth and a tiny bit of "give" to it. If you're familiar with the Quo Vadis Habana, the Rhodia Webnotebook cover is much stiffer. The Webnotebook cover won't bend much at all when you write with it on your lap (whereas the Habana cover is more flexible).
I personally love the fact that the cover is hard enough to write on the fly. The rubberized material gives the notebook a richer feel. And the rounded corners are definitely appreciated--I've been jabbed many times while attempting to grab a sharp-cornered notebook quickly out of my purse or bookbag!
However, since the cover surface is a bit spongy, it's prone to take on some impressions of items it's pressed up against. In the pic below, you can see where the elastic band has already made a dent in the cover. This doesn't personally bother me at all, but this may distract some people. The elastic band is nice and tight--it doesn't feel as if it's going to stretch out and become limp any time soon!
Here are the sewn signatures. They feel very firm, and the pages don't move on the top or bottom when you flip the pages. The line spacing is comparable to the Moleskine or other pocket-sized notebooks, at 6mm. I personally love 5-6mm line spacing, and wish there was also a larger notebook with Clairefontaine paper that had 5-6mm ruling (I don't have a copy, but the larger Webnotebook reportedly has 7mm line spacing).
The paper is an ivory color, a little darker than some of the pocket notebooks I've used. But, as you'll see below, the bright inks I used still show up just fine! :-)
The Rhodia logo appears in the bottom corner of every right hand page. This isn't a deal-breaker for me, though I'd prefer completely blank pages.
The lines don't go all the way to the edges, and there's a little bit of space at the top and bottom of the pages. I'm perfectly neutral about both of these features, but some people are very particular about these things, so I thought I'd point them out!
The Webnotebook has orange endpapers (the black version has black endpapers) and an orange back pocket.
So the form factor is nice, but now to answer the most important question--how is the paper? It's divine!! :-) It's thicker than the usual Rhodia paper, which makes it feel very luxurious, but isn't so stiff that it's like writing on cardstock or anything. It is super-smooth to the touch, and feels very satiny. I couldn't stop running my fingers over the surface (and yes, I just did it again ;-)!
On this page above, I wrote with various J. Herbin and Noodler's fountain pen ink (from top to bottom: J. Herbin Violette Pensée, Rose Cyclamen, Orange Indien; Noodler's Rachmaninov, La Reine Mauve, Verdun Green [twice], and Prime of the Commons Blue-Black). I used Fine to XXXXF nibs on it. All of my tiny nibs really liked the paper, except for my temperamental XXXXF nib (which doesn't like anything ;-). The paper was very smooth, even with my scratchiest writers, and a delight to write on.
As for feathering, I tried to use some inks that feather on most papers to really test the paper out. There was a tiny bit of feathering with the Rose Cyclamen, La Reine Mauve, and Prime of the Commons Blue-Black, but it's all so mild that you have to really look hard to see it.
Here's the reverse side of the page. There was no bleedthrough with any of these inks, and very little showthrough. (Of course, I use very fine nibs, so YMMV.) I never write on both sides of the page because I can't stand writing over showthrough, but there was so little showthrough that I'm considering using both sides, for once!! :-O
Here are some more ink tests. From top to bottom: Noodler's Verdun Green (yes, again), Manijiro Nakahama Whaleman's Sepia, The Violet Vote/Vanda Miss Joaquim mix, Prime of the Commons Blue-Black, Majestic Orange, Naval Orange, and Rachmaninov. There was a tiny bit of feathering with the Verdun Green and Whaleman's Sepia, but these inks feather on most paper with which I've used them (especially the Whaleman's Sepia). Even with these two inks, the feathering was so minimal that I had to stare at the paper hard in order to detect it.
Even though some of the inks were the same as the previous page, I still wanted to try them out to see how the XXXF nibs performed on the paper. It was an absolute delight to write on this paper! No stray fibers in the tines, no digging in the paper, no catching!
The reverse side of the page. Again, no bleedthrough, very little showthrough. The marks you see are actually some of the Rose Cyclamen from the previous page that transferred when the notebook was closed.
Which brings me to the drying time. Some people note that the drying time of Rhodia paper is a bit longer than other paper. This appears to be somewhat true for this paper, as well, but I personally didn't find the drying times to be too long. As you can see, only the Rose Cyclamen transferred (and 2 dots of the Violet Vote/Vanda Miss Joaquim mixture on the third review page).
As much as I enjoy fountain pens, not everyone writes with them all the time (not even me! ;-). So I also tested the paper with other pens, including gel ink, rollerballs, felt-tip markers, a mechanical pencil, and a highlighter. Oh, and a Platinum Preppy fountain pen (filled with Noodler's Legal Lapis) managed to sneak in there, too. ;-)
The paper was so pleasurable to write on, especially with the Signo Bit 0.18mm gel pen (that pen is scratchy on everything!), that I was compelled to stop and add "wow, so smooth!" while doing the ink tests. :-)
Again, no bleedthrough. A little more showthrough than the fountain pens on average, but still pretty minimal. (And the 2 dots of the Violet Vote/Vanda Miss Joaquim mixture that transferred from the previous page that I mentioned above.) There was the tiniest bit of feathering with Legal Lapis (again, so slight that you probably need a loupe to see, but I'm really picky about feathering).
So, in conclusion, this is a wonderful small notebook! It's in a popular size (though a little thicker than your typical Moleskine, Piccadilly, or Markings notebook, due to the thicker paper), and a popular form factor. It has all the "essentials"--a hard cover, rounded corners, ribbon bookmark, elastic closure, and back pocket. And the narrow line spacing (6mm) is great!
But the most amazing thing about this notebook is the paper!! The paper is absolutely smooth, and felt heavenly with my Fine to XXXXF nibs. Even using gel pens and other writing utensils was almost a sensuous experience on this paper! The bleedthrough was nonexistant, and the showthrough was so minimal that I'm considering converting and using both sides of the paper (which I never do!). I usually prefer the bright white Clairefontaine paper, but the ivory paper is easy on the eyes without being too buttery yellow. And while I usually prefer thin paper, the thicker 90g paper gives the notebook a luxurious feel, without appearing too snooty or too precious to write on. This notebook was definitely made to be loved and used! :-)
This notebook will be available in the US and Japan soon. Other possible countries that may distribute the version with Clairefontaine paper in the future include Australia and maybe Canada. Other countries will probably stay with the 80g NON-Clairefontaine paper until 2010, if not permanently.
I've been a big fan of the Quo Vadis small Habana notebook, and hope to do a comparison of the Webnotebook with the Habana soon! :-)