All the pen and paper blogs seem to have been buzzing for months about the Rhodia Webnotebook. Fountain pen users in particular were eager to have a Moleskine alternative containing their beloved Clairefontaine paper. When these first hit the market, you could only get a version with 80g paper. Now, finally, the long-awaited 90g paper version is available, and the good people at Rhodia were kind enough to send me a sample for review. So let’s take a look!
The notebook I was sent was the 3.5 x 5.5″ orange notebook. I have to say, if someone is going to send me a free sample, I won’t presume to be picky. But I really hoped I’d get an orange one, so when this arrived I was psyched! I love the color– though I’m very fond of all my little black notebooks, sometimes it’s fun to have a change! The color is not what I was expecting– it’s not the solid orange of other Rhodia notebook covers, but instead a slightly lighter, textured-looking orange. When I say textured-looking, I mean it seems like a printing technique to use tiny dots of slightly varied shades of orange to replicate a texture-y look. It’s very subtle, and I liked the resulting effect. The actual feel of the cover is smooth and slightly soft.
The cover has the Rhodia logo stamped in quite deeply. The soft, slightly padded cover takes impressions easily, as you can see from the areas where the elastic presses into it.
The orange endpapers are more the classic solid Rhodia orange, with no print or area where you’re supposed to write your name. The back pocket is also made of this orange paper.
Strangely, this notebook is ever so slightly narrower than the 80g Webnotebook, shown here in black. But you can also see quite well that the heavier paper bulks the notebook up more so it’s thicker and somewhat less pocketable than other similar notebooks, such as the Markings notebook shown on the top of the pile at right below.
I would guess that the paper weight is also why the notebook is a little stiff in the spine– it really doesn’t open flat as the 80g Webnotebook (shown below with a black cover), and at least when new, it retains a bit of springiness and tends to pop open a bit after you’ve pressed it open as flat as you can go.
The paper has lines running to just short of the edges and margin, and the Rhodia logo appears in the bottom right corner. The logo shows through a bit from the back on the 80g paper version, but hardly at all in the 90g paper.
And when you write on it, yes, it’s blissful. That smooth, creamy texture is absolutely sensual. It just cries out to be written on with a fine rollerball pen. Drawing a line on it with a Uniball Signo RT 0.38 is like… like… I don’t know, like slicing into the flesh of a ripe avocado… stroking the arm of an infant… drinking melted butter… maybe I’m getting carried away here. But I did have fun writing on it, and even used an orange pen for the first test! Show-through was fairly minimal– noticeably better than the 80g paper shown below.
Bottom line, it’s a very nice notebook, but I’m not sure it will make it to my daily usage pile. Why? Like the Pen & Ink sketchbook I reviewed a while back, it just feels a little “big” somehow– that wee bit of extra size makes it seem more formal, more stiff, more like something that would live on one’s desk as opposed to a scrappy little notebook you can toss in your bag and write grocery lists in. I also find it hard to make myself use notebooks with lined paper– I love unlined paper and graph paper because I find them more conducive to drawing. But the Rhodia Webnotebook would make a great journal for just writing– it’s substantial and the quality of the paper and construction are excellent, giving it a weighty, permanent feel. For my personal usage preferences, I’d love to see a plain or graph paper version with a softer, more flexible cover, or perhaps just fewer pages, but I’m sure many notebook users will be quite thrilled with the Rhodia Webnotebook just the way it is!
Rhodia Webnotebooks are made in France, using PEFC certified paper. They come in orange and black, in two sizes:
3.5 x 5.5″, suggested retail price $15
5.5 x 8.25″, suggested retail price $20
Rhodia products are widely available, and I’m sure the Webnotebooks will soon be stocked in all stores that carry the brand. I’ve seen the small 80g paper version at The Container Store for $12. Vickerey and The Daily Planner have the 90g pocket size for $15, large for $20.