Review of pocket Moleskine-alike notebooks
I promised this a while back in various posts. It's not a scientific comparison by any means, just one notebook-lover's (paperphile's?) views on three notebooks. I was quite surprised by my findings.
In a bid to find a better notebook to slot into my Renaissance Arts Moleskine cover, I ordered two potential substitutes, both available in Europe (I'm in the UK) and both with decent reviews elsewhere on the web. They're almost identical in size.
The Rhodia Web notebook, which I bought from www.thewritingdesk.co.uk for £5.05 plus postage.
and the Cartesio pocket notebook, which I got from www.thejournalshop.co.uk for £8.99 plus postage
then there's the Moleskine pocket ruled notebook is approximately £9.95 though usually on offer somewhere like www.waterstones.com where it's currently £6.64.
SIZE, SHAPE, DESIGN
Moleskine pocket You know what you're getting here. There's a vertical elastic band to hold it closed, a grey woven ribbon book mark about 4cm longer than the book, and an expanding pocket glued very firmly onto the inside back cover. The cover is black hardbound, with a looser spine (to allow it to open flat) and the inside covers (and pocket) are cream.
Rhodia Web notebook The cover is a soft, cushiony black matte vinyl (I think) with a nice feel. It's a hard cover but not as rigid as the Moleskine and the material is soft enough that the vertical elastic band that holds it closed has left indentations. It's got a Rhodia logo embossed in the middle of the front. There's a short black ribbon marker (about 1.5cm longer than the book itself) and the inside back cover has an expanding pocket identical to the Moleskine's, except that it's black.
Cartesio pocket notebook From Italy, this one is thin leather glued onto card. It's got the most flexible covers of the three. It doesn't have the smooth edges of the other two (the leather does not wrap onto the inside cover) and has a tubular instead of a flat elastic, which fits into little vertical notches on the front cover. The binding is stitched and glued to the spine. It has a long thin black ribbon marker, around 10cm longer than the book. There's an expanding envelope with a flap glued into the spine and attached to the back cover with the same elastic that closes the book - not nearly as easy to use.
PAPER AND WRITING
Moleskine Narrow lines extending to the edge of the page, on cream-coloured paper. The book is stitched so that it opens flat. The paper is reasonably smooth to the touch. For writing there is no discernible bleeding or feathering with any of my four fountain pens, but there is definite showthrough of the darker colours. It does feel smooth to the nib, though.
Rhodia Web notebook This is also stitched so that it opens flat. Beware this is not the paper in Rhodia pads. It is smooth to the touch, feels a bit heavier than the Moleskine paper and is slightly whiter. The lines are about the same width as the Moleskine, but stop before the edges of the paper and there is a Rhodia logo in the bottom right corner of each right-hand page. It feels a bit rougher than the Moleskine on the nib, but writes smoothly enough. Again no feathering or bleeding, but the showthrough is slightly worse than with the Moleskine - the paper is thicker but more porous. Overall it's a nice notebook, though.
Cartesio pocket notebook The edges of the pages are rough and haven't been properly trimmed, but this may just be my particular notebook. The lines are wider than the others and, as with the Rhodia, they stop short of the edges of the paper. You'll get less words to a page than in the others, but it may suit you better if you have bigger writing. Although the pages are stitched, the fact that they're glued to the spine means the book doesn't open flat. The paper feels thicker, like the Rhodia, but has a rougher surface and my nib actually caught on it. Not the toothy feel you get from lovely handmade paper but a coarse scratchiness. The showthrough is about the same as the Rhodia notebook. Disappointing.
AND THE WINNER IS?
I was shocked to realise that the Moleskine is actually - for me at any rate - the best option, even if it isn't as good as it used to be. The glide of the pen and the reduced showthrough compared with the others (though it's still there), plus the lack of rough edges on the cover, the absence of logo, the flat binding, all add up to make it my preferred notebook, in spite of all my earlier complaints. Sorry, Moleskine, for being rude about you.