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.

They are:

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.

Kate

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Thank you!

Great review Kate - thank you for taking the time to write up this review. Very helpful and I guess I am not surprised to see Moleskine win in the end - even though the paper has changed throughout the years, I still tend to go back to them!

Smiles,
nay nay

Kate, good to see someone in

Kate, good to see someone in the UK reviewing. Of particular interest are the "sources" of books.

I use the Moleskine Week Planner which I really like but I find 'bleeding' and particularly 'showthrough' a real problem - to the point of no longer using the moleskine. This didn't happen with earlier versions, 2009 seems to be particularly prone.

Charles.

Blackwell Bookshop Version

If you live in the UK and have a Blackwell bookshop nearby have a look at their Moleskinalikes. They are not quite as well made, a bit thicker but the paper is in my opinion slightly better than Moleskine. Though I am not the fan of Moleskine paper that others are. They have the small pocket on the back cover also.

They come in pocket and large sizes but in addition to the traditional black there is also a navy one (with a nice quote inside) and a pink one for girlie girls.

Now i know for many it's the decadence of buying a Moleskine that they like, after all it isn't that special, just expensive. If you are on a slightly tighter budget these are half the price of a Moleskine so my pocket one cost £5. The strangest thing of all is that I have been much more likely to launch in and write something in it because it's not so 'precious'! How strange.....

http://bearsbar.blogspot.com/

Super Awesome Review

Nice job

Proud owner of a Newton 2100
-Leicamaster

New or old Rhodia stock?

Here in the States, the Rhodia Webnotebooks were delayed several months because of problems with the poor quality of the paper. Apparently this has been fixed and we should soon have them in our local shops. Wonder if you have the Webbie with the new paper or the old stock? Could be quite a difference.

david boise ID

No idea about the paper stock

and not sure how I'd find out if it's an old or new one. If you get one of the improved versions, please post about it and let us know!

For UK folk, there are loads of cheaper Moleskine lookalikes; as well as the Blackwell's one, Paperchase do their own version, as do Ryman, and there's one by Guildhall too, though I haven't seen it. I would be surprised if WHSmith didn't do one too.

Now I need to start filling them up. Much easier to buy them.

Rhodia Webnotebook, old vs new

Hi ktb,

I ordered two large Rhodia Webnotebooks from a US online store, thinking they were the "new" ones, and to my disappointment, I found out they had the "old" 80 gsm paper in them. Well, they were on sale. :-)

I expressed my disappointment on www.RhodiaDrive.com, and Karen Doherty, VP for marketing at Exaclair, responded and was kind enough to send me one of the "new" 90 gsm paper small Webnotebooks. I did some comparative testing and am working from memory here, since I don't have them in front of me right now. I'll summarize. (I was planning to take some photos, but not sure how to post them.)

Rhodia paper, 80 gsm

The paper is off-white, and has a slightly toothy texture to it. Some people like a little feedback. There was a slight bit of feathering with fountain pen inks (Noodler/Swisher Gulf Stream Blue and Seminole Sepia, Waterman Florida Blue), but no bleedthrough. It's possible to write on the backside of the page. Gel and rollerball pens (Uniball and Cross) worked very well. Sharpie Ultra Fine wrote well, but there was bleedthrough on the backside. It's not bad, as notebook papers go.

Rhodia paper made in France, 90 gsm

This paper was very smooth and is a light cream color. Very nice on the eyes and the pens glided over the paper without effort. Virtually no feathering with fountain pen inks and the gel and rollerball pens were very happy too. No bleedthrough except for Sharpie Ultra Fine (not unexpected). Except for the Sharpie, writing on the backside is very feasible. It was a real pleasure to write on this paper and I recommend looking for the 90 gsm version. The 80 gsm version is OK, but this one is definitely superior.

BTW, 90 gsm = 24 lb.

The small Rhodia Webnotebook is about 3.5" x 5" and is a great size for a travel journal, although I usually prefer the larger sizes for general notetaking.

These Webnotebooks have a rigid, slightly padded cover, the build quality is excellent, and they feel like they'll last.

Karen, thank you for the providing the sample. I love it. BTW, Karen said the new ones will be available around July in the US. Not sure about Europe.

Walter
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"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai