Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review: Ecosystem Blank Journal

Moleskine, Webnotebook & Ecosystem Journals

From the Ecosystem website: "With a mandate to protect the environment, ecosystem journals, planners, and notebooks were developed with only 100% post-consumer recycled paper." Read more about Ecosystem's commitment to the environment here.

Large: 7 3/8" x 9 7/8" Medium: 5 1/4" x 8 1/4" Small: 3 5/8" x 5 5/8"

Ecosystem products utilize both hard cover and flexible cover options. A variety of colors are available such as, Onyx, Watermelon, Lagoon, Clementine and Kiwi.

Several paper versions are available including: Advisor, (planner layout) Architect, (Grid) Artist, (Blank) and Author. (Lined)

Available inserts fit in the back pocket of the journal or planner to add an additional functionality and include:

Calendar: A month at a glance - save the date!
Grid: Great for diagrams and planning.
Personal Info: Keep track of friends and colleagues.
Ruled: Write a little something, from haikus to inspirations.
To-do List: Keep yourself organized.
Blank: Sketch

All but the exception of the calender are sold in a set of three.

Moleskine, Webnotebook & Ecosystem Journals

Top to bottom - Large Rhodia Webnotebook 192 pages 90g ($20), Large Moleskine 240 pages approx 70g ($13-$18), Medium Eco System 240 pages *60lb ($17). I bought the plain Artist version for full price ($16.99) at Barnes & Noble. (Which were located at the front of the store right next to the Moleskines which were conveniently on sale at 20% off...)

*Note - I don't know the type of paper being used (bond/text etc) of the Ecosystem paper to convert it to gram weight. I'm guessing it to be in the vicinity of 90g.

Ecosystem journal

Nice tight elastic band. Journal has round corners on both the cover and the paper. Square edged paper digs into my hand as I reach the bottom of the page and I much prefer and appreciate the rounded edging. This is the blank Artist model, and it has bright white paper. Every page is micro perforated and if you fold the page back on the perf before you remove it, it comes out fairly neat.

Cloth ribbon (like a thin flat shoestring) bookmark is too short to be useful - barely sticks out of the bottom of the book.

Ecosystem journal

The cover has a really nice feel to it, but it's difficult to describe. The cover itself is very firm.. a huge plus in my book, (because I often like to write on my knee) and the material allows for a nice grip. It's almost sort of skin-like. Slight imperfections give it an interesting leathery look.

Ecosystem journal

Inside the front cover - romanticized blurb about the product and place to put your name & contact info.

Ecosystem journal

Nice sturdy pocket in back cover for holding ephemera. A pocket in a journal is not a deal breaker for me as I never use them but I know lots of people that do.

Ecosystem journal

Book includes a tracking ID that you can register on the EcoSystem website should your book ever go missing. Took me 6 times to enter my registration code because it was impossible to discern between the O's and the 0's.... (Letter "O" and the number zero.)

To me, this seems to be more of a convenience than a key selling point. I wonder if they removed this option if it would cause any reduction in price....

Fountain pen inks in Ecosystem journal
(Sample shown from "toothy side" of paper)

The one thing I noticed right away about the paper in this book is that it has two different surfaces. One side is smoother, the other is toothier. It's a slight different but to a fine/extra fine nibbed fountain user, it will be fairly noticeable. I found it to be quite bothersome.

Tested a number of different fountain pen inks and while they did not feather, they spread just a slight bit on the toothier side of the paper. By spreading I mean that if you look closely, the lines aren't quite as crisp and are a little wider as they would be on other more fountain pen friendly papers. On the smoother side of the paper, the pens wrote more true to their nib width.

Fountain pen inks in Ecosystem journal

Most of the inks behaved well, but there was some noticeable bleeding/see-through with some of the more saturated blue inks.

Pencil in Ecosystem journal

I find the smoother side of the paper to be way too glassy for use with a pencil - the toothier side is better.

Prismacolor Pencil in Ecosystem journal

Prismacolor pencils - a chore to fill them in on the smooth side of the paper. Wasn't a pleasant experience for me.

Pitt Brush Pens in Ecosystem journal

Pitt artist brush pens - these and all markers I tested worked fabulously on this paper (either side) and the colors just pop! The book opens and lies almost completely flat.

Watercolor in Ecosystem journal

Artist grade watercolors- come out very vibrant, but hard to apply. Much warping.

In closing, I appreciate this company's dedication to making an eco-friendly product here in the US but I have to be honest when I say that I would not choose a product solely on that merit. I am more concerned that the paper and the overall product suit my needs for that effortless writing experience. While this journal might not work for me, I am certain that others will find it quite satisfactory. I enjoy the product's design and think the only real necessary structural improvement would be to lengthen the bookmark.

See these books being made here.


Alison said...

I have the Ecosystem calender and the bookmark actually sticks out of the bottom over an inch.

While I haven't tried the notebooks, I do like the calender. I can use my fountain pens; the dates are on one side of the book and a lined area for notes on the other; I find it useful for jotting down books read, to-do's, etc.

Kate the Kate said...

Thanks for reviewing these, Stephanie. Just yesterday I saw them in Barnes and Noble and was wondering how they would take to fountain pens. Now I know I can save myself some money :)

Stephanie said...

This is such a detailed review. Thank you! I've been wondering about these notebooks, and I'm glad to have the extra information.

nakedsushi said...

The difference in smoothness on the two sides of the paper would annoy me too, since I like writing on both sides.

Gorgeous sketches and watercolors btw.

Anne-Sophie said...

I really love that review, I learned a lot about paper smoothness versus toothiness works with different medium, like pencils and markers.

Thanks for this post, I will make sure to ask for your input when I try my hand at more drawings.

Booker said...

I've always found recycled paper to perform poorly in copiers and printers, so it doesn't surprise me that it had inconsistent surfaces. I've got to say I like that all of the pages are perforated, though. I'd like to see other companies follow suit.

Eva Sylwester said...

I can see how the Ecosystem would not be the best book for primarily visual art — colored pencils don't work so well, and I never even tried watercolor in those that I've used — but it's a great book for just plain writing. I used fountain pens in mine with a variety of inks, and the only ink I had trouble with was Lamy Blue, which is troublesome on a lot of other papers, too. Other Lamy colors, Waterman Purple and Noodler's Eternal Luxury Blue were good, as were, as you said, Faber-Castell PITT pens. I never noticed any difference between the two sides of the paper. The paper also behaves well with Tombow Mono Aqua Liquid Glue.

The company's customer service is also excellent. After filling my blank Ecosystem, I ordered one of the graph paper Ecosystems off the website. What I got had the graph paper packaging but a plain ruled interior. I liked the ruled book enough to keep it even though it wasn't what I'd ordered, but I e-mailed the company an FYI anyway in case this freak accident was part of a larger issue. They said it wasn't, and then they sent me a graph paper book, too! The grid squares are just the right size for a fascination of mine, Josef Albers' Kombinations-Schrift: http://papertigermoth.blogspot.com/2010/04/typography-and-papercuts.html

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