Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: Whitelines Notebooks

Whitelines Journals

Whitelines sent me these products to test early this year. (March) I tried them out ages ago but have been holding the review. I had questions about their products that I wanted to address in the review but have never heard back from them. I sent my questions to them June 18th, and on June 23rd I received a response that they would be sending the questions to the factory for answers. July 1st I received a follow up that they were still waiting for answers from the factory in Sweden. August 29th I sent a follow up e-mail and received a call from someone that had replaced my original contact. He too said that he would work to get answers but as of today, October 8th, I am still waiting. The one thing he did tell me is that all of the paper came from the same factory in Sweden.


My questions consisted of the following:

"Of the four products that you sent me, two have a cooler tone (tablet and hard bound) and two have a warmer tone. (saddle stitch and ring bound) Is this normal? Or is one newer than the other? Can customers expect to see a standardization across the line? The warmer toned items seemed to also be darker, with the white lines being more pronounced.

I also noticed that the surface texture in each product is different. The tablet is very smooth and the ring bound textured enough to feel it under my hand as I write. The other two were in between the others as far as smoothness. This makes me think that the paper could be sourced from different suppliers.... Can I ask where the paper is manufactured, and if it is in fact all coming from the same source? If it is all from the same source, why such a difference in surface variation?

My main purpose in testing these papers was to see how they would hold up to water based fountain pen inks. Since all 4 are 80g paper, one would think that they would behave the same but alas, they did not. In fact, once again, each responded differently. The tablet bled through the worst, and the ring bound had no visible bleeding at all.

Lastly, I do not understand why the staple bound composition books are called "Saddle Stitch." To me, saddle stitch implies a stitched product - like the Moleskine Cahiers."


These were my test pages from the glue bound tablets. They had the nicest writing surface but there was bleed through on the backside.


Showing the variance in paper tones. Two warm, two cool.

Whitelines Journals

A close up of the paper showing the printed surface.


Papers in each of the 4 test samples (Glue bound, spiral, hard cover and saddle stitch) all felt different under my fountain pen nibs.


There were varying degrees of bleedthrough with the 4 different products. I genuinely got the sense that these were 4 different papers. .

Whitelines Journas

A non color corrected doodle. I tried scanning it to see if the lines disappeared which they did, though not completely. My apologies for not including the actual scan... (I lost it)

Whitelines Journals

The Saddle Stitch composition style book. I don't understand the name as it is staple bound, not stitched at all.

Whitelines Journals

I myself love small notebooks like this, I like to use them as project books. This one has a soft cover and sells for around $2.

Whitelines Journals

This is the spiral bound book with a soft cover. They sell for around $8. There is also a hard cover version for $12.

Whitelines Journals

The Whitelines paper is available lined or squared.

Whitelines Journals

Pages in the spiral bound version are micro perforated for easy removal.

Whitelines Journals

This is the Hard Cover version which sells for around $12.

Whitelines Journals

The book itself is beautiful...

Whitelines Journals

Though it doesn't come anywhere close to opening flat. Notice that the cover lies flat but the pages do not open flat.

Whitelines Journals

Pushing the book down, you see that there is still a major hump that you will be writing in/out of. This to me means not being able to write near the inner margins and that to me, wastes paper.

In closing, Whitelines is a company that makes an effort to be extremely environmentally friendly. They wish to have the smallest carbon footprint as possible. I have to admit that while I do care about products being made under unsuitable working conditions, or those that are aggressively harmful to the environment, I am not typically swayed to purchase "Green" products because I often feel that becomes the companies main sales agenda rather than making the best products possible.

Right now, I can't recommend the Whitelines products because I don't know what you will end up with if you purchase them. Cool paper or warm, that's important for some people. Smooth or rough, that makes a big difference for fountain pen users. When I buy paper products, I am most concerned about consistency. I want to know that when I go to buy more in 6 months that unless they have clearly stated any improvements or changes to the item, I expect what I buy to work in exactly the same way each time.

For more information or to see the other available Whitelines options, visit their website. 


hap said...

Can you give some dimensions of the books? In particular the spiral bound ones? And while you did not recommend them you did not say which ones were rough and which were smooth (in your samples). I understand you desire for consistancy, are you going to look at these products again in the future to see if they remain inconsistant or if your sample was not representative?
Thanks, love your blog!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another thorough notebook review! Saddle-stitching is the correct term used in the printing industry. If you wished to buy printing and were sending out bids for a booklet, one of the specifications would be whether you wanted the print run saddle-stitched (fastened with staples through the spine) or perfect bound. (Hand-saddle-stitchers actually used to exist for very tiny quantities.) I've seen the term "Smythe sewn" used for Moleskine-like bindings, but am not sure whether or not the saddle-stitched term is a broader description that covers this binding or not.

David Maliniak said...

FYI, saddle stitching *is* stapling, Stephanie... a bunch of Rhodia products, for example, are saddle stitched, too. Google the term and you'll get a definition. You can go to a good office-supply house and buy a saddle stitcher (it's a stapler).

Thanks for the nice review.

Biffybeans said...

Hi Hap - "The tablet is very smooth and the ring bound textured enough to feel it under my hand as I write. The other two were in between the others as far as smoothness."

So the glued tablet was the smoothest and the spiral the roughest. But if I ordered from them, how would I know which of the 4 papers I would get in any given product?

The samples they sent were all A5 in size which is roughly 6x8. Some of their products come in a few other sizes.

At this time, I do not care to re-review these products. I first and foremost review products to see how well they work for me and I didn't love writing on the gray/white combination. (Partly because I've moved on to using blank paper) I also don't like journals/notebooks with a square edge - digs in my hand as I reach the bottom of the page. Had I loved the paper, I might have been ok with that but the one thing I cannot overlook is a hard back books inability to open flat to use all of it's surface. I hope that answers your questions. :o)

Biffybeans said...

Anon - Ahh..... for what ever reason, I thought Saddle SEWN referred to a certain kind of sewn binding. My error. :o) When I refer to the Moleskines, I'm not taking about their hard back journals, but the Cahiers in which the signatures appear to be sewn - I thought that particular kind of binding was called Saddle Stitch.

David - much thanks, Now I know.

hap said...

Thanks Stephanie!
I was interested in checking out the spiral bound squared (graph paperlike?) notebook, but I too am a fountain pen lover and if that's the roughest of the papers, I would not be happy with it as a field journal for sketching and notes. Thanks for the clarifications!
BTW re your bijoux box...have you ever looked at any of Craig Young's palettes?

what I would not give for one of those!!!
thanks again!

Lexi0514 said...

Stephanie, I loved this review even though I don't love these books. I just can't get used to the greyish paper with white lines. And I'm surprised I've never seen a review of these by Lady Dandelion since they are a Swedish company.
I did like the staple bound because of it's convenience, but probably wouldn't buy these since I already have this version in Rhodia and Clairefontaine which can't be beat in my opinion.
I love your paper reviews! Thanks.

G.Young said...

I, too, have mixed feelings about Whitelines. I love the reversed grid; when I look back at what I've written in other gridded notebooks (even Rhodias), the grid is still too dark. (And yes, I have to have a grid; I do calligraphy while journaling, including practicing my pitiful Sanskrit.) I adore the Whitelines Wire, but the back cover isn't stiff enough; however, neither is the Rhodia Reverse's. Oddly, I haven't had the same paper-quality issues as Stephanie, but I haven't been as thorough either. I use mainly a Lami Safari with Noodler's Air-Corps Blue-Black.

Note Booker, Esq said...

Wow, glad I saw this. I have an A4 perfect-bound and an A5 ring-bound, but I bought and used them months apart from each other. Now I'm curious to compare them side by side.

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