Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I'm sure by now many of you know I work for Exaclair- the US distributor of Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Quo Vadis, etc. I write the Rhodia Drive blog and one of the perks is that I get to play with all of the new toys like this new Rhodia Unlimited book.
The Unlimited is a 3x1/2 x 5 1/2" pocket sized notebook. It contains 60 sheets (120 pages) of 80g white Rhodia paper in a graph format. They will be selling for around $8 each. (As of July 6th 2011, they are not yet in stock in the US - they will be here soon...)
The Unlimited comes with either a black or orange cover and is made of the same "Soft Touch" cover material as the new "R" Rhodia Premium Pads. (Which I will review soon) It includes a color coordinated elastic closure - a feature I value in any notebook. (The elastic itself, not the color coordinated part.)
The strap is attached to the back cover by small grommets. There is a similar set up in the Clairefontaine Roadbook which I found obtrusive (princess and the pea syndrome) but for whatever reason, I found I was not bothered by it in the Unlimited. (Could be due to the thickness of the elastic band, cover materials, weight of the paper 80g versus 90g, who knows.)
Books with rounded corners are always welcome in my world. They do not get as ragged through constant handling and when writing to the bottom of the page they do not dig into the palm of your hand.
Orange cover has a black interior and black one will have an orange interior.
The format of the paper is a grid with a lined header. Depending on the light, the ink lines appear either gray or brown. I'm not a big fan of graph paper (something about continuously crossing over all those lines) and I will always think the ink could be lighter. I wonder why the ink isn't the typical Rhodia violet? I've got to ask Karen about that.
The pages are perforated for easy removal and actually come in handy when you want the book to open flat. Most other Clairefontaine/Rhodia products are either sewn or stapled, but the Unlimited is glued. Since the pages are all perforated, they seem to open flatter - but note that this type of binding won't ever lie flat.
When I think of using any kind of pocket sized book, I imagine writing "In Hand." Standing in a museum or gallery taking notes, writing down directions to the bagel shop, or copying down a phone number to give to a new friend. In my opinion, for a product to encourage writing, it should be as functional as possible to allow you to utilize as much of the writing surface as possible. When holding the book in one hand, this is as much as the binding will allow you to fold it over.
This results in a loss of nearly 1/3 of a page... imagine a left handed writer holding the book in their right hand and writing over hand. Keep in mind how this might change depending on where you are in the book. (How many pages you will be flipping over.) Spiral books probably are the best for folding over and writing on the opposite side, but even they can lose some valuable real estate when writing near the spiral.
Knowing that Clairefontaine/Rhodia make additional products of similar size, I thought I would compare the Unlimited to a few of them.
The Clairefontaine Unplugged books are 3 1/2 x 5 1/2" (same as the Unlimited) and come in a 2 packs which cost $7. They each contain 48 sheets (96 pages) of white 90g ruled paper. The covers are cardboard and they come in assorted colors.
These are staplebound books with reinforced staples and IMHO are very difficult to keep closed unless you secure it with a rubber band. (Or maybe stuff it in a tight back pocket)
This side staplebound Rhodia notebook is 3 x 4.75" and contains 24 sheets (48 pages) of the 80g Rhodia graph paper. They come with orange and black covers and sell for $2.00. (They are also available in additional sizes but for the purpose of this review I am comparing the size closest to the Unlimited.)
The Unlimited is the same size as a small Webbie (Webnotebook) but the Webbies are full-featured with a hard cover, a pocket in the back, and a ribbon bookmark. They contain 96 sheets (192 pages) of off-white 90g Rhodia paper in blank, lined and dotGrid formats. They sell for $15.
Webbie & Unlimited hanging out on a sunny day.
The Clairefontaine Roadbook is also 3 1/2 x 5 1/2" in size, cost $8.00 each and has 64 sheets (128 pages) of 90g Clairefontaine paper. They come in assorted colors and have a cardboard cover.
To me, the grommet on the Roadbook was a bit too noticeable when writing over top of it.
The pages in the Roadbook are not perforated and are stitched into tight signatures which somewhat hinder the book's ability to open flat. The binding does however, allow the book to lie somewhat flat.
The binding and cover design on the Roadbook allow a better fold-over than on the Unlimited, but due to the tightness of the signatures, I'm not sure how the book would hold up over repeated use in this fashion.
One feature I noticed about the Roadbook that would be useful on the Unlimited would be to score the cover...
as folding open the Unlimited creates creasing on the cover.
Yes, yes... I hear you. I'm probably borderline annoying with all of the demands I place on a product. :o) But these aren't just any products. These products contain some of the best writing paper in the world - paper that makes you want to write and ditch your note taking apps forever and buy a number of expensive fountain pens and a plethora of colored inks to use in them. (Don't believe me? Go & visit the Fountain Pen Network and read the forums...) The papers used in the variety of books I've compared in this review are all manufactured in France by Clairefontaine. The paper quality is consistent book after book, pad after pad. It's the most famous paper for being fountain pen friendly without feathering or bleed through of the water based inks. They also work super swell with pencils, ball points, gel pens... The paper is all acid free & ph neutral.
Over all, the Unlimited isn't a product I'd use. I want any book I use to open/lie flat & somewhat able to be held in one hand while writing with the other. I'm sure with all the options available, one of these books will suit your needs.
* Note - I had initially incorrectly had the price listed for the Unplugged at $12 - my mistake, as they are only $8 - which puts them in line with the Roadbook.
Each of these books were provided to me by Exaclair for the purpose of review.