Is it Groundhog day? I feel a bit of dejá vu as it were. Some time ago I undertook a review of the Black ‘n Red A5 hardback wire bound notebook (see here) as an example of that series. Little did I know at the time that our friends across ‘la manche’, deep in the underground Rhodia bunker, were preparing to invade this sceptered isle with another range of notebooks that would challenge this series head on. But here they are, bold as brass filling up our shops… Anyhoo I thought I would take a look at them and promptly bought a couple from the nice folk down at Bureau Direct. What I got has left me with somewhat mixed feelings which I thought I would share.
Format: Thus far I have only used the A5 version of this notebook, although I have also seen the A5 meeting book and the ‘exabook’ which is a loose leaf version of the meeting book. The series includes offerings in A5, A5+,A4 and A4+sizes. In terms of the one I have in hand there is a lot to like about it. It is sturdily attractive with a heavy-duty wire binding. The covers are aesthetically attractive,smooth and well-designed except for one small but to me exceedingly important detail. The lack of yapp. Now what’s yapp you cry? Well very simply it is the amount that the cover of a book extends over the edge of the paper block. In this series there is none whatsoever leaving me with an issue.
Essentially the edges of the paper feel vulnerable. I know it may be subjective, but I like my ramblings on the inside of a notebook to be well protected by the outside of the book and this just doesn’t work for me. It’s a shame because everything else is good: A good number of pages, great paper, good ruling width, useful inserts with maps, useful numbers and a personal details page, even a planner is included. But even these inserts look shabby round the edge because of the lack of a millimetre or three of hard board cover overlapping to protect them. The Black ‘n red has yapp, the Rhodia doesnt and suffers for the lack.
Paper: I think this is where the Rhodia should excel and indeed it does. It trumpets its premium qualities on the front cover and I have to say there is little to disappoint. The paper is indeed a premium quality 90gsm. It is, as it says, ultra smooth which gives a pleasurable writing experience although for some reason I find it slightly more absorbent than my normal Rhodia paper. Finally it is very white, a visibly brighter white than say other Rhodia product that I have compared it to. But here again it is the detail that in my view lets this notebook down. After two or three test letters on this notepaper (wrote a couple of InCoWriMo letters with it) I consistently encountered a problem with the micro perforations. This surprised me because it is one of Rhodia’s strengths in other notebooks that I possess. But time and again I could not get the paper to tear cleanly, most disappointing,
Value for money: I got this book on a two for one deal, which is excellent but retailing about the £7.50 mark they are nearer the top of the price bracket. In its defence I would say that you are getting a lot of notebook for the money but it’s still expensive enough to make me think twice.
Summary: I really hope that this range of notebooks does well, they appear to be targeted at the UK business market. This will take it into a head on fight with Black ‘n Red among others. I know which I will probably stick to though I might be open to a change of mind especially if anyone would care to redesign the covers on these notebooks to better protect the edges of the paper.