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The Rhodia Webnotebook: Bad Name, Great Journal

May 19th, 2008 · 45 Comments · black book


Hello there.

I imagine that the vast majority of you who read this site are familiar with Rhodia products. Decked out in a distinctive shade of orange, they bring a level of style, quality, and most importantly, brilliant simplicity to all of their products, from fliptop pads to staple-bound notebooks. Rhodia products hail from France, where the company was started in Lyon in 1932.

Recently, word has been getting around of a new Moleskine-esque product called the “Webnotebook,” and we’ve been rabidly trying to get our hands on one. For a while, the only available means were wholesalers selling in expensive large bulk orders, and as much as we like black notebooks, we don’t like them that much!

Luckily, after a few emails, Exaclair Inc., the American distributor of Rhodia products, generously sent us some samples. Thus, Black Cover is proud to present what I think is the first Rhodia Webnotebook review on the internet.

From most pictures online, you’d think this notebook was identical to the Moleskine. Thankfully, it’s not, and for a variety of reasons.

The major difference is the cover, which is a thick, smooth yet firm Italian “leatherette” (according to the website).

To the touch, it feels very smooth and soft, unlike the hard, wrinkled texture of the Moleskine oil cloth. But this isn’t a soft cover – there’s slightly more give to it than the Moleskine cover (which is actually very nice for back pocket travel) but is still very much a hard cover.  It’s also thicker than a Moleskine cover, which gives it more weight in comparison.

Frankly, holding the two, the Moleskine feels cheap against the Rhodia, which seems to have a lot more quality to it – more like a high end journal you’d keep around for a while. Indented in the front is the familiar Rhodia logo, something I’d personally put on the back but is trademark of all their products.

Size-wise, it’s exactly the same as a standard Moleskine – 3.5″ x 5.5″ (9.5 cm x 14 cm). It’s slightly thicker because of the cover, but otherwise has 96 sheets of lined paper, or 192 pages total.

Inside, the lined pages are a nice shade of off-white, lighter than the Moleskine’s, but pleasing on the eyes. The lines are well spaced, and go right to the top and bottom of each page. There’s a little Rhodia logo in the bottom corner which is TOTALLY unnecessary, but it’s not too distracting.

However, here’s a downside that some of you will be very disappointed with: the Webnotebooks do not come with the standard Rhodia paper. According to Exaclair, they were disappointed to learn that Rhodia hadn’t included their highly regarded stock of paper, and have been urging them to change their decision. It’s true that the paper here feels very thin, and tends to get page wrinkles pretty quickly from use. On the other hand, it’s still thicker than Moleskine paper, and I’m not one of those people who uses anything heavier than a cheap Bic ballpoint pen. So this is a pretty negligible complaint in my eyes.

As you can see above, the notebooks come with a nice ribbon bookmark, and attached to the back cover, a black pocket folder.

Overall, Rhodia’s (badly named!) Webnotebook seems like a higher end version of the Moleskine – a notebook you could use as a journal without feeling like you were skimping a bit on the quality, yet is still simple enough to carry around on your travels.  The two types of cover (Rhodia’s leatherette vs. Moleskine’s oil cloth) are like apples and oranges, and I think it comes down to personal taste on which you prefer.

Ultimately, the Rhodia webnotebook is definitely worth a test run, and it’s the second notebook after the original Stifflexible that’s made me realize there’s more than one way to skine, er, skin a cat (sorry for that). But where to buy them? Though I can’t find a product page on their websites, Exaclair tells me the best way is to write to either The Daily Planner or Pendemonium, both of which have access to Exaclair’s Webnotebook supplies. I think they retail for about $12, but I’m not sure.

Also, for those looking for something a little bigger than a pocket notebook, Exaclair sent me samples of a larger softcover journal (similar to Miquelrius’s soft cover) called the ePure (thanks to reader Pat for the correct name!).

The notebook measures 8.5″ x 5.5″ wide (the size of a normal sheet of paper folded in half), and features a soft imitation leather cover with the Rhodia logo engraved in the center. The inside has beautiful thick white drawing paper, which makes it a great sketch book for those with artistic abilities (not Black Cover, sadly).

There’s no elastic band, bookmark, or back cover pocket, but it’s still a very nice addition to the Rhodia line.

Overall, both notebooks confirm the continued quality of Rhodia’s products, and we’re hoping the Webnotebook hits stores everywhere to give Moleskine some fierce competition.

Company Site: Rhodia-Block
American Distributor: Exaclair, Inc.
Places to buy: Write to either Pendemonium or The Daily Planner and ask about availability

Special thanks to Rhodia for the review samples!!

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