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The Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal Showdown

10/02/2009

Many journal devotees would agree the Moleskine A6 journal has cachet to spare. So can a newcomer called the Rhodia Webnotebook (a/k/a The Webbie) best it? With certainty in one key category it does but is it enough to make you switch?

Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal

Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal

When it comes to form, Moleskine is exactly what a journal ought to be. The cover is thin but sturdy, the perfect little black book. The ribbon marker is durable enough and the pocket tucked inside the back cover is convenient for all manner of uses. The elastic band closure fits just right and helps keep goodies tucked tidily between the pages. The cream colored pages with pale gray lines are easy on the eyes and discreet. The Moleskine is a classy-looking journal in every respect.

The Rhodia Webnotebook is similar and certainly gives more than a nod to the venerable Moleskine. Unfortunately, it misses in some small ways but puts the Moleskine to shame in the most important one. More later about that.

Addressing form differences first, the Rhodia cover is thicker, sturdy, rigid, and smooth. The elastic band is tight and left permanent indentations on the front and back covers of the sample I received from Exaclair. There is a pocket attached to the back cover just like the Mole.  The inside cover is black with no place to write a name or offer a reward should the journal meet with misfortune. This omission could easily be remedied with a bookplate sticker. The Rhodia does not initially lie perfectly flat like the Moleskine but with use the spine will relax enough to make that less an issue.

The paper is a whole ‘nother subject and in this the Rhodia excels. The images tell the story. The Moleskine paper feathers in places with fountain pen ink but does well with pencil, gel pens, roller balls, and Sharpie Pens (not markers). There is show-through and bleed-through from every fountain pen I used. As one would expect, the finest nibs worked best. Although I didn’t have them on hand to test today, Noodler’s Black or Legal Lapis in a dry Parker ’51′ extra-fine are the best fountain pen and ink duos I’ve ever found for a Moleskine. The Pilot Prera fine nib tested best of the lot this time.

Moleskine Journal - Front

Moleskine Journal - Front

Moleskine Journal - Reverse

Moleskine Journal - Reverse

Now for the challenger. The darker cream/gray lined Rhodia paper is thicker, smoother, and absolutely loved nearly everything I threw at it. Finally, double-sided writing is feasible in a small, black journal. No feathering, no bleed-through except with a Sharpie Marker and only the very faintest show-through with anything else.

Prefer fountain pens? This is a match made in heaven at least with the new 90g version. Depending on the ink and pen, drying time can be longer than with the Moleskine but I think it is worth the few-second wait. A piece of blotter paper should eliminate any smearing if that is a concern.

Rhodia Webnotebook - Front

Rhodia Webnotebook - Front

Rhodia Webnotebook - Reverse

Rhodia Webnotebook - Reverse

For anything but fountain pens, both the Moleskine and the Rhodia work well. The Sharpie Pen was particularly nice. It didn’t even leave an indentation. For compatibility with fountain pen ink though, the Rhodia Webnotebook easily came out tops. Every pen on my desk worked well including the stub and the free-flowing cursive italic, just the sort of versatility that is perfect for an inkophile.

Update: One of the comments below states that the line spacing is larger in the Webnotebook. A side by side comparison of the 9 x 14 cm sized journals used in my test showed no difference between the two.

Note: Another Rhodia Webnotebook review at Rhodia Drive and Peaceable Writer.

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47 comments

  1. An almost unfair comparison! But I loved it.

    I see from your Moleskine pictures that you’re seeing the exact same effect I have been. There are certain fibers of the paper that carry the ink away from the letter. It’s so weird, I can write a word, it will look almost normal, then tiny little strands of paper fiber will start carrying ink in all different directions.

    I *must* get my hands on a Rhodia!


    • Moleskine has had that little issue for a long time. Makes me think the company does not see it as a problem but rather likes the quirkiness. I can live with it but am put off by the show-through and bleed-through. For those who write on only one side of the paper though, it’s a non-issue. Given the market-share Moleskine has secured, they are certainly doing things well for the company. Kudos on that score.


  2. Great review! Thanks.

    I really like the Moleskine sketchbooks and watercolor journals, but for fountain pens they just don’t cut it.


    • Glad you enjoyed the review. Moleskine does have its uses. The little feathers along some of the fibers doesn’t bother me that much. It’s just part of the Moleskine experience. The show-through and bleed-through are different. I like to write on the reverse side for a lot of reasons. Not that it can’t be done in a Moleskine but it really limits fountain pen choices. Nevertheless I did it for years but am pleased to have new options with the Webnotebook.


  3. Just buy some good inks and their is no problem with a Moleskine ;-)


    • Glad you added a wink. I’m just not convinced it is the ink but will continue to test whatever I load in a pen. If I find something that performs consistently without traveling along the fibers, I will certainly post about it. The bleed-through and show-though are a result of thin paper. I just tested J. Herbin Vert Empire in a Parker ’51′ Aerometric fine nib that produced less feathering but it still has mild show-through and a few dots of bleed-through. It performed as well as or better than anything in the test and conforms to my comments about the ’51′ and Moleskine.

      As I mentioned elsewhere ink traveling along the fibers might be a characteristic that the makers of Moleskine count as a positive feature, a unique characteristic associated with their products. It is unobtrusive with some inks and for casual writing in a journal, I really don’t mind it. The show-through and bleed-through are greater issues in those circumstances where they obscure what is written on the reverse. When these marks are pale and unobtrusive, I write over them without hesitation.

      Frankly, I didn’t know there was better paper for a long, long time and just lived with the Moleskine idiosyncrasies. Now that I use wide nibs that lay down more ink, it is a greater issue for me. The Rhodia Webnotebook fills the gap for those pens.


  4. [...] Read more here. [...]


  5. Can’t say that I have seen the same bleeding on the Moleskine books that I’ve been using.

    But there are enough people that have and have not seen issues like this to leave the question open about whether a moleskine is bad and a Rhodia is good.


  6. I’ve never owned a Moleskine Journal (I have sampled a few sheets of the paper). I almost bought one, but though better of it and got a Paperchase journal instead. The more reviews I read, the more I realize that there is just no point in my getting one. For me, it’s the feathering that is the problem. I generally only write on one side of the page, so I can handle some bleed through, but feathering? That really gets up my nose!

    Now “The Webbie” does look particularly interesting. If Rhodia comes out with a blank page version I’ll have to pick one up.

    Thanks for the comparison.


    • The feathering is different from what I’ve experienced with other brands of paper. A tiny bit of ink flows along a fiber but only here and there. It isn’t messy or consistent with every letter. It is really quite odd and makes Moleskine paper unique.

      Just now I found some writing in a Moleskine from 2006 that looks like Waterman Blue Black and Diamine Emerald that did not show through on the reverse nor did it feather. No idea what pens were used but they were very fine and dry. Noodler’s black did not fare as well in that journal.

      Both Moleskine and the Rhodia Webnotebook are well-made and good quality. The main difference is that the Webbie 90g version should stand up to any fountain pen ink and work well for double-sided writing with most any writing instrument, the Sharpie Marker being an exception. For those writers who love Moleskine and aren’t bothered by its idiosyncrasies or even enjoy them, the Webbie may simply be a change of pace. I must say I love the shade of orange of the Webbie covers so there is that, too. For anyone who has been unhappy with Moleskine paper but wants the same form, the Webbie 90g is the best alternative I have used so far.


  7. Yes I added the winky, because this discussion will go on for ever. Lovers of Moleskine can’t stand it to hear something negative about bleedthrough. Rhodia lovers can’t stand it to hear something negative about the long ink-drying-times. It is something human to see only the positive things about something you love.

    I love your blog and can learn a lot of it. I’m just a newbie searching for great ink for my Moleskines.

    Keep up your great work!!


    • Thanks for dropping by. More comments and discussion are always welcome. :)


  8. [...] presents The Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal Showdown posted at An Inkophile’s [...]


  9. [...] Rhodia Webnotebook vs. Moleskine Journal Showdown [...]


  10. I had similar results when I compared these two journals, but it seems to vary with the different ink and nib types. I am able to use my fountain pen with my Moleskine without a problem, but the Rhodia paper is more opaque and super smooth so it is lovely to write on. The only issue I have with the Rhodia is that my ink takes longer to dry on the paper than it does on the Moleskine paper, so if I am in a hurry, I will use a Moleskine journal,even though the paper is not as nice. I think both notebooks have their strengths, so why not use both?


    • Exactly!


  11. Does anyone have a price comparison between the two? I saw about $20 for the Rhodia but that can’t be right??


  12. Does the webnotebook have 96 pages or 96 leaves? since otherwise the prices seem similar. Might have to look for the calander version.


    • The label says 96 sheets/192 pages for both sizes of paper. It also says 90g which is important as the earlier, less substantial version was reputedly not as FP friendly.


  13. [...] post worth reading was An Inkophile’s comparison of Rhodia and Moleskine journals. Over the years,  I’ve made sporadic attempts at keeping a [...]


  14. Great review! If you like the webnotebook for paper, try some Clairefontaine Age Bag (we call it essentials here in Australia)…it’s 90g Clairefontaine stock and totally incredible…Moleskine Folios have better thicker paper but the classic notebooks has really dropped in quality

    rhodia wins for me, i actually prefer their cover too as the corners dent less than the moleskine


  15. Thanks for the review! I do agree the webnotebook paper is superior.

    However, what I really like about the moleskine over the rhodia is the more narrow ruling in the moleskine. I am always looking for people to mention this in their reviews, because that a perfect notebook is ruined, for my, by wide rulings.


    • The line-spacing in the Moleskine and the Rhodia Webnotebook, at least in the 9 x 14cm size journal in my comparison, is identical. So this is a non-issue for me. With my large writing a little more space between the lines might even have been preferable.


  16. [...] The Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal [...]


  17. [...] to the “Webbie”? Check out the Inkophile review, The Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal Showdown, for more information. It is a fave here and nothing is better than “free” so mosey on [...]


  18. This is all wonderful information about both the Moleskine and Rhodia. I have been journaling without missing a day for nearly 25 years. About ten years ago I thought I had found the Holy Grail of Journals when I purchased my first Moleskine. Of course, back then, I was writing exclusively with a Mont Blanc ballpoint.
    As my affection for various writing instruments grew, I aquired a few fountain pens. This made all too evident the downside of the Moleskine as I had a lot of bleed through. Back then, the solution for me was to have my fountain pens custom ground, usually by Richard Binder, to finer and finer points, with a dryer line. That was fine, but it restricted me from using broader more italic nibs which can possess so much more character.
    Last Fall, it all came together and I had an epiphany of sorts after discovering the Rhodia Web-Notebook. If you love writing with a fountain, as I do, the paper is everything. And the Rhodia 90g is simply the best you can get in a notebook anywhere.
    I order my notebooks by the case and now have a case and a half of Moles downstairs which I will either never use or give away. ( I’m not the type of person who would use both) for me its one or the other. The Webbie’s have opened up a whole new world for me and my writing and has fueled my interest in purchasing and using new types of fountain pens. This wasn’t possible before I found these new books. For me, they are simply the best!


    • Dang but that’s a lot of Moles! Ebay is where I’d send them. There are many folks who swear by them and would be delighted to pick up your rejects.

      I admire your consistency at journaling and loyalty to one product. However, you didn’t mention ink. Is there one to which you are just as loyal?


  19. I’m pretty old school when it comes to my Inks. Because I want to keep my journals uniform and consistent I strictly use black- I’ve tried many of the brands but the one which works best for me is the Aurora Black. Great flow, wonderful coverage. If you get Pen World Magazine you can see some examples of my handwritten books in this months issue.
    cheers,

    Michael


    • Aurora Black is a favorite amongst fountain pen users. It would be hard to beat at consistency and quality.

      No, I don’t get Pen World so I will miss your handwritten books. One of these days…


  20. Ink does a lot of good things in a Moleskine. On my blog you will find 100% Moleskine proof inks.


    • With italic or even broad nibs, I haven’t been entirely satisfied with any ink in a Moleskine. With fine to extra-fine nibs especially dry ones, there are a number of inks that are quite suitable. Noodler’s Legal Lapis from Pendemonium, Noodler’s Black, J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune and Vert Empire are my favorites for Moles especially with a dry-writing Parker “51″ extra-fine nib. For my purposes as someone who uses a variety of pens, nib widths, and inks, Moleskine isn’t as good a choice as the Rhodia Webnotebook (90 gsm) based on paper performance alone.

      That said, I do love the form-factor of the Mole and the paper and line color as well. For pencil and other writing instruments like the Sharpie Pen, the Mole is great. But when I want to write with my MB 220 OB that is wetter than wet, a Mole just won’t do even with one of the inks that work so well with the “51′. It’s really a matter of matching paper, pen and ink.


  21. [...] Inkophile Review: The Rhodia webnotebook vs Moleskine Showdown, Oct 02, 2009.  Also see her review: quo vadis habana & 12 inks, July 10, [...]


  22. [...] Rhodia is a 90 grain paper, whereas Moleskine is a 70 grain paper.  The difference in thickness means everything.  Just read the review by Inkophile. [...]


  23. What about the paper quality. is it acid-free ?


    • The Rhodia Webnotebook contains 90 gram, ivory colored, acid-free, pH neutral paper.


  24. A hilarious observation on the REAL reasons behind the self-important ownership and the self-conscious use of a Moleskine/Rhodia:
    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2009/02/24/122-moleskine-notebooks/


    • Don’t ya just love a good snark-fest!


  25. @inkophile:
    Yes, most definitely. However, the only way anybody is ever going to get a hold of my Moleskine Project Planner is to pry it from my cold, dead, pretentious hands…;-)
    http://journalingarts.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/review-first-look-at-moleskines-2010-project-planner/


    • That’s a nice one, Mark. Thanks for the link to Journaling Arts. Cynthia offers so many good paper products for fountain pen users that it’s hard to choose just one. *sigh*


  26. [...]  The Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal Showdown October 2009 [...]


  27. I am writing in a Rhodia with 90 weight paper and a $35 fountain pen. I really enjoy the smooth feel and soft cushion provided by the high quality paper. My only gripe is that the ink is taking about 10 minutes to dry. I can fill up one page and before I turn the page, I can still smear the date written at the top of my page. I am using the standard ink refills in my pen. Once I find a fast drying ink, I will be a very happy camper.


  28. [...] I was pleased to come across a great review at An Inkophile’s Blog comparing the Moleskine Classic Notebook with the Rhodia Webnotebook. [...]


  29. [...] The Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal Showdown [...]


  30. Rhodia. Unbeatable!!!!


  31. [...] Rhodia paper [...]


  32. […] Most read post of all time – The Rhodia Webnotebook vs Moleskine Journal Showdown […]



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