Officeworks X A5 PP Spiral Notebook

x_a5_pp_post_cover_with_pensI picked up this notebook at my local Officeworks for AU$2.99. That’s right — three bucks. My expectations as to how it might perform under a fountain pen were therefore not overly high, however feeling the paper while in the store suggested it just might be a little better than expected.

Home I went — not expecting much, however in the knowledge at worst it would end up a rollerball or gel pen notebook and at least see some use. What I ended up with was a whole lot more than that.

Design

x_a5_post_X_logoThe X A5 PP Notebook is part of the broader range of ‘X’ series stationery at Officeworks, consisting of notebooks, paper, writing instruments and various other accessories. I believe these are an Officeworks “own brand” type line up. All would be considered reasonably priced, with many downright cheap, as is the case with the subject of this post.

x_a5_pp_post_coverThe A5 is a double spiral or wire bound notebook with slightly frosted, transparent, hard polypropylene (hence “PP”) front and rear covers. Also available is a variant with a ziplock pocket at the front and an elastic enclosure, for the princely sum of AU$4.99.

Apart from the branding sticker in the bottom right hand corner of the front cover, the notebook carries no other features or markings, which suits the simplistic design. Given the cover is transparent, there is of course a great opportunity to decorate the first page as you please, and presto: instant personalised cover design. Commensurate with my overall design and creative abilities, mine remains blank.

x_a5_pp_post_labelOne other point to note is your usual preferences regarding binding in notebooks will of course apply. I know many find the large wire binding to get in the way of a fluid writing experience — particularly when writing on the left side of the page, or vice versa for left-handers. If that is how you usually find things in these notebooks, you’ll find it here as well. On a positive note, I’d say there is a medium amount of “wiggle” in the page when writing — also something I typically find characteristic of wire bound notebooks, which if excessive, can certainly be a deal breaker for me. They have done a pretty good job here.

Overall, the X A5 has a robust feel to it, and for the price, is certainly not an unattractive notebook. Sure, it’s not likely to set your desk on fire in the style stakes, however the simplicity of the design ensures it won’t necessarily look out-of-place on that desk either — a characteristic often missing from items at the lower end of the market.

Specifications

The specifications listed on the Officeworks website:

  • Cover: frosted clear polypropylene
  • Binding: double wire
  • Pages: 180 (90 sheets)
  • Paper: 80 gsm white
  • Ruling: 5×5 mm dot grid
  • Size: A5
  • FSC certified (Forest Stewardship Council) paper
  • Country of manufacture: China

Paper and performance

As noted in the specifications above, the 80gsm white paper comes with a dot grid ruling and 180 pages — more than enough to keep you going though a few ink chambers of writing. The pages themselves are not perforated, however tear out easily enough, and do not leave the entire edge of the sheet torn to shreds like some wire bound notebooks.

It’s when it comes to writing on these pages that the real value for money here is hammered home. With fountain pens, this paper really does punch well above its price tag. Certainly not as smooth across the surface as say Rhodia paper, however performance-wise it doesn’t suffer.

x_a5_pp_post_writing_1x_a5_pp_post_writing_2

With finer nibs you’ll experience a little tooth on the page (something I prefer, as long as it’s just a little), however I would still describe the overall experience as a smooth one. Wider and wetter nibs only get smoother, with no feathering, show or bleed through the page. I’ve mentioned in the past I can deal with a little bleed or show through, but feathering drives me crazy.

x_a5_pp_post_reverse_pagex_a5_pp_post_stub_macro

Remember I paid three dollars for this notebook.

Of course as with any paper performing in this way, at times there will be issues with dry time if you are powering along, and testing shows typical inks will dry at around the 20-25 second mark, plus or minus 5 seconds or so for wetter or dryer inks. Of course it goes without saying its ability to handle rollerball, gel ink, or your standard ballpoint pens is assured.

This is without doubt some of the best value 80gsm notebook paper going around, and is readily available online or at your local Officeworks store. This post on The Fountain Pen Network would suggest I am not alone in this line of thinking.

Conclusion

Having picked up this X A5 notebook on a whim, when “back to school” shopping at Officeworks with my kids, the hope was it might be a reasonable quality, cheap notebook to have lying around. It turned out to be way more than that.

Of course it won’t replace your Rhodia No. 16, but wow, it’s a heck of a lot closer than you might think, and I’m certainly likely to be back for more. It would indeed be a great option to accompany the purchase of a new Pilot Prera fountain pen if that’s why you entered the store.

Well done Officeworks — extremely well done.


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Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web by those far wiser than myself:

NoteMaker
Although the Melbourne Writers Festival has now come and gone, some interesting insights into the art itself from one of Australia’s best, Nick Earls. Discussion turns to the new novel Analogue Men, and Nick’s penchant for Moleskine notebooks and a good pencil:
Interview with Analogue Man, Writer and Endless Story Starter Nick Earls

Brett Terpstra
Taken some notes as a plain text list and wished it were a mind map? Develop them further by way of a handy script for converting indented Markdown or plain text to a mind map application of your choice. I also love the integration with popclip, a handy Mac application I use heavily for one click copy and paste (which itself now has 126 different extensions):
Converting Markdown to a mind map

The Weekend Edition
In some decidedly local news, Brisbane is set to see the launch (October 1 this year) of the worlds first NEXT Hotel, on the site of the old Lennon’s on the Queen St Mall. Should we be excited? Maybe, maybe not, however sounds as though there is a nice little bit of tech thrown into the mix:

…guests can download the NEXT Hotel Smart App, using it to adjust lighting, room temperature, music and television channels without needing to leave their super comfy bed.

A perfect place to stay (awake) after the next Strauss coffee cupping evening:
World’s first NEXT Hotel launches in Brisbane

A Penchant for Paper
Although I certainly don’t need an excuse, here are 10 reasons to use pen and paper and get writing by hand. Sketching always seems such a noble and therapeutic undertaking, however it is such a pity I have the exact opposite to a ‘dab hand’, for such an activity:
10 Ways To Use Your Pens and Write By Hand More Often

The Clicky Post
Although perhaps not an everyday colour, the Iroshizuku Yama-budo (Crimson Glory Vine) ink looks fantastic in this Pilot Custom Heritage 92 Demonstrator. A great review by Mike Dudek, and as usual, great photography to match:
Pilot Custom Heritage 92 Demonstrator Fountain Pen – M Nib

Pens! Paper! Pencils!
Speaking of fantastic looking inks, there aren’t too many more striking than the subject of this post by Ian Hedley. If you like your orange with a good measure of substance, check out the link, or alternatively search for “deep orange ink” in Ian’s fantastic new pen blog search engine, Pennaquod:
Diamine Cult Pens Deep Dark Orange ink review

Finer Things in Tech
David Chartier with an elegant piece on…well, the inelegant state of inter app communication and integration courtesy of the walled gardens currently in existence:

But even on OS X, where apps have always had ways to work together, I had to manually copy and paste the title and body of this piece from the Evernote, erm, note where I scribbled my initial ideas into Write. Like an animal. As much as I am a fan of Evernote, it’s a tedious, hindering experience that makes me curious about alternatives.

This is hopefully all about to change with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite – not long to wait now:
iOS, Mac App Extensions offer some hope for walled gardens

Austin Kleon
Not commandments per se, though a list of ten nonetheless. Manifesto?, Declaration? Creed? Call it what you will, though Notes to self was the author’s choice. My picks – numbers 1 and 10:
Notes to self

Pens Down – InCoWriMo Reflections

photo

No doubt many are saying “well that’s InCoWriMo done for another year”. Not I, given it is the first year I have participated. For those unfamiliar with this February activity, from the organisers:

InCoWriMo challenges you to hand-write and mail/deliver one letter, card, note or postcard every day during the month of February.

Although my decision to commit to the InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month) challenge was decidedly last-minute, I’m very pleased I did. There is a lot to be said for the written word, even more so for the hand written word. The extra thought, planning and overall contemplation relating to words committed to the page by hand, seem to make them somehow different than those tapped out in an email, tweet or blog post. There is no select all and delete if the first couple of sentences are wrong (yes, I did restart more than one letter), nor is there backspace for the misspelt or improperly formed letters or words. Having set myself the challenge of no strike-out out corrections, I managed to keep this to only two for the entire month, far better than I expected.

Beyond the enjoyment of writing to those who were on my list, of course the main attraction was putting pen to paper numerous times (well 56 to be precise – see an explanation of this below) over the course of the month. Who knows, perhaps with more notice I may have stocked up on a few new pens, rather than merely new inks.[1]

I can’t help but think in my ideal world, a letter held in the hand of the recipient would somehow mean more than a hastily sent email (likely with typo’s), sitting in a cluttered inbox along with spam, bills and random newsletters, likely to be missed or accidentally deleted. The act of turning the envelope over to check the identity of the sender, tearing it open (perhaps with an exquisite silver letter opener), unfolding the Rhodia[2] paper and smiling at the ink colour and contents on the page. Hopefully an appreciation of the time taken by the sender to think about, and physically craft what is now in the hands of the reader.

The recipients themselves? Hopefully each enjoyed the surprise in their mailbox, and also the words inside those envelopes. Words of thanks, appreciation, love, encouragement, support and idle chatter. Letters went out to friends, family, pen company CEO’s (courtesy of the contact details on the InCoWriMo homepage), a couple of my favourite pen podcasters, fellow bloggers, and Eric Schneider of InCoWriMo, who will receive letter number 28. My initial joke to family members advising they may receive more than one letter because I would run out of friends did indeed eventuate, however lets just say I wanted to write them another one (yes, let’s go with that).

Apart from that spoken of above, by far the most rewarding aspect was my commitment to also write a letter a day to my lovely wife, bringing my tally for the month to 56 letters in all (pleased it wasn’t a leap year). A feat I am very proud to have completed. Obviously I will not go into any details here, though writing to someone you are very close to on a daily basis is quite an enriching experience, and one I highly recommend if you have ever considered anything similar. Daily for a month a little much? My suggestion would be to sit down and write just one letter, and be amazed at what comes to mind – just try it.

So, in summary, the whole InCoWriMo experience was an extremely positive and rewarding experience for me. Will I be doing it again? Absolutely. Will I be embarking on it’s “sister event” NaNoWriMo come November? That, I am not sure of. Do I have a fifty thousand word novel in me? Don’t we all think we do? The question is whether anything worthwhile will come out over the course of the month. Perhaps I should simply put together thirty 1700 word letters with a somewhat cohesive plot!

Contemplating InCoWriMo next year? Do it. You certainly won’t be sorry you did.


  1. For those interested, J. Herbin Indien Orange, Montblanc Irish Green, and Montblanc Burgundy Red.  ↩
  2. Rhodia No 16 Dot Pad  ↩