Review of Whitelines Perfect Bound Books.

A month or so ago, we received a package of books from Whitelines (see also the US site), a Swedish company who makes very fine books with a unique feature: WHITE LINES. That’s right. The lines are white, while the paper is a very light grey. Does it make a difference to this pencil user? Read on!

Cover Material: Coated cardstock.
Paper: 80 g acid-free; grey-tinted paper with white lines.
Binding: Sewn.
Size: Assorted; A5 and “pocket” as tested.
Page Count: 48/36 sheets (96/72 pages).
Unique Characteristics: White lines on grey paper.
Origin: Sweden.
Availability: Online, even on Amazon.

We were sent two of the Hard Bound books and two of the Perfect Bound books, one each in black and white. What’s immediately striking about Whitelines books is both the color scheme and the construction. Covers are strong. Corners are rounded precisely (even more than Moleskines and Field Notes, to tell the truth). The bindings are tight. The package containing our four review samples was actually pretty badly damaged by the mail service; the stuffing was everywhere from a large hole, etc. The A5 Hard Bound book suffered minor damage, but the A4 Hard Bound book had two corners badly crushed. I know this was not Whitelines’ fault at all. I mention it because, although the package went through hell, the large book’s binding was completely intact. Intact enough that we’ll do a second review of the Hard Bound Whitelines in the near future, featuring more of the company’s history. These books merit it, for sure.

What I’ll mention in this review of the Perfect Bound books is a little about the concept behind Whitelines.

“Whitelines® is the new generation of writing paper. The concept is patented and yet very simple: Since markings from pens are dark they interfere with the traditional dark lines of ordinary paper. On Whitelines® there is no visual interference between the lines and the pen colour. Whitelines® makes your writing and sketches stand out.” (More.)

The lines also disappear under copymachines, and the paper comes lined or with a graph print. We tried both. The graph spacing is just right, and the lines are also very well-spaced for graphite writing.

I have to admit that I was skeptical of two things. First, I didn’t think that slightly grey paper and white lines would really be easier on my eyes. On the contrary, I assumed that they would be more difficult to see (especially since my daughter broke my unbreakable titanium glasses, and I haven’t had time to go to the eye doctor yet). I was also nervous that graphite (which is grey-to-black) would not show up on grey paper very well.

I was wrong on both counts. The lines are not difficult at all to see, and the paper just seems, for lack of a better word, mellow. Rather than shining up at you, begging you to write on it, it’s just grey and relaxed. And, while I was afraid that graphite marks would be more difficult to see, the opposite was somehow true. I checked with my wife, and we both agreed that writing stood out at least as well as on white unlined paper – perhaps more. (If more, don’t ask me how that works. My degrees are in philosophy, not physics or physiology.) In my own experience, the claims of the benefits of Whitelines’ paper prove wonderfully true.

But how does the paper handle graphite? Ghosting is not perfect, but it’s on the better side of standard, that is, very good. Graphite ghosts less than Field Notes (way less than Moleskines) and us up there with much thicker paper like EcoJot‘s recycled paper. To be clear, I’ve never found anything (even cardstock) that doesn’t ghost at least a little with some of my favorite softer pencils. The texture of the paper is similar to a Field Notes book, which is to say smooth, but with a nice tooth. Writing in a Whitelines book is as easy on one’s hands as on the eyes. Aside from Whitelines’ own special features, where this paper really shines is its smearability, which is on par with Rhodia paper – paper that lots of us know is very very smear-proof. It took some very soft leads and hard rubbing to product any smearing at all. In short, Whitelines books have nice paper that resists ghosting and smearing much better than most papers, with gentle white lines and grey paper to boot. You can’t lose.

Add to this the tight and durable binding of the Perfect Bound book (which spent no less than two weeks in my backpack) and the thoughtful sizing, and you’ve got a very nice book. The A5 we tested fits well for meeting and reading notes; that’s what I used it for during the test period. The “pocket” size is similar to a Moleskine or Field Notes, only thicker. The pocket version is no less durable than the A5 version. As we promised Whitelines, I beat them up quite a bit. And they survived, looking pretty new, too. And stylish.

In our up-coming review of the Hard Bound books, we’ll talk about Whitelines’ environmental commitment also. Stay tuned.

NaNoWriMo 2010 Gear: Paper.

While the question of which pencils to use for Nation Novel Writing Month is certainly an important one for pencil fans who are embarking on the one-month writing challenge.  But, perhaps almost as important, is the question of what to write on.

There are myriad notebook blogs, on which Comrades can find information about notebooks’ construction, which ones can handle fountain pen ink, etc. What we try to provide with our growing number of paper reviews are pencil-specific reviews. We have a growing stack (er, box) of review samples we are testing for ghosting, point retention, etc.  But, I thought it might be helpful to suggest a few great notebooks in which to write (or in which to take notes for) Comrades’ NaNoWriMo work — and, of course, invite others to share pointers.

1) Field Notes.  I was hoping my “Raven’s Wing” editions would show up this week, but it is not so.  Field Notes are stylish, durable and very pocketable.  I might not want to draft much longhand in these (they’re small and not full of much paper), but for on-the-go notetaking, it’s hard to beat a Field Notes book.

2) Rhodia products.  There are tiny stapled notebooks (like smaller Field Notes) for your pocket, the beautiful “Webbie” journals for long drafts and all manner of pads to suite your pocket or desktop.  The smartphone pocket of my T2 bag usually has a Rhodia pad in it, in some kind of Luddite gesture.

3) EcoJot Workbooks.  I was hoping we’d be able to publish a review of these from some samples Mark sent us in time for November, but it’s not to be.  The review is coming, but you’ll have to take my word for it that they are like Moleskine Cahiers.  Only greener.  With attractive covers.  And better paper.

4) Whitelines.  We’ll have a review of these interesting notebooks in the near future, but I think they bear mention for marathon writing.  The idea is that the pages are light grey, with white lines, since dark lines on white paper are harsh for the eyes.  It might sound strange, but these are very nice books, and the paper is intriguing.

5) Something FANCY.  A big MoleskinePaper Blanks.  Something handmade from Etsy.  I have a beautiful journal that my sister-in-law sent me for a birthday a few years ago made from an old library book and big rings that I am considering using, or a giant EcoJot journal.

I thought about listing books I would personally avoid, but I think that’s unnecessarily negative.  And, you know, one writer’s graphite mess is another’s silvery-grey paradise.

What are other Comrades planning to write in/on?