Through a quirk of holiday sales that Zazzle may not have intended to turn out the way it did, I received a free copy of one of the notebooks I put up on my store this summer.* I picked one with a black and white image, so I can’t speak to the vibrancy of a color print; but I can complain that the black doesn’t seem quite black, in part because of the glossy cover reflecting light where black would just absorb it all. The glossy cover is also, of course, a wondrous fingerprint magnet.
The notebook advertises 60# or 90 gsm paper, which is the same weight as my Clairefontaine staple-bound notebook has. The paper is smooth, though not buttery like the CF (so it’s probably better for pencils than the CF would be). It’s white, but not blindingly so. It holds up to the pens I use – a variety of gel pens (Uniball Signo 207 0.5mm, Zebra Sarasa 0.7mm) and fineliners (Stabilo 88, 0.4mm). There’s a little shadowing on the back of the page I tested, but no bleed-through; the darker colors of the fineliners threatened to bleed if I wrote too slowly but never quite did. I even tried a silver Sakura Pentouch paint pen (0.7mm) with no bleed. Clairefontaine is better, but this is good.
The lines are dotted and a nice, narrow rule (maybe a hair over 6mm), but they are pitch black, which makes reading what you’ve written noticeably harder than if they were a nice middle gray. The margins (especially the gutter) are too wide, wasting quite a bit of writing area for the sake of white space. The pages are not perforated.
The Wire-o binding on my notebook was done the wrong way round, so it meets in front of the first page instead of after the last. I have a feeling that the early pages will get torn up by the wire, particularly from the cut-off wire ends at the top and bottom. Furthermore, the binding is uneven – nearly open in the middle and closed awkwardly at the ends (instead of a round “o” shape, it’s more of a football, as if it were done by hand and not very well).
The notebook has a soft cover, which was nowhere officially specified on the product page. It’s not just soft, either — it’s thinner than the covers on my Clairefontaine notebook, as well as a wire-bound Whitelines notebook. It doesn’t feel like the kind of cover that creases if you look at it wrong, but it does feel like the edges will be worn and beat to hell before I’ve used 1/4 of the pages.
At a minimum regular price of $13, the only reason to buy this notebook is the choice of custom cover designs. If you don’t care that much about the cover, Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebooks have somewhat better paper with much better rule lines and margins (among the ones I’ve tried, anyway). And Whitelines offers a style of rule that all but disappears as you write; their wire binding is much better done; and their pages are perforated (although the paper won’t hold up as well to inky pens). And they’re cheaper.
I really wish it were better, but on a generous day, the Zazzle notebook is worth half its minimum list price.
* Free is not quite accurate. In fact, they are paying me a dollar and change as a referral fee; yes, I referred myself.