On paper: A whiter shade of pale

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The difference between a pleasurable writing experience and one that’s merely functional is all in the details: the paper thick and smooth, the fluid pen, the light just so. Of course, everyone has their own preferences. When the French arm of our company first created the Habana notebook, they used heavyweight Clairefontaine paper in an ivory color; later on, thanks to various manufacturing quirks, the U.S. version ended up with white pages.

We’d been planning to switch back to ivory paper in the fall, but one of our blog readers recently voiced her preference for white. Hence this post: which do you prefer, and how much does it matter to your writing pleasure? If you were given a choice of both colors, would you stick to one or the other, or would you alternate?

18 thoughts on “On paper: A whiter shade of pale

  1. The perfect journal would have:
    -Heavy, laid ivory paper
    -Smythe-sewn binding
    -Covers in silk dupioni or linen in a variety of colours
    -Ribbon bookmarker
    -A5 size

    I’ve been looking for a while. Semikolon comes very close, but I wish they were more available in North America and have more UNLINED books. Rag & Bone Bindery’s Journals are beautiful, but too narrow and have stark white paper, no bookmarker. I wish Habanas were more aesthetically appealing and came in a larger size.

  2. The perfect paper for a journal would be ivory at about 80 gm and smooth. I am thoroughly confused about what paper will be in the Habanas that will be sold in the US in 2011. Also, will the line spacing in the small Habanas remain 6mm?

  3. Why did you bother asking? Now it’s December, and you’ve announced a change that most users seem to be against, based both on commentary here on on the post about the change.

    • Hi Tamera, this is actually an issue we’ve been considering for a while – this post is from 2008! I understand your frustration, however. If you’re interested, Karen just posted a long comment that explains the rationale and responds to everyone’s feedback.

  4. I would also prefer the white. I just ordered my first Habana, and I’m eager to try it, though I would be more eager if the small journal I just ordered had the same paper weight as its older brother (90g instead of 64g).

  5. On the subject of white vs ivory, the white allows different colours of ink to stand out more and accurately too. For a fountain pen user writing with different ink colours and who is interested in subtle shadings of the ink, I would prefer the white.

  6. I find the French paper available in Canada way too flimsy, to the point that it creases easily. It also has this insubstantial feel to it. While the paper is smooth, and does not bleed through easily, the thiness of the paper allows the back page writing to be visible. The most annoying thing is how narrow the line spacing is. This put it in the category of a daytimer, not a large size desk top journal. As for the smaller one, I suspect that it’ll be used on the go, and how do people actually put anything between those very narrow lines is totally beyond me…writing with a fountain pen for example, and not sitting by a desk.
    The US paper, thicker and white is something I’d prefer and at this juncture, only available from the US, and may soon be discontinued.
    Such a pity, its back to Moleskines, Peter Pauper and Ciaks.

  7. I have two requirements before I will stop making my own notebooks and buy this: Rhodia or Clairefontaine quality paper like in the pads, but with a grid of lighter colored lines, preferably gray. I think a lot of folks first started using your products because it was the only good grid paper available, yet most of the new products do not come in grid, which is disappointing.

  8. I agree that consistency in paper quality is paramount. I always prefer white paper, as it more truly presents the color of the ink. I use Clairefontaine paper exclusively for my journals.

    I’m planning to buy some of these Habanas, but I really wish there were a smaller pocket-sized notebook, similar to the size of the pocket Moleskines, which I like very much except for the miserable paper quality.

  9. I would prefer ivory coloured paper as it is less stark than bright white, but as has been said earlier, the quality of the paper is the most important along with price.

    Keep the paper quality reliable, unlike some of the competition, moleskine are often complained about. Their paper might be fine for those who write with gel pens, but for those of us that write with fountain pens it can be less than a pleasant experience.

    Make sure that the books open flat and have a hard cover too and you will have a customer for life.

  10. adding for clarification – the ivory Habana I bought in Canada and produced in the France was definitely not heavyweight – it was much thinner than that in my Clairefontaine journals and Rhodia pads – I’m estimating 60 gm.

    I think my dream paper would be a smooth 80 gm ivory, and I’d be happy with lined, blank, or graph – they all have their virtues. But smooth is a must!

  11. I’m the Sophie who desecrated her journal to send to Biffybeans/Stephanie, and I would be happy with either ivory or white – as long as it wasn’t toothy and horrible like my first one!

    I enjoy Clairefontaine paper to write on – I love the feel of it, but the ivory colour is easier on the eyes when reading afterward. But for me the priority is a smooth, non-toothy feel.

  12. As I mentioned before, I love the bright white Clairefontaine paper. I write in brightly colored inks, and don’t like how the colors become muted with ivory paper. I use the Habanas for journaling and for notebooks for class, and really enjoy them the way they are!

    The color of the paper (assuming the quality is the same) is extremely important to me–I am sad to say that even though I love the form factor, if the Habana switches to ivory paper exclusively, I will stop purchasing them. (I’ve already stockpiled a few extra before they change!)

    If the Robert LeHeros journals keep the white Clairefontaine paper, I’ll switch to them. If not, then I’m back to my journal search! I’m sad–I thought I’d found my perfect journal at last! 🙁

  13. Paper should be warm, not cool, with respect to color, in my opinion. A high-contrast, stark white writing surface is a personal turn-off. Thank you.

  14. I would be quite sad to see the white paper go.

    My first reaction to using the Habana was that I thought I had a whole new collection of pens. After writing on moleskines for so long I was surprised to see how vibrant all my colors were on the white paper.

    The paper in the sample Habana I was sent holds the key difference between all the other notebooks I’ve used, and why I would purchase the Habana over any of them. Please try to keep the paper the same.

  15. I personally care less for the color of the paper than the quality of the paper…

    Previously blogged here: http://biffybeans.blogspot.com/2008/09/us-versus-uk-paper-comparison-of-quo.html

    I’m confused.

    I recently reviewed the new American made Quo Vadis Habana journal and in short, it’s a great journal with excellent quality Clairefontaine paper. (90g white) Clairefontaine paper is silky smooth, thick and probably one of the most fountain pen (ink) friendly papers around.

    Per Karen Doherty, Marketing VP for Exaclair, Inc:

    “The Habana notebooks sold now in the U.S.have been manufactured at our plant in Hamburg, NY. They are made with 90 g white Clairefontaine paper.

    We decided we liked the ivory paper better with the Habana covers, and all the other Habana notebooks sold worldwide are also made with ivory paper – so, we decided to go forward with ivory paper. However, that paper also had to be PEFC certified (pefc.org).

    The next generation of Habana notebooks will have 80 g PEFC paper. There is very little difference between 80 and 90 g paper. At our annual meeting in June, we spent a lot of time on the paper issue.”

    Hmmm. Okay…. So these new US made Habanas with the 90g Clairefontaine paper are going to be short lived. I believe Swisher Pens is currently stocking them so you might want to get them while you can.

    I had read a comment somewhere from my friend Sophie, (who lives in Canada) that she has 2 Habana journals with very different paper. One was bought in Canada but made in the UK, and the other was purchased directly from the UK. She voiced a concern that the paper was not exactly what she had expected in the larger journal, and that the small journal had different paper – which she liked much better.

    Sophie was kind enough to desecrate her journals and send me some pages to compare to the US version.

    Let me fist say, that there is a world of difference between these three papers.

    Of note – no inks featherd on ANY of the three.

    Nothing bled through the white paper except some of my permanent markers. It’s a thick, smooth paper that is a dream to write on.

    The large ivory Habana paper? I don’t like that it’s ruled to the top of the page. I also don’t like how small the ruled lines are. And the paper quality is awful. It’s very thin and has a very odd feel to it. It’s got a slightly rough surface, or “tooth” that I never, ever, want to write on again. Several of the inks tested bled through it, including the Diamine Imperial Blue, (not shown) the Noodler’s Red Black, (ok – my Lamy 2000 is a bit of a wet writer on the downstroke,) the Noodler’s Aircorp Blue-Black, the Private Reserve Arabian Rose, and the Noodler’s Squeteague. I would never buy a journal that used this paper, and I’m really hoping that’s not what’s coming for the US Habanas.

    Now the small Habana paper that’s shown, It’s smooth – not Clairefontaine smooth, but more like Moleskine. smooth. It’s thin like the larger Habana paper, (and like Moleskine. paper) but NONE of the tested inks bled through it at all. I’m hoping this will be the paper that’s going to be used in the new US Habanas. I would buy a journal with this paper, so I could use all my inks without the bleeding or feathering problems I’ve had with my Moleskines.

    In conclusion, I’m still a bit perplexed why so much variance across the line. Why did they push out the white papered journal with such high-quality paper if they didn’t intend on continuing to manufacture it? Perhaps it was an issue of cost – as Habanas aren’t cheap to begin with.

    Perhaps Karen can shed a little more light on the subject, as us fountain pen users are waiting with baited breath for a product that can truly kill off the much loved but inferior Moleskine.

    PS – I prefer the ivory paper in the smaller journal. :o)

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