Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Review of the Oxford International A5 Activebook

I had seen the Oxford International Notebook reviewed onPhilofaxy and thought it interesting that the paper came able to fit a variety of different ring spacings. I wasn’t able to get the notebooks, but I did get some of the Activebooks. I ordered them from Amazon (UK) and had to buy a pack of five, although that didn’t bother me as I knew I would use them. They may be available singly in stationery shops but I live in rural Scotland and have limited access to such a delight.

First Impressions
Generally good! The cover is a strong polypropylene cover – thick enough to be able to write whilst leaning on it when you’re out and about and good protection for the notes inside. It’s a bit orange for my taste and I would have liked it to have had an elastic fastening to keep the pages closed, but neither of these are deal-breakers for me.

As said, it has a tough polypropylene cover, front and back which is more than sturdy enough to lean on if there wasn’t a table etc. nearby.
The front has the tag line
for demanding and well organized business people and academics
(er, that would be me, huh?)
and grey and red blocks with white spots indicating holes. Don’t let those white spots fool you – that’s not what the holes look like when you get inside!
The cover is quite orange though.

front cover
Immediately inside, there is an information page in several languages. As well as repeating the tag line in 10 languages, it also has this information:
(click to enlarge)

Information - detail

Reverse of front cover to left; information page to right
On the reverse of the information page is a map of world time zones and a list of international dialling codes. Again, quite orange. There are indications of where to cut this page to file it in your binder/organiser, should you wish to.

Following this, there is a card page with a pocket on the reverse, again, hole-punched for putting in a binder/organiser, but oddly, there are no perforations or indications on where to cut this page in order to do so.

Card page with pocket on left; removable divider on right
There was then a removable divider made of plastic. I removed it and replaced it (replacing it was a bit of a fiddle) and I couldn’t say that it felt very secure after I had replaced it and it certainly came out much easier a second time. It’s designed to be moved around in the notebook, but you could also trim it and use it in a binder/organiser as it is punched.

The paper has a wonderful layout I think – not just lined, but with header boxes and a whole variety of features.

Close-up of paper layout

 The header box has three lines and two columns – for my OCD-like mind, I would have preferred that the column of the header box matched with the right-hand column of the main area, but it doesn’t.
The main writing area has rulings in feint grey, at 6mm spacing, with two margins (left and right), each of 1.5cm. Along the top and the bottom of each writing space there are small marks at 5mm spacing – presumably so that if you wanted to add more vertical lines, they would make life easy. These marks are also in both margins, as well as the main area.

The page tears off from the spiral binding without needing to be folded back on itself first, and tears cleanly. There are several holes punched, including one long oval one, allowing the paper to be filed in a variety of binders or organisers (more on that in a moment! See The Icing on the Cake, below).

Fountain Pen Testing
I prefer to write using a fountain pen, but many papers are not compatible with this, and the ink feathers, making the lines blurry rather than crisp and/or the ink bleeds through to the other side, making the reverse of the page unusable.
I tried a variety of pens on the paper.

Fountain pen test - front

Reverse of the page - not a mark!

The wettest ink is always the Watermans/Parker italic nib combination and I am pleased to see that the paper sails through this test with flying colours. Not only was there no feathering, but there was also no bleed through at all, with any of the inks, including the Watermans and the Parker Sonnet/black ink – both of which can have terrible feathering and bleed through.

In comparison, here are the same inks/pens with filofax cotton cream paper…

Fountain pen test on filofax cotton cream: some feathering...

and some bleed-though, but bearable

and with filofax day per page diary paper…

Fountain pen test on DPP filofax diary insert - horrendous feathering with some of the inks

Fountain pen test on DPP - reverse. Utterly unusable. Ugh.

The icing on the cake
For me, the absolute icing on the cake was not just that the paper did so well in the fountain pen test, but that the paper is punched so that it fits my A5 filofaxes perfectly AND it fits my A5 Mulberry planner perfectly, so even if I chop and change my work filofax/organiser around, I can still always file my notes.

Fits perfectly in an A5 filofax

Fits perfectly in an A5 Mulberry Planner

Hope that you have enjoyed reading my review and that you found it useful.


  1. "... for my OCD-like mind, I would have preferred that the column of the header box matched with the right-hand column of the main area, but it doesn’t."

    That would drive me crazy too!! O_o

    What WERE they thinking? Should have been at least exactly double the width, or something...

    Thanks for the review!!

    1. Hello.
      Very nice review.
      Just answering your question "hat WERE they thinking?"
      The right-hand column is made for writing down a very short text like a date (11/09/15) but the side column of the header is designed for date + initial of meeting participants (11//09/15, AD, FR, JB...) + place of a meeting...

  2. I agree with above! I think the same way...the box isn't lined up! But, that probably wouldn't deter me from trying it. :)
    Nice job by the way, I'm always so amazed at how bloggers take the time to test out products in such detail for their readers.

  3. @Shanti; @Cheryl
    What were they thinking of with that box???? I'm glad I'm not the only one that's bugged by it!
    Thanks for the kind comments! Glad the review was useful.