Thursday, 10 May 2018

Zhi Jin B5 notebook - review

Having renovated a battered old Deskfax into a beautiful B5 Traveller's Notebook, to use for writing, I was in search of some slightly thicker B5 notebooks. I have some slim ones (60-80 pages - Penco and Stalogy for example) but I'm getting to the stage with the new novel, where I'm going to need a chunkier book to hold more notes.

B5 isn't the easiest size to buy in the UK, which is largely wedded to the A-sizes (A4, A5, A6 etc) but I love B5 as a notebook size (and B6 as a smaller notebook size, to be honest). Leuchtturm do a B5 dot matrix book (and I've just snaffled a couple of those from Bureau Direct. They were reduced as they were discontinuing stocking them, so I don't know how long they will available). There is a Moleskine notebook which is approximately the right size, but hell hasn't frozen over yet, so I won't be buying it.

On Amazon, there are a couple of B5 books that I've been looking at, but this Zhi Jin one caught my eye as it had colourful covers and a rainbow edge.
I bought the blue cover and it's a fabulous, vibrant blue - Mediterranean sea colour on a sunny day. But what's it actually like as a notebook?

The cover is synthetic (which I'm not a fan of as I would rather not buy anything that's not biodegradable). It has a similar feel to Ciak notebooks, but this is made of PU rather than 'recycled leather' that the Ciak have. The pages are sewn not just glued in and there is a page marker in a weird brown colour (that doesn't go with the book at all) which is too short, really. There's no pocket on the inside cover.

At the start of the book, there are various pages, almost none of which will be much use to most people:
An "if found, please return to..." page

Those pointless month calendars for 2018, 2019 and 2020 (if anyone actually uses them, can you tell me what for?? Thanks!)

Dialling codes and postal codes for the Chinese provinces:

International dialling codes and time differences and a chart for container sizes, international clothing sizes and temperature conversions:

Conversion tables for weights/area/capacity etc. and a map of the Beijing Subway:

A map of the Shanghai Subway and a map of the Guangzhou Metro:

Another map of another rail/subway/metro system (but there's no English on it so I don't know where it's for), plus one for Hong Kong, and table of internet addresses (??):

Another table but I don't know what it's for, then 2 pages for addresses/emails/phone numbers:

After that, there are 196 sides of undated journal pages:

The diary pages are quite nice. At the top, there are weather symbols, should you desire to record the weather when you're making notes. Beneath those, there are the days of the week. On the top right hand side of the page is a space to mark the memo no. (whatever that might be; I'll use it to note what kind of notes they are - character, setting, plot etc.), and beneath that, space to note the date.

There are small marks at the top and bottom of the page to help you draw vertical lines, should you so wish. These are spaced at 12.5mm spacing. There are 22 lines to a page (23 if you don't mind writing over the small marks) and line spacing is at a fairly wide 9.5mm (which may well be too wide for many people - if I'm writing with a stub pen, it might be okay. If I'm writing with a normal nib, it may seem far too wide!).

There are no page numbers and no designated spaces for an index/table of contents.

But... the million dollar question... how does it perform with fountain pens??

Actually, amazingly well! The paper is described as 100 gsm which feels accurate, though the pages don't feel over-thick. I didn't have a huge number of pens inked up, but those I did, are often tough on notebooks!

Not needing a list of Chinese internet addresses, nor the table on the other side, I used that page to do the pen tests:

The paper was lovely and smooth, but ink drying time was quick. There was no feathering, no bleed-through and no show-through! Here's the reverse:

I was both amazed and delighted! The notebooks are just under £12 on Amazon, have bright covers and LOTS of pages and perform really well with fountain pens. Line spacing is a bit over-generous, but not a deal-breaker. All in all, they are a great B5 notebook and I recommend them!

You can get them from Amazon here. Shipping was free and quick. Mine took less than a fortnight from ordering to delivery. I will probably slip the back cover into the vertical slip pocket in the back cover of the Deskfax and keep the elastics for the slimmer books I use.

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