Thursday, September 5, 2013

Notebook Review: TWSBI

When I shifted to full fountain pen use in 2008, I didn't realize that the major challenge I would have to face was to find suitable paper types for my pens and their inks. My lack of knowledge then about the proper pen, ink, and paper combinations brought home stacks of useless pads and notebooks. Since then, I have found notebooks that are friendlier to my fountain pens, but when Taiwan-based company TWSBI announced that they are coming up with a line of notebooks tailored for fountain use, I was curious. When Scribe Writing Essentials, the local distributor of TWSBI products in the Philippines, sent me a medium lined TWSBI notebook to review, I was thrilled.

TWSBI promotes their notebooks as "universal to all types of writing/drawing instruments, however, specially tailored for fountain pens." Their notebooks have soft and textured but shiny covers made of  fine polyurethane (PU). TWSBI made sure their notebooks are easily identified in the crowd, with the company's logo heat-pressed neatly onto the PU in the front cover.

The logo is again heat-pressed on the bottom of the back cover, but includes their acronym, TWSBI.

TWSBI offers their notebooks in three sizes: small (3.75 × 5.5 in), medium (5.25 × 8.25 in), and large (7.5 × 9.8 in). Each size is available in lined, grid, or blank pages. All notebook sizes have 120 sheets of paper, or 250 pages, but the small notebook has perforated sheets.

A black elastic strap holds the cover and notebook pages together, but it's a bit loose. I wish TWSBI used a stronger and wider strap for their medium and large notebooks.

In the photo below, the TWSBI notebook (on top) has the thinnest elastic strap although it's the thickest. The notebooks below the TWSBI are: Quo Vadis Habana, Moleskine, and Rhodia Webbie.

Despite the thin elastic strap, the red page ribbon marker adds vibrance to this black notebook. It's also a nice, thoughtful touch of TWSBI to have the end of the ribbon glued to prevent fraying. Most new notebooks come with loose ribbon ends and I usually just tie them into small knots to avoid early fraying.

The makers of these notebooks paid a lot of attention to detail: the notebooks have round page corners! I've always preferred round corners in my notebooks. I don't like pointed corners because they are sharp and dig into my palms when I write, and they also fray easily.

The pages of the TWSBI notebooks are sewn, to ensure more page security and flexibility. Sewn binding is so much better than most punch and bind methods because the pages are more secure and they also look tidier.

The paper used in these notebooks is not cream color, but it's not pearly white, either. It is off-white, soft, and smooth. TWSBI did not indicate the weight nor the type of paper used on these notebooks, but I'll guess it to be around 80gsm. Another plus for these cool notebooks: the binding allows them to open completely flat. The pages are not glued to the spine to give it full flexiblity.

The soft PU cover is flexible and the spine easily folds when the notebook is open.

See? No bulges, no bumps, no big creases to get in the way of the inside pages while the notebook is open.

Again, I am not sure about the paper type used in TWSBI's notebooks, but they are certainly excellent for fountain pen use. It's a brilliant move of TWSBI to use a faint gray ruling in the notebooks' pages, instead of black, or blue.

And unlike most notebooks with continuous line ruling, TWSBI used faint dotted lines, which is just fine. The faint gray lines are perfect for writing, but they do not get in the way of it at all.

I was really excited to try this notebook's paper and filled a page with different pen and ink combinations. I also included in the test page some of my remaining gel pens and rollerball pens. True enough to their claim, TWSBI's notebooks are perfectly suited to fountain pen use. Most of my pens have stub, medium, broad, and italic nibs that bleed ink on most paper types. But the paper in this notebook behaved so much better than I expected, and I was so amazed to see clean lines — no excessive feathering, and not a trace of bleeding. There is some see-through though, but again, that's fine because writing on both sides of the page is still possible.

The back side of my pen and ink test page did not show any bleeding at all.

I was not able to do a test for different ink's dry times, but I did not have any problems with drying ink when I did the pen and ink tests. Below are samples of the inks I used and there is no significant feathering and no bleeding at all. From top: Diamine Royal Blue (TWSBI 540 medium nib), Pelikan Edelstein Jade (Pelikan M205 medium nib), Diamine Red Dragon (Pelikan M400 medium nib), and Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black (Lamy Safari 1.1 italic nib).

Overall, TWSBI's notebooks are excellent to use with fountain pens. They are simple, yet very attractive and have the "classic black notebook" elegant look. They have soft flexible covers, an elastic strap to keep the pages together, the pages have round corners, and the paper is excellent for any pen type. Each of TWSBI's notebooks has that happy vibrant red ribbon page marker and back pockets with red accents. These notebooks are perfect for note taking and journaling, and they do not cost a fortune. I really, really like my medium TWSBI notebook, and again, it is super friendly to my fountain pens!

To get these notebooks from TWSBI, visit:

In the Philippines, these wonderful notebooks are available at Scribe Writing Essentials together with TWSBI fountain pens and ink bottles, with the following prices:

  • Small: PhP 495
  • Medium: PhP 675
  • Large: PhP 845


  1. Thank you for the detailed review of the TWSBI notebook. I have been wanting to get one of their pens for quite a while. Now I can team a matching notebook to it. I hope the notebooks are available in the USA or on line.

    Great pen and ink examples.

    1. Thank you Bill! AFAIK, these are available online.

  2. Excellent review - thank you for the wonderful pictures! I was most impressed with these as well. I think they would be so cool in colours...

    1. Thank you Azizah! That would be nice - to have TWSBI notebooks match their fountain pens' colors.

  3. Anonymous7:20 PM

    Good review thanks. I'm about half way through my first TWSBI as my daily journal and I could not add anything to your review, well done. At first I was a bit disappointed in the flex and thinness of the cover as I was coming from a Rhodia Webbie but after many weeks I have had no curls on the corners and the true lay flt capabilities is really enjoyable. This may be my go to for a while.

    1. I like the soft cover, Bob, but the elastic can still be improved, IMO. Great to know you're enjoying your TWSBI notebook!

  4. Looks like a good notebook. I'm not sure I'd like it though because I like my cover to have a bit of lip and to overhang the paper inside. From your photos it looks like this notebook has a cover that is flush to the paper. Still, it is hard to find good paper nowadays!

    P.s. I love your handwriting, as usual!

  5. Being unable to resist anything in the stationary line, I will probably try one of these. Your excellently done review does point out some positive features. But my main criteria for the notebook I use for my daily journal is lack of see-through, and based on your photograph, it looks like the TWSBI would fail. I have been using Canson 7-inch by 10-inch sketchbooks for a few years now, and the 64-pond paper allows virtually no see-through. I prefer blank sheets for the occasional sketch or watercolor. Other features I like are the stiff cover which allows me to write comfortably in odd places, and the wire binding, that not only allows the notebook to be folded backwards, but also provides a storage place for my fountain pen. Not a Mont Blanc, mind, but one of my collection of Lamy Safari's.

  6. Thanks for a very good review and excellent pics. Having tried these (medium format; lined) I agree with your assessment, but would probably add a few negatives:
    - quality control is very good but not exceptional: a brand new notebook seems to quickly develop a minor separations between sewn paper stock and the covers -- I'd guess that the glue between the covers and paper is the culprit
    - attention to detail seams OK but, again, far from perfect: if you carefully look at the lined pages when the notebook is open flat, you'll notice that lines on facing pages don't line up (on many pages and then on many they also line up perfectly.

    Other than that, I'd say it's a very good notebook, decent quality, with the paper that handles FP inks quite well. I prefer soft/flex covers so they are an issue for me. It's also very attractive notebook. Maybe slightly larger margins on the top and the bottom of each page would benefit the "attention to detail" aspect. Also, putting some more detailed specs (like the paper weight -- to me it feels like around 80 gsm) would enhance the notebook appeal to notebook collectors or to people who know a thing or two about notebooks, paper, inks, etc.

    Anyways, thanks for the review! Site bookmarked.

  7. Thank you for info about TWSBI !!

  8. I LOVE these notebooks. I use them for journaling and often use watercolour and markers in mine. The only thing which bleeds are my alcohol markers. The large i am working in at the moment got so fat I had to rebind it (it got to about 6 inches before the cover fell off) but it's fine now. I actually think it's a bit better than Tomoe River, and i use both interchangeably. I would love to find out what kind of paper it is so I can buy the paper loose. I love using it with watercolour.