Review: Dingbats ‘Serengeti’ Earth notebook

Way back last year I reviewed quite a few notebooks, including a fetching red number from Dingbats‘ Wildlife series. (If you’re interested: Summary was hereRecap was here.)

I was hugely impressed by the spec of the Dingbats notebooks, but I commented that the feathering and bleedthrough bothered me. So, when the founder of Dingbats got in touch to offer me a sample of one of the company’s new Earth series notebooks, with upgraded paper, I jumped at the chance.

A couple of days later a jazzy orange ‘Serengeti’ edition notebook landed on my doormat.

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What’s the same?

The new Earth series is definitely a Dingbats. It’s still an A5+ hardbound notebook with all the trimmings: pocket, pen loop, elastic closure, rounded corners, bookmark, etc. It still has Dingbats’ incredibly ethical production values, including vegan covers, FSC paper and clean water commitment. And it’s still got the same acid-free 100gsm paper weight, same 192-page thickness, same 5mm dot pitch.

What’s new?

Since my first encounter with Dingbats, there have been a few upgrades. For a start, there are now two bookmarks.

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There are page numbers in unusual bubble style (here compared to the original style).

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There’s an index setup, with subtle tabs on every page, and a place for you to make up a key system to organise yourself. I probably won’t use this system, but I know others love this kinda stuff.

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At the front, you’ll find a whole double-page infographic spread about the Seregeti, with facts and information about the ecosystem. It’s a nice touch.

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What’s missing?

Only two features have disappeared since the Wildlife series. For starters, I don’t think the covers are as nice. They’re not as plush (look at how deep the Dingbats logo is on the original ‘Elephant’ notebook here).

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And there’s no stitching around the rim.

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More functionally speaking, most of the pages aren’t perforated any more. This should help with robustness, but I occasionally found it quite useful to tear out a page. On the Earth editions, 16 pages only are perforated.

The paper

Now, this is what you’ve all been waiting for. Since I bought my first batch of Dingbats, the paper has been upgraded to be much more fountain pen friendly. I did a direct comparison, as well as testing the new paper with a range of different inks and pens, including a dry-time experiment.

The “original” Dingbats paper is whiter than the new coated paper. Original on the left.

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Both papers feel equally smooth (not rough like Baron Fig, for example), but the original paper is much more absorbent. This means nibs run wider as capillary action sucks ink out into the paper fibers, and there’s some feathering. The writing feel is great, but it has its problems…

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Along with the feathering, the original paper had bleedthrough, too, despite its thickness.

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See how handy it is to be able to tear out a page? Micro-perforations for the win!

The new paper, by contrast, definitely feels coated. It’s like Rhodia — it feels almost waxy, and nibs run very narrow. Look at the comparison below — same pen, same ink, but the old paper on the top runs at least one grade wider.

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With some pens, like my Montblanc 1912 loaded with Red Fox, I really didn’t like the page feel at all. There’s still shading, but the inks seem to run lighter because not as much flows on to the page.

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Dry times are OK, especially for coated paper. And importantly, there’s no bleedthrough at all in normal use. Due to the paper thickness, there’s practically no ghosting, either.

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This is the reverse of a page with writing on, in case you can’t tell.

But with big ink splats…

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…naturally there was a LOT of bleeding.

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That’s Kobe #51 Kano-Cho Midnight at the bottom.

Even in this extreme situation, due to its weight the paper didn’t buckle and crinkle much, as Tomoe does.

The verdict

For a lot of people, this revision to the Dingbats notebook will be a big upgrade. As well as the page numbers and index system and the two bookmarks, which everyone will agree are nice to have, the change in paper spells an end to feathering and bleeding, which can only be a good thing.

For me, I’m not a big fan of how the new paper feels under the nib. It’s the same way I feel about Rhodia paper: lines always seem thinner and lighter than is quite natural; it makes my pens feel like they’re running dry instead of floating over the paper. I never get that feeling with Tomoe River, which remains my gold standard.

At £17.95, the Dingbats Earth notebooks are a real bargain considering the quality, size and features you get. I filled my Wildlife edition from cover to cover and it looked brand new at the end of it, so the durability is great too — and I have no doubt the Earth series will be just as reliable in the long haul.

If you’re interested, you can pick yours up here.

Final note: I received this notebook free of charge from the manufacturer. Check out my ethics page if this worries you.

One thought on “Review: Dingbats ‘Serengeti’ Earth notebook

  1. Very interesting analysis, thank you. I have not tried these but think I would share your opinion. For fountain pen users, it is the feel of the nib on the paper that ultimately determines whether or not you will enjoy the writing experience and want to buy another notebook from the brand.

    Like

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