shirt.woot "Waka Wakargyle" Journal Review
Daily deals site Woot isn’t exactly known for its stationery products. Through their shirt.woot subdomain, however, they offer journals that feature many of the same beloved designs found on their t-shirts. So how do they compare to notebooks that are more well-known to fountain pen users?
Materials & Construction
Woot journals feature 75 sheets (150 pages) of 70% recycled, acid-free paper. These notebooks feature card stock covers that are coated with soft-touch laminate. The laminate feels slightly waxy, and Woot claims the coating helps retain image quality. I guess that makes sense, as the cover designs would be more prone to fading and scuffing without the laminate. Woot also claims that the coating adds some amount of water resistance to the cover, though I haven’t tested that personally.
The bindings on these journals are “perfect bound,” meaning the pages are glued together at the spine. The binding is generally sturdy, but does come with certain design compromises (which I’ll cover below).
Overall I’m satisfied with the build quality on these notebooks, but not overly impressed. They are sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of my average day-to-day usage, but I wouldn’t exactly recommend them for archival purposes or longer-term storage needs.
At 5.25 inches by 8.25 inches, the paper in this journal is slightly smaller than A5 in each dimension. Woot offers them in either blank or lined format. The lines on my version are a bit strange: rather than being a solid, straight line, they are actually composed of two rows of staggered dots. You have to look closely to see it, but once you do, it’s hard to unsee. Though I would have preferred more traditional solid lines, I didn’t find this design element to be distracting, but I can see how some might.
The most interesting design element is, of course, the cover. For those who may be less familiar with Woot, the site started off as a single daily deal site. Over time, it morphed into offering deals in a variety of categories, including t-shirts designed by its community of users. The site then extended those t-shirt designs to other products, including journals like this one.
The “Waka Wakargyle” pattern didn’t intrigue me as a t-shirt design, but once I saw it on a journal, I immediately became smitten. The cover blends a traditional diamond-patterned argyle design in royal blue and black with elements from the classic video game Pac-Man. The game’s Pac-Dots and Power Pellets are integrated into the diamond pattern. Also featured on the cover are Pac-Man himself, the cherry, apple, and orange fruit bonuses, and the enemy ghosts: Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde. It’s a tasteful homage that makes me nostalgic for my childhood, when I’d spend many hours (and quarters) playing the tabletop version of this game at my local Pizza Hut. Good times.
One unfortunate aspect of this notebook's design is the binding. Though the binding is sturdy, it does not lay flat after the first few pages. There's also a significant "gutter" as you get deeper into the notebook, and I constantly find myself having to hold down the left page to make use of the right. It's an annoyance I haven't had to experience in some time, as I've gotten rather used to lay-flat notebook designs, and I'm not sure it's a compromise I'm willing to make any longer.
I’ll be frank: when I originally purchased this notebook, I knew I would be charmed with the design, but I wasn’t expecting much in terms of performance. Whenever I stray from the more commonly-known paper brands in the fountain pen community, I usually end up being disappointed. However, that was not the case here.
The paper in the Woot journal is surprisingly fountain pen friendly. Though I experienced some bleeding and feathering with flex nibs, the paper held up admirably when I used traditional round nibs, and even withstood some of the broadest, wettest nibs in my arsenal without issue.
Another thing I wasn’t expecting is the relatively quick dry times offered by the paper. The paper in this notebook doesn’t feel particularly absorbent, but dry times seemed quicker than usual, with most inks I tested drying in around 15-20 seconds.
One downside of this paper is that it does seem to be quite fibrous. The fibers seem to be loosely knit, and it feels as though I get paper fibers in my tines more frequently than what I’ve experienced with other paper. I find myself turning to brass shims to floss the tines quite often, so that may be a wise investment if you plan on using this notebook.
Overall, though I've been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the paper, the binding and cover keep me from truly enjoying this journal. It just feels like a chore to use, and doesn't feel like it will stand the test of time. It's a shame, as I really did want to like this notebook, but its compromises outweigh its redeeming qualities.
As of the time of this writing, Woot sells these notebooks via their website for $12 with free shipping. While $12 does seem relatively cheap compared to the typical $20 price point for A5 journals, the price tag does come with some concessions. Specifically, you’re getting fewer sheets than the usual A5 competition, and worse paper quality, even if it does still perform decently. More importantly, you’re also getting a flimsier cover and far worse binding than what I usually expect from my notebooks. Ultimately, unless you’re particularly in love with a design, I think I’d rather spend the few extra bucks to get something sturdier and with a more user-friendly binding.
Final Thoughts & Score
- wide selection of designs from which to choose
- unexpectedly fountain pen friendly paper
- speedy dry times
- binding doesn't lay flat and becomes unwieldy after first few pages
- flimsy cover splays open almost immediately and never fully closes thereafter
- fibrous paper may require you to clean your tines frequently