When one hears “fountain pen,” we usually picture images of noblemen writing down profound thoughts with a flourish on thick, heavy paper. In Germany, though, fountain pens are not only everyday essentials—they’re required school tools for every elementary student.
“Our German teaching system is focused on the idea that writing with a fountain pen helps train your motor skills,” says Alexander Batsch, whose family founded Online, a popular pen and stationery brand in Germany. He is currently Online’s business development manager.
“When you are 10 or 12 years old, using a fountain pen helps you practice, developing fine motor skills. People stick to the fountain pen because they don’t want to lose these skills,”
Online is the latest brand to be brought in by National Book Store. Though the name sounds modern, Online was established in 1991 and will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.
“The Internet was not yet common when we launched. The basic idea was that you were writing ‘on the line.’ We didn’t expect the meaning to change that much, but now it’s become a very international name, which benefits us,” says Batsch.
The brand is known for their stylish and seasonal designs. Batsch’s mother, Alexandra, heads the in-house design team. The pens’ designs change every season, and they also run design competitions on their website.
When it comes to choosing a fountain pen, Batsch advises choosing one that catches your eye. “Choose a fountain pen that you personally find attractive because then you’ll want to use it often.”
On the practical side, he recommends one with a nice grip. Online recently developed a fountain pen with a triangular body. “It’s ergonomic and light—light pens make for easier writing and your hand won’t get tired after a long time of practicing.”
The pen design he is referring to is Online’s “Air series,” our personal favorite. The Air fountain pens are brightly colored triangular barrels with a clear window in the middle. This lets you insert blue ink cartridges whose bodies come in contrasting colors so even the ink cartridge serves as a color accent. We chose the neon lime Air fountain pen with contrasting purple and turquoise colored cartridges inside.
Perhaps as a nod to their high-tech name, there are also dual-purpose pens with a capacitive stylus tip at the end, which you can use on your smartphone. Some pens also come with an earphone jack plug so you can be sure that wherever you go with your smartphone, you also have a pen with you.
Here in the Philippines, most fountain pens immediately fall in the premium range, with some costing as much as P15,000. Because Online also caters to the young, you can consider their affordable collegiate line (each priced under P1,000) as your gateway into the addictive world of collecting fountain pens. Their premium and young lines all have high-quality nibs, which are the heart of any fountain pen. They have a wide variety of nibs, all of which are handcrafted.
Choose your nib
For beginners, Batsch recommends starting off with an “M” (medium) nib. “It’s very flexible; you can use it to write letters or even Chinese characters. When you’ve developed your skills, you can move on to the broad calligraphy nibs, starting with an 0.8 mm nib and finally, to the 1.8 mm.” Just like weaponry, wielding a broad nib requires skill, precision and a deft hand.
Lefties are also welcome. Most fountain pens are cut for right-handed people. Online has special pens for southpaws that allows them to push the nib over the paper normally.
For those who don’t like scratching off mistakes on paper, Online’s blue inks are all erasable, thanks to the magic of chemistry.
“You can buy our ink eraser, which lets you remove and overwrite mistakes made with our blue inks—all our blue inks are erasable,” says Batsch.
The ink eraser covers the paper with a special liquid that removes the blue color from the paper. The eraser, which comes in pen form, has a felt tip blue marker at the end. “When you cover the paper with the liquid eraser, you won’t be able to write over that part with the fountain pen because the liquid is still there,” explains Batsch. “The felt tip lets you write over that part,” he adds. (Watch the video of the ink eraser in action on the online version of this story at inq.ph/inquirersuper.)
Online pens are available at select National Book Store branches (Alabang Town Center, Greenlanes Arcade Greenhills, SM Megamall, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Trinoma, Glorietta 1, Greenbelt). The Candyworld collection featuring macaron-themed pens and stationery is available at Powerbooks Alabang Town Center, Greenbelt, SM Megamall and Trinoma.
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