Shopping for a New Notebook: Nerd Style

overstuffed Piccadilly

Last week, I posted on Instagram the current state of my daily notebook. Its the Piccadilly A5 notebook I’ve been using  for several months and its reached critical mass. Its bulging with taped, glued and stuffed-in bits of paper ephemera and I only have about 20 pages left. The time has come to select the next daily notebook.

Its hard for me to just leap and make a purchase, so I nerded out in a big way and made a spreadsheet of all the potential candidates. My general criteria includes: hard cover and A5-ish size. I listed the pages by sheets to be consistent. If you’re used to seeing it as pages, just double the number. Some notebooks did not list the paper weight in any place I could readily find and I used the description for color used by the manufacturer or retailer. Some say cream, some say ivory and some didn’t describe it at all so I had to make an educated guess. So, here’s the candidates:

Brand Size Page count Available in? Paper Weight Paper Color Additional Features Notes Price
Moleskine 5×8.25 120 sheets blank, lined, graph unknown cream pocket, vertical elastic thin paper $18.95
Leuchtturm 1917 5.79×8.23 124 sheets blank, lined, graph, dot grid 80g ivory pages are numbered, lots of cover color options $18.95
Rhodia Webnotebook 5.5×8.25 96 sheets lined, blank, dot grid 90g ivory orange or black, fountain pen friendly pricier than most, smaller book available in rainbow of colors (Rhodiarama) lined only $25
Piccadilly Essential 5×8.1 120 sheets lined, blank, graph 80g cream black, 8 color covers in lined editions only $5.99
Ecosystem 5.25×8.25 96 sheets lined, blank, graph unknown bright white bright cover colors available lines are far too dark $14.95
PaperThinks 4.5×6.5 or 7×9 128 sheet blank, lined unknown white recycled leather covers, lots of colors available flexible covers $17.95 or $22.95
Quo Vadis Habana 6.25×9.25 80 sheets lined (5.5mm) or blank 85g white or ivory black, red, anis, or raspberry covers larger than most $20
Palomino Blackwing 5×8.25 80 sheets blank, lined, graph 100g white also available in “luxury sketchbook” with 120g paper and orange cover (+$2) $16.95
Palomino Luxury 5×8.25 80 sheets lined or blank 90g white distinct orange spine and embossed rope along spine on cover $17.95
Ogami Stone 5.5×8 64 sheets blank unknown white grey, white, tiffany blue or black covers stone paper (repap); covers are board material rather than leatherette $16
Monsieur Notebook 6.5×8 96 sheets blank, lined 90g ivory real leather covers, 8 color options other formats available like dot grid and sketchbook but in fewer cover options and sizes $26
Ciak Soft Leather 5×7 112 sheets blank, lined and multicolor unknown white horizontal elastic, soft recycled leather covers multicolor page option available, sketchbook blank measure 6×8.5 (+$2) $24
Miro 5×8 80 sheets lined or blank 90g cream colored page edges: lime, blue, black, red or pink white or black leatherette covers $13.99
Exacompta Basic Journal 5.5X8.25 100 sheets lined 100g white metallic silver or gilded edges lines seem very widely spaced $16
Exacompta Forum 4.7 x 6.7 96 sheets lined, graph, blank 64g white perforated tear-away corners, 8 pages of maps and tables lined version appears like an undated planner, designed to be used as refill with Exacompta Club leatherette covers $16.5
TWSBI Notebook 5.25×8.25 120 sheets blank, lined or graph 75g white spiffy red ribbon bookmark, lay flat construction a smaller and larger version are available $12.99
Baron Fig 5.4x 7.7 96 sheets blank, lined or dot grid 65# text (approx 90g) not sure lay flat construction, gray bookcloth only Kickstarter project that ends on Oct. 3 $20
Poppin 5×8.25 96 sheets lined or blank unknown white soft cover leatherette, 9 color covers available for lined, red or black cover for blank other sizes available, blank book has margin across the top of pages $9

I’m still debating. The low price of the Piccadilly is hard to beat though the paper is not as lovely as the more expensive options. The Ciak offers colored paper which seems like it might be kind of fun. The Palomino folks now have a kraft covered 90g notebook under their less expensive Forest Choice brand. The Palomino Luxury (with orange spine) and the Blackwing Luxury (all black) are two different lines — I got a bit confused when I built my grid about the difference between them. There are also the highly decorative Paperblanks notebooks with the pleasing cream stock. I quite like the looks of the simpler Pocket Companion series ($14.95) as a good daily user option.

What’s your notebook of choice? Did I miss any in my chart?

UPDATE: I revised the grid with recommendations and items I forgot as well as providing live links to each product via the company web site or trusted reseller.

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  1. I usually use the Palomino notebook, with the orange spine, and although mine is not even close to being as bulgy as yours (sorry that sounds so dirty), I can tell you that the spine is thick and solid. It looks like that’ll be key for your notebook, and something like a Moleskine is definitely not going to hold up.

    But you already know that; it’s not even on your list. 😀

    Speaking of which, this is not something you’ll be able to consider for your list right now, but have you seen the Baron Fig notebook? I’m intrigued about how the spine will perform.

  2. I’ve just had a quick look through my dotted and lined L1917, and the only marks on the page for the dotted are page numbers and the lined ones have page numbers and space for the date (like: “Date:” sort of thing.) I’m also not entirely sure how well their covers would stand up to some wear and tear. So, in that respect, the Ciak ones might be a good option? But you have a lot to choose from there!

  3. I could totally see myself building a matrix to shop for a new journal. Love it! On a much more subjective note I have tried the following that I don’t see on your list. The Exacompta Basic Journal and the TWSBI Notebook. I have tried most of the ones you list but my perfect would be a TWSBI with the thicker cover of the Rhodia Web. Right now I’m about half way through a TWSBI and love it. Forgive the longer post but below are some high level notes I have kept for myself on each:

    TWSBI Notebook
    Medium – 5 ¼” x 8 ¼”
    $12.99
    Zeller Writing Company
    Black leatherette cover. A little thinner than I like but works and has not creased
    75gsm
    120 sheets
    Folds VERY flat, best of any. I think due to the stitiching style
    No perforations
    Back cover pocket
    Nice thick red ribbon
    Closure band seems a bit stretched out but again it just works.
    With a thicker cover this would be perfect

    Exacompta Basic Journal
    $16.00
    25% cotton
    100g off white
    100 sheets
    Really wide ruling
    Lots of pages
    Flexible cheaper covers
    Cloth tape binding
    Thick paper but not even close to laying flat
    Seems to get binding runners of thread also

  4. My favorite size and format also! What a comprehensive list — thanks! My current pink Ecosystem is getting a bit bulgy, but not nearly as bulgy as yours (though it’s only half full yet). This is my first time trying an Ecosystem, and I’m very happy with how well it is holding out. I also love the paper with a fountain pen. I’m curious: What sorts of ephemera make it into your pages (how about the strangest example from your current volume)? And is the main content writing only, or also sketches and diagrams? Is your “daily notebook” the same as a “journal”?

    – Tina

    1. I like the Ecosystem blank books but I find the lined and grid versions employ lines too dark to be compatible with my large array of green inks and pens which are often fairly light colors.

      As for the content, this particular notebook contains lists, personal notes and clippings. Its not used as a journal as much as a place for remembering.

  5. The Piccadilly has become one of my all time favorites. They handle regular ink, gel ink, and fountain pen ink well, the paper is nice, as is the price. Leuchtturm 1917’s are next. Moleskine paper, as has been talked about much recently, tends to be variable. I still pick up a few now and then, but not for my most treasured writing.

  6. I suggest It is time for you to graduate beyond wasteful and over-priced bound single-use notebooks. Instead purchase a high-quality 20-hole A5 refillable notebook, and fill it with similarly high quality paper. I use Kokuyo A5 20-hole notebooks; the ones with the strange heavy rubber-like covers (I don’t know the model number). They’re rather expensive at around $20-$25 USD each if memory serves, but the quality is outstanding. My main Kokuyo notebook has been in daily service for ten or twelve years and it still looks and feels great. I fill the notebooks with Kokuyo A5 20-hole sheets. These refills are a little off-white in color, very smooth, and very fountain-pen friendly. I buy the 100 sheet A5 packs for about $3.75 USD per pack in my local Kinokuniya store in Jakarta. I buy the blank refills, then print a dot-grid on both sides with my Epson ink-jet printer (the ink is nearly indelible). The Kokuyo refills also come come in lined and grid versions, but not dotted, so I print my own. I’m using Kukuyo because of quality and because I live in S.E. Asia, so their products are relatively easy to find. If you’re not able to find Kukuyo in your area I’m sure with a bit of searching you can find a similar high-quality multi-hole binder. The next step is to buy a 20-hole punch. Then you can use any high-quality A4 sheets, cut them in half to make two A5 sheets and punch them yourself. Then you will be free from having to buy pre-punched refills. This is the ultimate in terms of efficiency and flexibility when it comes to notebooks.

  7. Look the spreadsheet. One thing I’m always interested is the line spacing on the ruled journals. It’s amazing to me that most manufacturers do not list this detail in the specs.

    Have you used any Clairfontaine notebooks? I’m using one for the first time – multi-subject with grid lines.

    1. I debated adding a column with the line width measurements as well. it matters to people. some like wide, some like narrow. I’m also amazed most of the manufacturers didn’t specify the paper color. is it bright white, ivory, cream? sheesh.

  8. I swear by Whitelines: http://whitelines.se/
    Carbon-neutral production. White lines on pale grey paper. Take a fountain pen well. Come in squared and line, and also isometric and perspective for some product lines. I used squared so I can write a page in any direction. Paper takes a fountain pen well, though not as heavy as paper in Paperblanks (for example).

  9. I built a spreadsheet as well, but manufactured in and brick and mortar availability went into the matrix as well (I wanted to see before I bought). I ended with the Piccadilly. I use it to journal and have been carrying it for about a month. On page 84ish the rubber band came unstuck on one end. On page 96ish the back binding came unstuck.

    That’s the problem with the matrix, it’s difficult to factor in durability.

    I Gorilla taped the band back on and I’m just making do with the broken binding.

    1. Interestingly enough, I have carried my Piccadilly for several months and abused it, stuffed it full to bursting and both the elastic and the binding have remained intact. I suppose at the price point, quality control is not a priority.

      I would add a lot of other stuff to the matrix had I used every model but I haven’t. At least, not yet.

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