This is a follow-up to a series of posts created several years ago that dove deep into classic ringbound planners. To follow-up, we are going to going to investigate the ringbound planner’s closest cousin, the discbound planner.
What’s a Discbound Planner:
Discbound planner systems are built on a similar principle to a standard ringbound planner except instead of a hole punched along the edge of the page to attach the paper into a binder, the discbound system uses discs that have grooves cut into them to hold onto the paper. The paper is then punched along the edge, creating mushroom-shaped divots that grip around the discs.
What makes a Discbound Better/Different than a Ringbound Planner?
- With most covers, the disc sizes can easily be changed if you need more space or less space. Discs are relatively inexpensive so it’s easy to keep a spare set on hand. Those extra discs can then be used in another notebook set-up you’ll just need extra covers which can be made from cardstock, cardboard or even an old cereal box with a little cutting and punching.
- Discs can be made of plastic or metal. Plastic is lighter and less expensive but metal can class up the look of your planner.
- Since the paper is punched along the edge, rather than a hole through the paper like a ringbound planner, pages can be added or removed with having to pop open rings and snap them closed. One of the biggest complaints people have regarding ringbound planners is that, over time rings might not close completely or line up properly causing pages to fall out. Not to mention, popping the rings repeatedly in an office, class or meeting room can be a little loud.
- Both full wrap covers and exposed disc covers are available. Should you want a more professional, polished look, a full wrap cover like those from William Hannah or Levenger may be preferable. If you want to be able to fold the cover back on itself, therby needing less desk, lap or table space, an exposed disc cover might be a better option. Exposed disc covers are available in a wide array of materials from leather to paperboard and plastic. If you are looking for non-leather options, discbound systems offer a wide array of options.
The Big Movers & Shakers:
Discbound systems started with notebooks and then pre-printed pages were added that eventually became planner inserts. As far as I know, the first system using rings came from Levenger, called Circa. (Don’t hold me to it but Levenger was the first company I knew about who was using these discs to bind books.) Staples entered the ring with their ARC system and then many others followed.
Update: Thanks to our readers who reminded me about Atoma. The Belgian company, Atoma were the originators of the discbound system. When their patent expired, other manufacturers came onto the scene as I’ve mentioned above and below, most notably in the US was Levenger and then later Staples, Office Depot (TUL) and then indie makers.
Rollabind, which was one of the US producers of discbound notebooks in the 90s, is no longer considered a brand leader in the discbound business. There are a lot of complaints about the Florida-based company when I Googled the company. As far as I can tell, the company is out of business. Even the URL is available for sale.
In 2015, the Happy Planner was released which built on the large, all-in-one life/family/work planner systems that had been on the market using wire/coil binding (like the Erin Condren Life Planner) except using the discbound system which added the flexibility of a ringbound planner to these behemoth planners.
The biggest players in discbound planners are:
There are some stock sizes available for covers for Discbound systems (A4/US Letter, A5 /Half-Letter, A6 and pocket/jotter which is roughly 3×5 are most common). Some brands will offer other sizes but these are the most common.
The advantage of the discbound system is that any paper can be punched and inserted into the system. It doesn’t even have to be the same size as the planner which allows you to punch and insert smaller bits of paper, be they notecards, paper scraps or other documents, and insert them in whatever order you need. Print out a meeting itinerary and punch it to fit in your daily pages. Add a photo between weekly pages to brighten your day. Punch loose sheets of different kinds of papers and add them to your planner or notebook for drawing or ink swatching.
Since the holes are even spaced regardless of the size of your planner, one punch will work with any paper size. Unlike ringbound planners where the hole spacing varies depending on the size of the planner, discbound planners definitely make adding your own pages much easier. The average price for a mushroom punch large enough to punch A4/letter paper is about $50USD.
Customizing a Discbound System:
Like a Ring Bound planner, the discbound covers allow you to add any type of insert you want, in any order you want. You can start with a pre-printed planner system like the Happy Planner and then add additional pages to meet specific needs. Or you can build your whole planner from scratch.
If you pick a common size like A5/Half Letter, finding and printing inserts is relatively easy. You can even go to sources for free pintables like Philofaxy and print the A5 inserts designed for ringbound planners and punch them to fit your discbound system.
There are also 100s of options available on Etsy to download and print yourself. Some inserts will allow you to edit them in Acrobat before printing for even more customization. I find that searching the terms “planner printable” plus the year if you want dated or “undated” or “minimal” gets the best results for simple pages. If you know you want decorative pages, add design elements to your search terms like “botanical” or “celestial” or whatever strikes your fancy.
A few Etsy shops we recommend are:
Discbound planners and notebooks are similar to ringbound planners but they offer different degrees of flexibility and options. I don’t think there are as many high end cover options for the discbound planners which I think is a downside.
Some find that pages that have been added and removed repeatedly from ringbound planners can get bent or damaged so that it becomes difficult to keep the pages in the book. I think this depends on the paper and how gently pages are removed.
Being able to fold pages back on themselves is a big plus over ringbound planners. Being able to add lots of different paper sizes or tidbits is also a big plus.
If you like creating your own planing and note-taking system, ringbound and discbound planners offer a great deal of flexibility and modularity.
Stay tuned! We will be providing a deep dive into other planning systems in the coming weeks.