Notebooks are loved by many people – for their promise, for their functionality, for their ability to aid retention and for their assistance with productivity. Some are functional, some are fun and some are simply beautiful. There are hundred of notebooks (and notepads) available at Milligram, which can make it difficult to know which one to purchase. There’s a lot of variation in their specifications too, with some notebooks suited to some users and uses more than others. So here is Milligram’s Ultimate Notebook Guide to help you select the right notebook for your personal, work or study needs.
Notebooks and notepads come in all shapes and sizes. There are many common/standard sizes (such as A4 or B6) but there are also slight variations on these sizes…just to keep you on your toes! Then some brands, like Moleskine, have their own ‘custom’ sizing.
Milligram will list both the closest size to a ‘standard’ size (such as A5), and the measurement (in cm’s), in a notebook listing and title. It’s always best to check the measurements (in the specifications on a product listing) and, better still, get out a ruler to ensure you can truly visualise a size before you order it.
Pages vs Sheets
We all know notebooks contain sheets of paper. But how a notebook is described – and its ultimate thickness – will largely be determined by the number of pages. One “sheet” of paper is actually two “pages”. So check the product listing specifications to ensure you’re clear on how many pages you’ll be getting. Keep in mind that more pages isn’t always better – as more pages usually translates to a thicker, heavier notebook. So for a light notebook to keep with you in a bag, fewer pages might suit.
Paper Weight (GSM)
GSM (which stands for grams per metre squared) refers to the paper’s ‘weight’ – it’s thickness. Heavier (thicker) paper is usually associated with better quality paper, and delivers less “show through” if you’re using a fountain pen, for example. Milligram will often list the GSM of a notebook, but only if it’s been supplied by the manufacturer.
Page layout & rulings
Notebooks come in a variety of rulings – or none at all. Increasingly, we’re also seeing notebooks contain multiple rulings – some pages ruled, some blank for example. The main ruling will always be in the products description, specifications and/or title.
The most common ruling is, of course, line ruling. Standard ruling is 7mm, used by most stationery designers (such as Rhodia). Moleskine ruling is usually 6mm. Exercise books are usually wider, at 8mm.
But notebooks also come in plain, grid, dot grid – and then more specialist styles like French ruling (seyes). Ruled, dot grid and grid notebook layouts are pictured below.
Notebook cover type
There is also a wide variety of notebook covers. The most common is a card cover of a heavier weight than the paper, keeping your pages protected. Card covers can be plain, printed or textured. Heavier cover types include PVC, leather look (eg. Classic Moleskine) and leather covers (eg. Midori Traveler’s Notebook).
Fountain pen friendly
Fountain pens emit more ink than their ballpoint and rollerball counterpoints. As such, some notebook paper doesn’t suit as they can cause featuring or smudging. If a notebook is ‘fountain pen friendly’ this will be included in the product listing. Brands such as Clairefontaine and Rhodia only produce fountain pen friendly notebooks, whereas the popular Moleskine brand doesn’t use fountain pen friendly paper except in it’s sketchbook/art range. You can also specifically browse for fountain pen friendly notebooks at Milligram.
Recycled stocks & Acid Free
Most paper is bleached white. Additionally, bleached paper can be acid-free, for longevity of writing and drawing. Acid-free paper is ideal for pages and notebooks you’ll be wanting to keep, such as a journal or diary.
Recycled papers are usually uncoated papers the are fully or partially comprised of recycled paper. Recycled paper is considered more environmentally friendly and can sometimes have more character. However, sometimes it doesn’t perform as well as bleached papers when writing on them with certain pens, like fountain pens.
Notebooks largely have no closure, unless they’re housed in an outer cover or compendium. But some quality notebooks do come with an elastic closure, helping keep them in the best possible shape over their lifetime.
Brands that have elastic closures on some of their notebooks include:
- Delfonics Rollbahn
Notebook binding type
Again, there are many binding types and you should consider this based on the way you’ll be using your notebook.The binding method determines how flat a notebook lays, how well it stays together, ease of page removal and generally how sturdy it is.
Glue binding (or perfect binding) actually usually isn’t as secure as other types of binding. Some glue-bound notebooks are made intentionally so that pages can be removed easily, such as with sketchbooks.
Staple binding is used for thinner notebooks (usually 64 pages or less). Staples are placed in the middle of the pages and then the pages are folded into a notebook. Many notepads have staple bindings at the top of the notebook.
Stitched binding is similar to staple binding (as stitches act like staples), but can accommodate more pages, and it is sturdier. There is also “multiple signatures” of stitched bound notebooks and is usually for thicker notebooks that open flat (like Life Noble notebooks). There’s also saddle-stiching, with staples, like Field Notes use.
A combination of thread and glue allows for a more tightly bound notebook that can also lay flat. It’s also not limited by number of pages. This type is great for people who prefer a sleek notebook with a sturdier binding.
Spiral notebooks have a spiral wire running through the pages. These are useful if you need to keep a notebook to a single facing without damaging it, or if you’re going to be removing pages regularly.
Multiple signatures (of stitched-bound signatures)
Hand made vs Mass produced
There are thousands and thousands of people producing notebooks. Some are large companies, some are individuals passionate about paper or design. Hand made isn’t always better, but these notebooks tend to be more individual, often use high quality papers and have features like letterpress or hand printing. Correspondingly, they tend to cost a little more. Mass produced notebooks can still be exceptional quality, as Rhodia and Clairefontaine demonstrate. If a notebook is handmade it will be mentioned in the product description at Milligram.
Do you love it?
The ultimate decider needs to be whether the notebook appeals to you. For some of us, we need to love a notebook to really enjoy using it. Or it needs to have something special, something that calls us. It’s why most stationery lovers have more than one notebook in the wings, just waiting to be filled with anything from creative musings to task lists to random thoughts.
We hope you’ve found Milligram’s ultimate notebook guide useful! Should you have any other suggestions, comments or questions, please share below!
Like a little help deciding?
Try checking out our notebook staff picks at Milligram.com — an ever evolving list that stand out in some way to our staff.