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A Notebook Proposal. You’ll Want One.

In one of my recent posts I wrote about potentially working with a company to create what I feels would be a great journal. I didn’t elaborate very much in the post, but I will here.

First of all, journals are different things to different people so I will define what journal is for me. It is a tool I use to remember, to grow, and to develop ideas and myself. I write about things I want to remember, like vacations and what my kids do. I write about myself, what I’m doing, what I want to do, and the difference between the two. Lastly I write about the ideas I have and try to organize them into actionable things.

For this, a journal needs to have some features to be at it’s best:

  1. Big enough to hold history, and remove any hesitation to write, draw, diagram or anything else. I’ve found through my own experience I write more in a larger book. For me this means 8×10 or larger.
  2. Be durable enough to get hauled everywhere, used daily at least, referenced frequently, and still hold together.
  3. Have page numbers. Ideas and their offspring come when they do, and there needs to be some way to refer to different places in the book to tie things together.
  4. Have a table of contents, with an entry for each page. I find that this works really well. Having just blank lines leaves me paralyzed over what might be worthy to enter into the TOC, but a line for each page converts the task into a simple summarization of each page.
  5. Enough ruling on the page to keep my writing from getting huge (which it tends to do when I use blank paper) and getting crooked (less of a problem now than it used to be), and to help with sketching orthogonal drawings, but not enough to really stand out when reading or sketching real life. For me this means a dot grid.
  6. Two place holder ribbons. One for where the last blank page is, and one for where I’ve left off re-reading.

That’s it, and I think I’ve found a way to get it. I’ve put together a draft of a typical page along with a table of contents page. Download the .pdf and let me know what you think. The dots may seem a bit faint on a laser printer – they’ll be proofed.

The last question is how many pages? 200? 300?

If I can get someone to make these, will you buy one? Leave a comment!

24 comments… add one
  • Ira June 29, 2012, 5:07 am

    Wow, sounds great. Just what I’m looking for. Let me know when it is available.

  • Randall June 29, 2012, 7:40 am

    I’ll second that. Sounds like a well-designed notebook!

  • Aisazia June 29, 2012, 9:53 am

    Ohhh that looks tempting! I’d say it depends how much it is. If it’s $10-$15 or under then definitely! Any more and I’d have to think about it. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Steve June 29, 2012, 11:34 am

      Hi Aisazia – thanks for the comment.

      Could you point me to a hardcover 8×10 notebook, with 200 pages, made in the USA for $10-15?

      So far the estimates I’m getting, for small quantities (say 50 books) are more in the $25-$30 range.

      The challenge is that the processes that make books favor large runs.

      • Aisazia July 2, 2012, 7:10 pm

        Whoops sorry I missed the last part about page numbers. I thought it was just going to be 100 pages. Not used to buying 8×10 books either…. Based on the specs I’d say that range is perfectly fine.

        I don’t know about the number of pages because I’m kinda small so lugging a 300 page book might be a bit strenuous for me. I’d have to see how big it is and how heavy. I’m open to either 200 or 300 page amounts. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Adam June 30, 2012, 6:55 pm

    It seems similar to a Leuchturm dot grid? I just wonder about the quality of the paper. I have been disappointed in Leuchturm, Whitelines, and Field Notes. Let’s not talk about Moleskine.

    • Steve July 1, 2012, 8:22 am

      Hi Adam,

      You bring up a common point about paper quality. My personal belief is that the variance of fountain pens and inks makes it about impossible to guarantee that a paper is fountain pen proof. I’ve had little trouble, even with Moleskine paper. Bleed through is rare for me unless I rest the point on the paper or start coloring.

      But some folks like extremely wet nibs, and they will have problems. I don’t think there is a notebook out there that doesn’t have a post somewhere saying it bleeds with this pen or that ink. Even the Rhodia webnotebook: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mpclemens/4866501838/

      My focus with this notebook is a functional format, not compatibility with the extremes of fountain pens. The book’s purpose is to facilitate recording ideas, not to accommodate the pen.

  • Leslie Erin July 1, 2012, 10:56 pm

    I am totally interested in this. Pushing $50 might be an issue, but $35 would be perfectly reasonable.

    How long does it take you to fill up a book at that size? As an artist and fountain pen user, I think the only thing I’d be concerned about is printing that’s too dark, or paper that’s very thin or sketchbook rough. Sounds like that’s not something to worry about here though. What about a pocket in the back to hold scraps?

    Or, what about making an attachable pocket as an added accessory? I bet that could be engineered easily.

    • Steve July 3, 2012, 11:24 am

      Hi Leslie,

      I’m more than halfway through my Leuchtturm1917 A4 size book of 218 pages – on page 171 to be precise. But I’ve found I write a LOT more in a bigger book, so your mileage may vary.

      The paper will be fairly heavy – no lighter than a moleskine. I don’t like dark ruling either, so I’m shooting for pretty pale dots. The company I’m working with has sent proofs of the pages.

      I wasn’t planning to add the pocket. I will investigate the cost to add one.

  • Mike Swickey July 2, 2012, 11:36 pm

    I read all that with a big grin on my face. I think we’re definitely on the same page (pardon the pun) with what I’d like from a notebook. I read the other comments/replies and I like your focus on functionality over finding some ‘perfect’ paper. It doesn’t exist.

    Some thoughts…

    200 pages would be perfect. Too much more than that and I would think “unwieldy.” I hope you mean pages like a book which would bring it at around 100 sheets. Perfect.

    8×10. There you go. It seems that so many of these notebooks use the ISO standard, which is fine except that I find the A4 too big and the A5 too small. 8×10 seems a perfect size for me, but then being in America it may just be a comfort level with that size.

    The Table of Contents idea is beautiful. Much better than just a page or two for filling out an after-the-fact index. I had never really thought of this before for a notebook and it just makes sense being able to write a one-line basic summation of each page. Love this idea.

    I’ve never used dot grid as I’ve stuck pretty close to light graph, but I’ve wanted to try one as many people – like yourself – seem to like them.

    I think a custom hardcover notebook like this is worth $30-$35. You could definitely count me in for a few.

    Good luck!

    • Steve July 3, 2012, 11:43 am

      Hi Mike,

      Yep, a page is a surface to write on, so a sheet is two pages.

      Give me a mailing address, and I can send you a sample dot sheet from one of my Leuchtturm notebooks. I think you’ll really like it. So far everyone who sees it likes it.

  • Ira July 6, 2012, 6:07 am

    The pocket is a great idea. Book mark and elastic outer strap are a must. I also use the Leuchtturm and find it adequate with a fine nib fountain pen, but nothing broader. Paper like Rhodia would be ideal. And an A5 is all I’d use; 8×10 is too big for me to carry around (or face the empty page.)

  • Henry September 11, 2012, 2:03 pm

    I am so happy to see this! I’m in the process of buying a new “daily notebook,” a notebook to do ALL the work from sketches to notes to what I need to do today. I tend to have one leaf/sheet per day (in a Moleskine 5″x8″) and, for me at least, this works great and greatly lowers the stress. I recently went to the Netherlands where I picked up a notebook by Brepols (their “back to paper” line) and, just as you said, once you go to a large notebook you can’t go back. Additionally, it has really thin lines, page numbers and chamfered corners, oh, and it is soft-cover. A very good notebook, but I’m needing a dotted page.
    So, after much rambling, let me know if I can help/when I can (hopefully) purchase one of your notebooks!

    • Steve October 29, 2012, 11:30 am

      I’m glad to hear another person is interested! We need about 60 people to make this work, I think.

      But first I need to finish the page design.

  • Frank Zweegers November 8, 2012, 9:38 am

    Not to thick, 150-200 pages and a hardcover IMO

  • Andy Johnson February 7, 2013, 11:16 am

    I’m interested! Have you seen the dot grid notebooks by Leuchtturm1917. They have page numbers, a table of contents and remind me a lot of what you are describing. Another option is creating a customized journal and having it printed by Bound Custom Journals.

  • Roz Stendah March 2, 2013, 8:39 pm

    Steve, did you create these journals in the larger size you were discussing, with dots? etc.โ€ฆ And if so do can you tell me if you have any more for sale, the price, and the weight of the paper? Thanks. (I just found your post through a long winding trail through other blogs and sites.)

  • Ray George July 28, 2013, 7:36 pm

    Steve, How are you progressing? I’d prefer a soft cover. Definitely would purchase at $25-$35 range.
    Please advise.

    • Steve August 3, 2013, 6:24 pm

      Hi Ray,

      Thanks for writing!

      I’d really like to find a way to produce the notebook, but I haven’t had the time to produce the page design. I started a new job in April, and that pretty much crushed my free time (as one can tell from a lack of posts here!)

      The other challenge is finding a printer that can produce it, and that takes time as well.

  • Daniel Jones August 26, 2013, 11:25 am

    Sounds great and love the pale dot idea. This size and this durablility sounds like I could get my students to buy in also for their lab journals. I would definitely buy at $30 area. If they could come down to the $12-$15 range, I could make all 120 of my students buy three each for 2014/2015 school year.

    • Steve September 4, 2013, 9:02 am

      Hi Daniel,

      I think I need to get off my duff and get a page layout done!

  • Paul Sloggett December 6, 2013, 3:19 pm


    It sounds like you may be able to help with this.

    We are now hand-binding high quality notebooks here in Stamford, England. We are on a quest to make the ‘perfect’ notebook, if there is such a thing. I see you have a clear idea already.

    Be great to hear more from you or any of your friends on what might make the ‘perfect’ one.

    So far we have hard cover (with some flex), fountain pen friendly paper, opens as flat as possible, marker ribbon, elastic closure, 33 colours and textures (including book cloth, alligator effect and leather), plain or ruled paper, two sizes (pocket and medium, just smaller than A5), we also personalise with initials.

    However, customising and creating the perfect thing in whatever size, shape, quality of paper etc. is what we are about, we have the capability to hand-bind all kinds of notebooks. So we are are keen to hear everyones thoughts.

    Our standard launch range is proving very popular in the last few weeks since we launched, which is great.

    See our website here: http://www.stamfordnotebooks.co.uk

    Be great to have your advice.

    Really cool site you have.



  • Paul Sloggett March 21, 2014, 6:29 pm

    It’s possible we can help with your quest for the perfect notebook. If we don’t make it already we may be able to. http://www.stamfordnotebooks.co.uk

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