What Size is The Right Size For a Notebook?

by Steve Duncan on March 23, 2012

One of the things that got left out of my latest series on single vs. many notebooks was the topic of notebook size.

So what is the right size? It of course is a matter of what works but here’s my observations:

Puny notebooks – pocket size or Trio″x5″ or so.

  • Easiest to carry, and it fits in most pockets. Not always convenient in a bag, as it can stir around and end up on the bottom.
  • Requires puny writing, and a narrow pen or pencil. I found this to be fine as long as I wasn’t planning to use that pen for regular writing, but a real fine point is not the right choice for everything.
  • The books pack up quickly. Very quickly. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. For myself I choose to have more history.
  • it’s hard to shoehorn a utter size sheet in them, like an agenda for a meeting or the like. It has to be folded more than once, which makes it thick to put in the book, and ugly once it’s unfolded.
  • They’re effortless to conceal, and they feel more private.
  • It feels a little foolish to sit one on a conference room table and take notes.
  • Petite drawings are possible, but diagrams, org charts, and things with writing can be challenging to fit.
  • The pages aren’t big enough to devote to one thing. Any list that’s long enough to need to be written down is likely to be more than one page.
  • Too puny to have much history, unless I write in very terse language.
  • Ok for lap writing. Truly, I have to balance the book on a hip.
  • Effortless to buy – they’re everywhere, and they are cheap. This also seems to be the most popular size for specialty books, like music, storyboard, etc.
  • Effortless to devote to a single purpose.

Medium notebooks – Five″x8″ or thereabouts

  • A familiar size, and they don’t look stupid on a conference room table.
  • Effortless to buy – if the store has notebooks, they’ll have them in this size.
  • A letter sheet can be folded in half and stuck inwards. It might dangle out at the edges, depending on the book.
  • A page is not fairly big enough for some purposes. For example, a page loyal to listing all the books I plan to read might end up being two or three pages.
  • A good size for lap writing, like in a car or plane.
  • Big enough to have some history. A book might last 6 months or more, if I don’t draw much.
  • Won’t fit in many pockets, but will fit some. An outside suit jacket pocket will likely be ok, but not inwards.
  • Better behaved in a briefcase or other bag, but it can still stir around, rotate, etc.
  • Painful to have dedicated one to a single purpose, and end up not using it.
  • Total size notebooks – 8″x10″ and larger

  • Not going to fit in a pocket.
  • Stays where you put it in a bag.
  • Doesn’t feel foolish to carry by itself.
  • Doesn’t look sill on a conference room table.
  • Not always good for lap writing, especially in cramped quarters.
  • Firmer to find.
  • It feels less private. I don’t know why, since my writing is the same size, but I feel like it’s lighter for the person next to me to read.
  • I can write in large letters, lots of room for diagrams.
  • Seems more likely to be available in larger page counts.
  • Hold letter size sheets without folding, but many «full size» books are 8×Ten, which means a sheet overhangs.
  • More expensive. A pocket size book might be $10-12 for a premium brand. A total size book might be $30. Albeit the price per square inch of writing area is most likely a better deal on the larger book.
  • A single page is large enough for many purposes, without worry that more pages will be needed.
  • Thicker is better for the journal, so far

    My practice has been that while the pocket size books are very attractive, as soon as I went to the mid size I couldn’t go back to pocket. I attempted, but it was just too cramped. Three to five words on a line makes it hard to write coherently. Now I’ve gone up to an A4 (actually a little larger), and I wonder if I will be able to go back to a mid size again.

    For other purposes I think utter size books are too big and expensive, and too much to haul around. However, I’m finding that I’ve spinned at least one of my special purpose books into the large journal – I no longer freewrite in a separate book. An average freewriting exercise is at most two pages, so it’s not taking up much of the book. I also haven’t substituted the mid-size (their size large) Leuchtturm1917 Jottbook that I’d been using for blogging material now that it’s total, and have been writing those things in my journal instead.

    For the very first time in several years I’ll be traveling with the family, and that means I will be using my journal in a lot of fresh situations and carrying it around a lot more. I haven’t done this with a big book before, and I’m not certain whether I will end up still loving it or hating it.

    What size have you lodged on, and how did you get there?

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