What size is the right size for a notebook?

One of the things that got left out of my recent 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:

Small notebooks – pocket size or 3″x5″ or so.

  • Easiest to carry, and it fits in most pockets. Not always convenient in a bag, as it can move around and end up on the bottom.
  • Requires small 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 fill up quickly. Very quickly. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. For myself I prefer to have more history.
  • it’s hard to shoehorn a full 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 easy to conceal, and they feel more private.
  • It feels a little silly to sit one on a conference room table and take notes.
  • Small 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 small to have much history, unless I write in very terse language.
  • Ok for lap writing. Really, I have to balance the book on a thigh.
  • Easy 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.
  • Easy to devote to a single purpose.

Medium notebooks – 5″x8″ or thereabouts

  • A familiar size, and they don’t look silly on a conference room table.
  • Easy to buy – if the store has notebooks, they’ll have them in this size.
  • A letter sheet can be folded in half and stuck inside. It might hang out at the edges, depending on the book.
  • A page is not quite big enough for some purposes. For example, a page devoted 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 inside.
  • Better behaved in a briefcase or other bag, but it can still move around, rotate, etc.
  • Painful to have devoted one to a single purpose, and end up not using it.

Full size notebooks – 8″x10″ and larger

  • Not going to fit in a pocket.
  • Stays where you put it in a bag.
  • Doesn’t feel silly to carry by itself.
  • Doesn’t look sill on a conference room table.
  • Not always good for lap writing, especially in cramped quarters.
  • Harder to find.
  • It feels less private. I don’t know why, since my writing is the same size, but I feel like it’s easier 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 8×10, which means a sheet overhangs.
  • More expensive. A pocket size book might be $10-12 for a premium brand. A full size book might be $30. Although the price per square inch of writing area is probably a better deal on the larger book.
  • A single page is large enough for many purposes, without worry that more pages will be needed.

Bigger is better for the journal, so far

My experience 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 tried, 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 full size books are too big and expensive, and too much to haul around. However, I’m finding that I’ve rolled 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 replaced the mid-size (their size large) Leuchtturm1917 Jottbook that I’d been using for blogging material now that it’s full, and have been writing those things in my journal instead.

For the 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 new 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 settled on, and how did you get there?

What size is the right size?

I just started a new notebook for my journal, and it’s another Moleskine. I know they sometimes have bleed problems (although only when my pens are really, really, wet) and are expensive but I’ve yet to find anything I like better.

For a long time I had been using the pocket size, and I even made a small bookshelf to hang on the wall to store them. It’s a handy size for carrying, and I tended to use fine-point pens with them.

Then last December I ended up using the large size Moleskine, and it was a different experience. I felt like I had  more room. My writing got neater. I actually wrote more.

When I filled that book up I went back to the pocket size, thinking the size advantage was worth it. Boy was I wrong! It drove me crazy – the lines were so short I felt like I was getting maybe 4 or 5 words per line . I quit that book halfway through, and am back to the large.

What size is the right size for you – Moleskine or otherwise?