Web Culture

3 Paper Notebooks Worth Shelling Out For

Dann Albright 13-05-2014

Being a technology website, we do a lot of writing about high-tech ways to keep track of things and manage your life. But sometimes a plain old notebook is the best thing you can use The 5 Commandments for Choosing the Right To-Do App for Productivity Different people organize in different ways. So choosing a to-do app really depends on what kind of person you are. Here are five commandments you can think about for your own productivity system. Read More to jot notes, make lists, and think creatively. These three are expensive, but absolutely worth the price.


What qualifies as “expensive”? The notebooks in this list cost roughly $15–$20 each. You can certainly spend more than that (think Smythson’s $310 lambskin-covered, gilt-edged books), but most people have a tendency to grab the cheapest notebook that will do the job. Whether you’re getting a notebook for taking notes at meetings, starting a journal How to Start a Digital Journal: A Quick Guide for Beginners Digital journaling is here to stay. Here's how to start a digital journal on your smartphone, computer, or web browser. Read More , or keeping to-do lists, you’ll appreciate the quality in any of these three.

Action Journal by Behance


Behance is a company dedicated to helping creative professionals get things done. And by teaming up with 99U, they’ve created a series of products that will help anyone get more organized, be more productive, and look cool doing it.

The Action Method is a productivity system for creatives, but the only part of it that’s currently available to the public is the Action Method series of paper products, one of which is the Action Journal.

The journal is 6 x 8 inches, making it a great size for stashing in a backpack or purse, or even just carrying it by hand. Where it really shines, though, is in the layout of every page in the book. The front of every page has two sections: a dot grid for writing and an action steps list. The back is more dot grid.



This allows you to take notes, jot ideas, or even sketch potential solutions to problems while making sure that any actions you need to take are recorded immediately. Writing action steps in the middle of a page of notes is a sure way to lose them, but by having a brightly colored section set to the side, you’ll always know exactly where to look to see what needs to get done.

Under the action steps boxes, there’s a section called Backburner, where you can record items that aren’t quite ready for action, but might be in the future. Each page is also perforated, so you can easily tear out pages to share, photocopy, or just get rid of so you can focus on the next set of things that need to be done.

At $17.50, the Action Journal will feel like a big spend for newcomers to nice notebooks, but the smartly sectioned paper and dot grid make it worth every penny. (If you’re looking for something a bit larger, you can get the same benefits in the Action Book, an 8.5″ x 10.5″.)


Cahier by Le Thé de Écrivains


This French company makes their paper products by hand, and the handmade, 100% cotton pages of their notebooks will spoil you for all other paper. You’ve never written on anything this nice before, and you’ll never want to write on anything else again. The cover is made of a soft fabric, giving the notebook a luxurious feel, and the visible stitching down the side draws attention to the handmade construction.

When it comes down to it, this is just a simple notebook — it’s unlined, not particularly large at 8.25 x 10.6 inches, and doesn’t include folders or other organizational helpers. It doesn’t even have a very sturdy cover. But writing in one of these will make you feel like a novelist from the 19th century. There’s no better way to feel like a writer than to write on Le Thé de Écrivains paper.



If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit Le Thé de Écrivains in Paris, you’ll get to see the amazing variety of notebooks, photo albums, and paper pads that are available — there are dozens of cover patterns, sizes, and colors. (You can see in the photo above that I have a purple floral one, though it appears that you can only buy the solid colors online.)

€10.50 (about $14) might seem like a lot, but the paper quality in a cahier by Le Thé de Écrivains can’t be topped.

Folio Professional Notebook by Moleskine


It’s almost cliché to mention it here, but no list of great notebooks is complete without Moleskine. Today’s Moleskine notebooks are descended from ones that were used by van Gogh, Picasso, and Hemingway [Broken Link Removed]. Could you ask for more proof?


The Folio Professional Notebook provides a lot of versatility—there are tear-out list, sectioned pages that allow you to enter your own headings in each section, and colored page markers to help you keep everything organized. There’s also a stash pocket in the back where you can store business cards, receipts, and other bits of paper. And at 5 x 8.25 inches, it’s a great size for travel.


If you’ve never had an expensive, high-quality notebook, Moleskine is a great place to start. They use nice paper, the covers are durable, they often include elastic straps and page markers, and you can get them in a number of formats, sizes, and themes. And if you know how to best use them for productivity 5 Ways To Kick Your Moleskine Notebook Up A Notch Over the years, the Moleskine notebook has become a trademark staple for anyone dabbling in creative endeavors. In fact, the Moleskine is almost as iconic as the Apple laptop, the hipster glasses, and the daily... Read More , they can’t be beat.

The only notebook in this list that breaks the $20 barrier ($17.90 on Amazon), the Folio Professional Notebook might feel like quite an investment if you’re used to spending $1.50. But between the professional look and the many different sections, it’s $22 well spent.

Nice Notebooks Need Nice Pens

To make the most of your new notebook, you won’t want to use the free pen from your dentist. Spending just a little bit more than usual will make a noticeable difference.


My personal favorite, and the pen that served me well throughout my entire postgraduate career, the Sharpie fine point pen feels a bit like a gel pen, but is more smear-resistant. It works really well in all of these notebooks, and $5.49 for a 4-pack won’t break the bank. The Pilot G-2 is another very popular option, and lays down thick gel lines with ease.


Most people haven’t spent more than $5 on a notebook, but you’re missing out if you don’t move beyond the $1.50 Mead standard. It might feel strange shelling out up to $20 for a notebook, but if you write more than the occasional Post-It to yourself, you’ll find one of these three worth the expense!

Do you have a favorite notebook that you always go back to? Or do you hop between brands all the time? Share your thoughts below!

Related topics: Buying Tips, Notepad.

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    October 31, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    A far better notebook than Moleskine, IMHO, is the Leuchtturm 1917. The paper does not bleed through with most medium nib fountain pens, it is pre paginated, and there is an index. Plus, it is a few dollars cheaper than Moleskine.

    • Dann Albright
      November 12, 2016 at 11:03 pm

      That sounds really nice! I'll have to check it out. Where do you buy them? Any recommendations?

  2. Sergio
    July 30, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    great one, but if you are going to write on awesome paper, why a sharpie? when you can use the right writing instrument, a fountain pen. There are very cheap ones for $3 and you can go to a lot. Then you will get to know awesome paper for them like Tomoegawa or Rhodia.

    • Dann Albright
      November 12, 2016 at 11:03 pm

      I do love fountain pens, but Sharpie pens are in my top two or three. They just write so nicely, and they're really easy to stash in a pocket to bring with you. Also, do the $3 write well? I think the cheapest one I've used was about $30.

  3. Pauol
    July 24, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    this website behaves so badly - it will not scroll - all other tabs fine, just this annoying site!

    • Dann Albright
      July 25, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      What browser are you using? And if it doesn't scroll, how did you get down to the comments?

      • Pauol
        July 25, 2016 at 8:16 pm

        Hi, Dann, Chrome on Win10 - Actually, it does scroll - eventually - clicks on the arrows on right hand side scroll bar seem to be ignored but actually the page does move after about 15 seconds. Other sites in other tabs behaving fine. click on scroll bar to drag but does not work. the joys ... :-)

  4. Matthew Hughes
    October 15, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    As a fellow Moleskine lover, I applaud your choices.

    Excellent article, good sit.

  5. Louis
    October 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Dann - thanks for whatever you did. I was able to place my order, they acknowledged it and I received the notebooks in the mail today.


    • Dann Albright
      October 20, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Whew! It was a long time coming, but I'm really glad you got your notebooks. I hope you really enjoy them! :-)

  6. Louis
    October 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Great! Thanks, I will try it and let you know the results.


  7. Anonymous
    September 8, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Dann, still no news from Paris? Louis

    • Dann A
      September 9, 2014 at 8:32 am

      So sorry for the delay! I checked this morning, and it looks like it should be working now. I didn't enter my credit card information, as I don't want to place an order, but the page that was generating the error seems to be working now. Give it a shot and let me know what happens. If it's still not working, I'll just go over there myself. :-)

  8. Anonymous
    June 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    I appreciate the update...and am not surprised that it is taking a long time.
    Thanks again. Louis

  9. Louis
    May 14, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Thanks, Dann.

    • Dann A
      June 4, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Hey, just wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten about you. I didn't get a response from my e-mail, so I'm going to follow up with them again. Maybe I'll get someone to e-mail them in French for me. :-)

  10. Jeremy G
    May 14, 2014 at 6:37 am

    The best notebooks I have found are Hand-Eye Supply's 'Field Notes' (http://www.handeyesupply.com/collections/drawing-pads/), available with blank, lined or graph pages.

    • Dann A
      May 16, 2014 at 6:18 am

      Field Notes are definitely a classic. You can't really beat the simple design, especially if you're into the minimal aesthetic. Thanks for pointing these out!

  11. Louis
    May 14, 2014 at 3:25 am

    Dann. Where can I purchase the Cahier? Tried to use their website but they bumped me when it became clear I was not a merchant.
    Thanks very much.

    • Dann A
      May 14, 2014 at 8:30 am

      Thanks for pointing this out, Louis. I just tried to make a purchase from their website and ran into the "Your merchant's site has not been identified" problem. I'll e-mail Les The and see if they're aware of it and what might solve the problem.

      I'll report back with what I find out!

  12. Saikat B
    May 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Nice notebooks also need nice handwriting. Typing away on the keyboard has sent my cursives cursing down the drain :) Lately, I have felt the need to get back to plain old writing on paper instead of banging the keys on a computer.

    A nice out-of-the-box post, Dann.

    • Dann A
      May 13, 2014 at 9:27 pm

      Yeah, I think the handwriting quality of the entire human race has suffered over the past ten years or so. :-) But practice helps a lot!

      Thanks for the comment—glad you liked it.

  13. Ben
    May 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Oh man, how did you miss Quo Vadis? It's the best paper in the best size.

    • Dann A
      May 13, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      I've never written in a Quo Vadis, but they definitely look fantastic! I'll have to give on a shot. The Robert Le Heros collection looks especially cool. Is there a specific notebook that you recommend?

    • Ben
      May 13, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      I only get the Habana since it's your run of the mill notebook, similar to Moleskine. The papers are thick enough that my fountain pen won't bleed through (unlike Moleskine), and there's such consistent smoothness that a fountain pen has an even flow.

    • Alex D
      May 13, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      In my experience, having not had Evernote premium prior, it did actually open up my options a bit. While you could use any notebook for the snapshot note feature Moleskine's definitely give you a nice sized paper to take pictures of and shows up very nicely. If you do already have premium though, then it doesn't really bring anything new to the table other than the tag stickers included. So unless you really like the design of the cover. I recommend sticking to a normal Moleskine since it is better for your wallet.

    • Dann A
      May 13, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Ben, I'll have to try the Habana. I love that there's a graph-paper option. One thing I really like about the Behance Action books are the dot grid, and it's because I've always enjoyed writing on graph paper, but the dot grid is just a bit cleaner.

      Thanks for the tip! Looks awesome.

    • Dann A
      May 13, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      Alex, that's good advice. I've always wondered if it would be worth it to buy the Evernote edition—I really love the design of all of the Evernote products, but they often seem extremely expensive when you could get something very similar. Especially when there are so many Star Wars Moleskine options. :-)

    • Ben
      May 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      I've never seen dot paper, but it looks interesting and better than graph. I want my paper plain as can be.

    • Dann A
      May 13, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      I like plain paper, but I can't write in a straight line to save my life. Usually that doesn't matter, as I'm just jotting notes, but I generally use my Action Journal to keep track of longer thoughts for my job, which are definitely better on straight lines. I highly recommend the dot grid!

  14. Alex D
    May 13, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I'm always happy to see lists highlighting popular "high-end" notebooks. I personally can't settle for anything less than a Moleskine. Expensive, but man is it worth it. I also love the Pilot pens. I have almost a dozen Pilot G-2 07 pens in black, blue, and purple (just to keep it classy). I think it's also worth mentioning the Evernote Moleskine, that's a great investment with the 3 free months of Evermote Premium.

    • Dann A
      May 13, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      I definitely agree on the Moleskines. I made it through most of my education before discovering them, which is probably a good thing, as I would've likely spent way more than I should have on them. :-)

      The G-2 seems to be a really popular option pretty much everywhere. I agree on the 07. My girlfriend likes the 10s, but I find the slightly thinner 07 line a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

      I haven't tried the Evernote Moleskine, but it looks pretty cool. I already have a premium subscription—do you think it's worth investing in anyway?

      Thanks for reading!