The researchWhy you should trust usA medium softcover notebook with silky pages: Apica Premium CD NotebookA medium softcover notebook with mJual Notebook Medan ore texture: Midori MD NotebookA hardcover notebook for journaling or rencana: Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover NotebookThe best Moleskine alternative: Paperage Lined JournalThe best spiral-bound notebook: Maruman Mnemosyne N194A Special Memo NotebookLarge softcover notebook pick: Apica Notebook CD15The best steno notepad: Maruman Mnemosyne N166 Steno PadThe best reporter notebook: Leuchtturm1917 Reporter NotepadSoftcover reporter notebook: Field Notes Front Page Reporter’s NotebooksDDistributor Notebook Medan isc-bound notebook for maximum customizability: Levenger CircaBest pocket-size pick: Muji Passport MemoAn upgraded pocket-size notebook: Field Notes Memo BookWhat about Moleskine?How we pickedHow we testedNotable competitionThe competitionSources Toko Notebook Medan
Wirecutter senior staff writer Melanie Harga Notebook Medan Pinola has written about technology and home-office topics for more than a dozen years for sites such as Lifehacker, PCWorld, Popular Mechanics, and Laptop Magazine. For over five years, she has tested and reviewed gear for Wirecutter, including home-office essentials such as webcams, USB microphones, and office chairs. She’s a die-hard stationery fan who uses notebooks daily for work and personal projects; it’s probably telling that almost everyone close to her has gifted her a notebook at one point or another.
During our preliminary notebook research, we consulted with and relied upon the work of experienced bloggers who review pens, pencils, and stationery. These people care far more about the performance of paper against all sorts of writing implements than most people, and they also have a wide range of papers to compare notebooks with. In particular, we traded emails with three bloggers to inquire after their favorite notebooks: Brad Dowdy, The Pen Addict, is a co-founder of Nock Co., which makes notebooks and stationery bags; Elizabeth Newberry of No Pen Intended has written hundreds of reviews of pens and notebooks and particularly appreciates paper that can stand up to a fountain pen; and Ian Hedley of Pens! Paper! Pencils! is a professional artist who also runs the pen blog search engine Pennaquod. We also interviewed (via email) a representative from the online stationery store JetPens and several notebook enthusiasts who contribute to Reddit’s r/notebooks subreddit.
A medium softcover notebook with silky pages: Apica Premium CD Notebook
Photo: Michael HessionOur pick
Get this if: You want a softcover notebook that is the size of a trade paperback book and has super-smooth paper your pen will glide over. If you write with a fountain pen or rollerball, you’ll probably appreciate how well this notebook’s paper shows off ink colors.
Why it’s great: Four out of five Wirecutter panelists chose the Apica Premium CD Notebook as their top or second-favorite notebook pick, saying the feel of the paper was the “best out of the bunch” and “silky yet not ‘plastic-y’ like some others.” The paper stood up well to a range of writing instruments—even demanding fountain pen ink—with little feathering and minimal ghosting.
We also liked the paper’s off-white, eggshell color—neither too bright nor too yellow—and the simple, well-spaced, light gray line ruling. The cardstock cover is sturdy, and the stitched binding is high quality, allowing the notebook to lie flat nicely. All in all, this is a great all-purpose notebook with thick paper that feels luxurious to the touch.
The Apica Premium CD Notebook’s paper has a pleasant off-white tone, and ink looks great on it. Photo: Michael Hession
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Apica’s super-smooth paper isn’t for everyone, especially those who are expecting a traditional paper feel as you get with typical composition notebooks. It feels more like the slick pages of The New York Times’s Sunday Magazine than the tougher paper that makes up the rest of the newspaper. Or, for another analogy, like sateen bed sheets lawan jersey knit sheets.
The notebook’s old-fashioned cover design might come across as kitschy to some, but you could always customize it with a cover, which would improve the notebook’s durability.
Also, it doesn’t come with a ribbon laman marker, and although it has a small index on the first halaman, the pages aren’t numbered. We don’t think those features are essential for most people, but if they matter to you, consider the Leuchtturm1917 in softcover.
Size: A5 (lima.8 by 8.tiga inches), 192 pagesRuling options: lined, graph, blank
A medium softcover notebook with more texture: Midori MD Notebook
Photo: Michael HessionAlso great
Get this if: You want a simple, medium-size notebook with paper that’s easy on the eyes and offers tactile feedback—the rougher paper slows your writing down and makes you pay more attention to it, in contrast to slicker paper that your pen would glide across. The Midori MD Notebook strikes a delicate balance between smoothness and “toothiness,” so if you like feeling a bit more friction than you get from the more coated or vellum papers of other notebooks, this might be the one for you.
Why it’s great: The Midori MD Notebook is simplicity at its best, with a plain cream-colored cardstock cover and matte pages with light blue ruling. Three out of five testers ranked this notebook in their top three, saying they loved the pleasant tone of the paper and the notebook’s minimalist aesthetic, which makes writing and journaling as distraction-free as possible. It takes all sorts of ink but handles pencil especially well because of the paper’s slight tooth; the blank or graph versions of the Midori MD would be great for doodling or sketching. There is some ghosting or show-through on the other side of the page, but we didn’t find it intrusive.
Construction-wise, the quality of the stitching is terrific, allowing the notebook to lie flat. (Compared with other notebooks of this size, including the Apica Premium CD, the Midori MD is bound in more, smaller sections, called signatures—16 signatures versus a more common eight or 12—which makes it sturdier and helps it lie flat more easily.) Unlike many other soft notebooks, this one has a ribbon bookmark—a silky green one that nicely complements the cream Grosir Notebook Medan pages.
The Midori MD Notebook sports a minimalist design.Photo: Michael Hession
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Our main complaint against this otherwise lovely notebook is the dark horizontal line that runs across the middle of all the pages. While some people might use this line to divide their notes, we found it distracting and unnecessary.
This is also a notebook you might want to get a cover for, because although the cardstock feels sturdy, it’s not as rugged or as thick as other notebooks’ covers. (It comes with a thin plastic cover, but we found that more intrusive than useful.) Clear, paper, and leather covers are available at JetPens.
Although most of our testers didn’t experience a lot of smudging with most writing utensils, our left-handed tester found that this notebook’s paper smudged significantly more with a gel pen than others did.
Size: A5 (lima.8 by 8.tiga inches), 176 pagesRuling options: lined, graph, blank
A hardcover notebook for journaling or rencana: Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Notebook
Photo: Michael HessionOur pick
Get this if: You want a medium-size hardcover notebook that helps you organize and keep track of your thoughts and ideas. All of the tiny details, such as the index pages and labels for archiving, make this notebook gift-worthy, too.
Why it’s great: The Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Notebook was the favorite notebook of three of our testers, and they listed many reasons for that. Most of all, the cream-colored paper is exquisite, with a powdery, toothy feel unlike that of any of the other notebooks we tested or have used in the past. (In a pile of more than 20 notebooks, this is the one I could most readily pick out if blindfolded.) The paper took well to pencil, ballpoint, rollerball, gel pen, and fountain pens, with very little smudging and no bleeding. Most of our testers said it just felt good to write on.
We love the firm cover and the ample laman count, as well as all the extras this notebook offers: two thick ribbon bookmarks, labels for the spine and title page, page numbers, index pages, and a sturdy back pocket.
The Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Notebook has a generous 251 pages and two ribbon bookmarks.Photo: Michael Hession