Best Paper Notebook Reviews 2023

Apart from their obvious importance as a part of materials for school, notebooks also impact our lives in other little but important ways. This review is going to help you choose the best paper notebook from the myriad of them out there, and we’ve brought you a notebook from the top five brands in the market. We’ve also done a review on 1-subject notebooks and you’re welcome to enjoy that too.
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Our Top Choice
Northbooks Notebook / Journal
For Northbooks, the mission is to bring you great quality notebooks sourced and made with much love from Uncle Sam’s melting pot, thus helping you enjoy your writing times.
Cool, cream color and Spartan design minimize distraction. Ruled pages for orderly note-taking. Smooth papers that don’t produce drag with pens. Bleed- and feathering-resistant.
May not lay completely flat due to sturdy binding.
8 x 5 inches
96 pages
Blank, dots, stripes or squares
Side binding
Best Value
Rite in the Rain Top-Spiral Notebook
Rite in the Rain has been doing one thing, and one thing only, for over a century now: providing all-weather stationery for the outdoor professional and enthusiast.
Waterproof cover and pages. Take notes in the rain with pen from the company or regular pencils. Sturdy and durable cover and binding. Thick pages don’t tear off easily.
There might be a somewhat waxy feel to it.
6 x 4 inches
100 pages
College-ruled; vertical dots
Top spiral
7 colors available
SamutNote Plain Handmade Notebook
SamutNote makes beautifully unique handmade notebooks for the pleasure of writers. It makes sure that every step of the process gets as much love and care as it can handle.
Eye-friendly Low-Eye Strain paper for comfort. Lays flat. Cute and well-made. Durable binding. Fits into pockets and slim purses snugly.
Some of them do not match the described measurements.
6 x 4 inches
60 pages
Blank, dotted
Flat binding
Brown; 20 patterns available
Field Notes Kraft Ruled 3-Pack
Field Notes manufactures a fine collection of memo notebooks, calendars, and similar office stationery and accessories that are smartly-designed and classically-styled.
Good quality paper. Durable saddle-stitch binding. Small, lightweight, and portable. Fits in pockets and purses. Pleasant old-school feel.
Doesn’t have a lot of pages.
5.5 x 3.5 inches
48 pages
Graph, ruled, blank
Flat binding
Mead Spiral 1-Subject Notebook
Mead, a household name, has been in the business of making products that help youngsters and adults organize, learn, and create for over 150 years.
Lightweight. Papers have smooth surface for writing on. Perforated edges tear out easily for binding. Available in bright, fun colors.
Covers may be a bit flimsy.
10.5 x 8 inches
140 pages
Wide-ruled, college ruled
Side spiral binding
5 colors & assortment available

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Watch Our Paper Notebook Review

What is the Best Paper Notebook?

Depending on what you intend to use your notebook for, the best paper notebook for you might be a large 5 X 8-inch notebook or a pocket-sized one. Seeing as you’ve gone through our guide, we’re confident that the following review will make deciding easier for you; now, let’s do this!
Our Top Choice
Northbooks’ Notebook / Journal with Acid-free Sheets is a 96-paged notebook and each page is ruled for an orderly arrangement of your notes. Its papers are smooth and won’t produce any drag while writing. If you’re interested in an equally great hardcover notebook with more pages, you’d do well to take a look at the Northbooks Hardcover Notebook.

Northbooks Notebook / Journal with Acid-free Sheets - Available with Blank, Dot Grid & Square Grid Pages and Various Pack Options

Zeb Dropkin lived life in the fast lane, as a member of a software company; he literally calculated speed in Gigahertz and Megabits. With time, he realized that he spent a great deal of time with digital devices, selling virtual solutions, that he had begun to miss the experience and the tangibility of connecting with things in the tactile, physical world. Knowing that he wasn’t alone in this, he set out to create something that he would personally enjoy using and sharing with people like him. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was how Northbooks was born.

Northbooks’ notebooks are made with materials that are sourced in the US and are then made into the tastefully minimalist notebooks that we enjoy; every step is monitored for quality. Now here’s a fun, adorable fact: the brand got its name from two important parts of his life: his young nephew whose name is Northman (that’s where the North came from) and his love for notebooks (this one is obvious).

The Northbooks Notebook / Journal allows you to enjoy the age-old practice of literally putting pen to paper whether you’re sitting at a desk or hitting the road. Its soft color and modest design lend it, and you by extension, a touch of quiet class. The lack of extravagant colors or patterns promotes focus so that you’re not distracted from whatever task you’re engaged in with the notebook.

The 96 pages are college-ruled, giving you an organized space for your notes and sketches. They’re acid-free, which means that it’s free of acid pulp and is therefore resistant to the yellowing and decay long-time storage wreaks on paper. You won’t have to worry about ink bleeding through or feathering either, as the pages are 90 grams per square papers and will resist ink bleeding and the formation of those unattractive feathering effects. Further, the pages are bound by covers made with fifty-percent recycled paper. They’re rugged enough to survive storage in your backpack, yet soft enough to be bendable and folded for convenience.

If you want a different page layout, this notebook comes in four styles; blank, dots, stripes or squares. You can purchase them in packs of one, three or five.

Northbooks has other notebooks we think you’d like; here are some of them:
  • The Northbooks A6 Pocket Notebooks: a pocket-sized notebook with 64 college-ruled pages; it comes with staple binding so it lays completely flat for convenient on-the-go journaling.
  • The Northbooks 5 by 8-inch Tear Away Notebook: with 96 dot grid, perforated pages for making lists or taking notes.
  • The Northbooks Dots Sewn A5 Softcover Notebook: with 144 dot grid pages and a 100% recycled Eco Cover.
We almost forgot to tell you; customer service from this company is great, and has been known to send complimentary notebooks as replacements for defective ones.
Best Value
The Rite in the Rain All-Weather Top-Spiral Notebook is a waterproof pocket notebook. With a pen from this company or regular pencils, you can take notes even when you’re being pelted by rain. If you’re interested in a larger-sized notebook with a side spiral, there’s the Rite in the Rain Side Spiral Notebook for your consideration; you’re welcome to have a look at it.

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Top-Spiral Notebook – Available in 2 Pack Sizes, 2 Styles & 7 Colors

Rite in the Rain was established in 1916 by Jerry Darling to provide a durable writing material that would perform well even in bad weather; this was a need experienced by the loggers of his time. So, he developed a specially-formulated coating and with the help of Mary, his wife, tested it out on home-processed sheets of paper. The first Rite in the Rain notebooks were home-made, hand-dipped into the special coating by Jerry and Mary themselves. Today, the perfected process keeps the professional whose job description places him constantly in Mother Nature’s way and the outdoorsman who does it for the thrill, supplied with a reliable all-weather notebook.

The Rite in the Rain Top-Spiral Notebook is a 4 by 6-inch pocket notebook with green pages that’s small enough to fit in your back pocket as you enjoy life on-the-go. The cover is made from a resilient Polydura material that protects the pages from getting scratched or stained. In spite of its toughness, the cover is flexible enough to bend as you move so that it doesn’t become an inconvenient bulk in your pocket. Talking about bulk, this is a 100-page notebook, that is, 50 sheets of paper, with a 0.2-pound weight which makes it a great lightweight companion when you inevitably get soaked on your way to or from class, on a hike, or on the job.

Its Wire-O binding is one tough cookie as it’s toughened to be impact-resistant and won’t bend out of shape after a day spent bouncing about in your backpack as you make a dash for the bus or run up a hill. It keeps the pages aligned and the notebook in one piece.

With this notebook, nothing moist or wet can get in the way of your note-taking or journaling, not even accidental drops in puddles or any body of water. Accidental beverage spills, torrential rainfall, or the occasional laundry accident—this notebook can stand up to it all. You’ll see the beads of moisture literally roll off the pages. For best results, use regular pencils, all-weather pens (a Fisher Space Pen for instance), or a Rite in the Rain pen. These will give you dark and legible impressions on the paper, whereas water and gel-based ink will roll off the pages in beads; ballpoints will write on the paper only when it’s dry.

This notebook comes in two styles; universal and worksite as well as having seven colors to choose from. The notepad comes in yellow, tan, green, brown, black, blue and gray. You can buy these individually or in packs of three.

Here are some other great notebooks from this company:
  • The Rite in the Rain All-Weather Mini-Stapled Notebook: a 3.25- by 4.63-inch notebook with yellow covers. Great for jotting down ideas and making notes.
  • The Rite in the Rain All-Weather Hard Cover Notebook: a 4.75-inch by 7.5-inch notebook with yellow covers. This 160-page geological notebook has 20 pages that contain reference materials with standard and metric rulers.
  • The Rite in the Rain All-Weather Side-Spiral Notebook: an 84-page 8.5- x 11-inch notebook with tan covers. Its pages are large enough to accommodate graphs, charts, tables, and more.
All of the processes involved in the production of this brand’s products are done in the US.
The SamutNote Set of 5 Plain Handmade Notebook with Unlined, Cream Paper features Low-Eye Strain paper that has a special design to reduce light reflecting into the eyes. It even lays out flat! If you’re looking for a hardcover notebook with more pages and a beautifully polished black cover, we suggest the SamutNote 5 X 8-inch Hardcover Notebook for your consideration.

SamutNote Set of 5 Plain Handmade Notebook with Unlined, Cream Paper – Available in Multiple Buying Options & Cover Designs

SamutNote understands there is nothing like a handmade gift to show just how much a person means to you. So, fueled by the beauty and passion of its Chiang Mai, Thailand home, it created a line of beautiful diaries, made completely by hand. With the growing competition between man and technology, the finer joy of the little things, like the notebook, is steadily being forgotten; the belief that putting ink—or graphite—to paper enlivens the words, propels this company to keep doing what it does. The need to ensure that people everywhere, regardless of what generation they belong to, are able to appreciate this belief is part of what drives it to provide the best quality service to its growing customer base. For the production of its notebooks, it uses only materials of high quality and they all feature smooth, uniquely-designed fabric covers.

The SamutNote Plain Handmade Notebook set features notebooks with a 5.8- by 4.13-inch dimensions. Each is a notebook of 60 pages (i.e. 30 sheets per notebook); this means that you can do just about anything with them, from making important notes to recording how your day went. They’re also great for expressing your artistic side and the cream background will give your sketches and drawings a vintage appeal.

The paper used for these notebooks is the innovative Low-Eye Strain (aka green-read) type. These are specially-designed papers that make reading and writing a lot less strenuous on the eyes. They have a special type of surface that reduces the amount of light that’s reflected into the eyes from the notebook’s pages.

The acid-free quality of the paper means that your notes, jottings, and drawings will be preserved and you can always refer to them as the deteriorating effect of time on acidic paper will not be their lot.

We love the stylish simplicity in the design of these notebooks; the plain cover is made from a soft fabric material and a black rope that passes through the book secures and adds to its classical look. We love how it’s able to open and lie completely flat, a result of its lay-flat binding, no doubt. This way, you spread it open without having to hold it flat with one hand or another object.

SamutNote offer something for everyone with a variety of sizes, bindings and page designs. You can choose from Japanese binding that has a unique and elegant look to it when the notepad is closed, or the normal rope binding which is more subtle and not as visible on the outside.

You can also choose from A5 or A6, and plain or dotted pages to suit different uses or the space available in your purse or wallet.

As for the front cover designs, there are so many to choose from and you are sure to find one you will fall in love with (we already have our favorites). The different designs including cool illustrations such as the Superman logo, lion or a hot air balloon, or you can choose from a variety of inspirational sayings!

Other notebooks from SamutNote include:
  • The SamutNote Set-of-3 6 by 4-inch Handmade Notebooks: with a soft brown fabric cover, 200 lined cream-colored pages, and lay-flat binding. It’s available in 2 sizes and 4 more colors.
  • The Handmade 5 by 8-inch Hard Cover Notebook: with a black-polished fabric cover, 200 unlined green-read pages, and lay-flat binding. Great for taking class notes and journaling.
This company has a money-back policy thrown into the mix of an already-attractive service.
The Field Notes Kraft Ruled 3-Pack with 48 Pages is a pack of US-sourced and made vintage-style notebooks, with 48 ruled pages for jotting notes or doodling to your heart’s content. If you’re interested in a water- and tear-proof notebook with similar dimensions, you should take a look at the Field Notes Expedition 3-Pack Notebook.

Field Notes Kraft Ruled 3-Pack with 48 Pages

The idea for Field Notes was born after Aaron Draplin, nostalgic for the practical, no-fuss notebooks that were a popular part of the early twentieth century, made about a hundred notebooks in a similar fashion and shared them among his friends. One of those friends, Jim Coudal, was quite impressed with the notebooks, called Aaron, and a partnership for the creation of the Field Notes brand was made.

Every notebook, from the first set its founder gifted his friends to those you use today, is produced by select US-based manufacturers with materials sourced in the US. Today, Field Notes has quite the fan base; notebooks from its “Colors” edition are highly sought-after, and one is sure to find lots of discussion about them on dedicated fan websites, blogs, and fan pages.

The Field Notes Kraft Ruled 3-Pack is a pack of 3 pocket notebooks. They are a part of a series that was designed to pay homage to the designs of the very first notebooks made by this company, hence the thick, brown “Kraft” covers. Each of them has a 3.5-inch width and a 5.5-inch length, making them a comfortable fit for jean pockets, standard shirt pockets, and a suitably-sized purse. You might just find in these notebooks portable companions for everyday life.

The notebooks have 48 pages each and each page is smooth and ruled so you’ll not only have a great surface to put down those sketches, but an orderly space to capture those wonderful ideas before they escape. The paper is of a great quality and works well with fine-tipped pens, pencils, and gel and ballpoint pens. The pages and cover are held tightly in place by three staples (saddle-stich binding) for long-lasting use.

Some other notebooks from this brand are listed below:
  • The Field Notes Shenandoah 3 Pack Special Edition: each of the notebooks bears a cover that matches the foliage of 3 trees that are residents of the Shenandoah National Park, and graph pages.
  • The Field Notes Cold Horizon 3-Pack: inspired by seasonal colors of winter and the climate of the polar regions; it comes with graph pages.
  • The Field Notes Cherry 3-Pack: with covers made from real cherry wood and graph pages.
  • The Field Notes Kraft Mixed 3-Pack: it includes one plain, one ruled, and one graph notebook.
The Mead Spiral 1-Subject Wide-Ruled Notebook offers ample room for note-taking between lines. The three holes make it easy to store in a binder so that you have your important notes in one place. If you’re looking for a different notebook, with sewn-in bindings perhaps, we recommend the Mead 12-Pack Composition Notebooks for your consideration.

Mead Spiral 1-Subject Wide-Ruled Notebook – Available in College or Wide-Ruled & 6 Color Assortment Options

Mead was established over 150 years ago and over the years, with the help of its many partners and customers, has built itself into a force to reckon with in the design, manufacture, and distribution of superior-quality and much-loved planning and organizing tools, office products, and school supplies. As a part of the ACCO brand, it’s able to leverage the advantages of being a member of a family of trusted brands. With a history of innovation that stretches back decades, it’s focused on maximizing its wealth of experience and knowledge of its market to bring remarkable value to its customers and shareholders.

The Mead Spiral 1-Subject Notebook is a 70-sheet notebook with a 10.5-inch length and an 8-inch width. It features a robust wire binding that’s impact-resistant so that it doesn’t get bent out of shape when it accidentally hits the floor as you hurry to class or an important meeting that you’re running late for. It’s well-made and will neither snag nor uncoil, so that your notes are always safe.

The wide-ruled pages provide plenty of room for taking down notes in class or recording points discussed in the meeting. If you have been blessed with large handwriting, you’re sure to find the extra room these wide spaces between the lines offer. Further, the white pages in the notebook are bound by specially-coated covers that make the notebook last longer as they are resistant to tear.

There are three holes punched into the bound-end of the notebook that will make it convenient for keeping in a binder. The pages are perforated and this makes it easy for you to tear them out whenever you want. We also love the variety of colors that these notebooks come in; black, blue, green, red and yellow…but don’t worry if you can’t choose! You can a buy an assorted pack and have one of each color. And what’s more, they’re also sold in economical packs of 4, 6, 12, and 24, and you can choose from wide-ruled or college pages.

Here are other great notebooks from Mead for your consideration:
  • The Mead 9.5 x 6-Inch Recycled College Ruled Notebook: which has 120 sheets, an embossed paper cover, and is available in an assortment of colors.
  • The Mead 6-Pack 1-Subject Spiral Notebook: with college-ruled lines and 3 holes for convenient binding. It comes in beautiful pastel colors.
  • The Mead Five Star 2-Subject Spiral Notebook: a wire-bound, 6 X 9.5-inch notebook with 100 Sheets. It comes in a 3-pack with full-sized storage pockets, and in assorted colors.
  • The Mead Cambridge Business Notebook: a wire-bound, 80-sheet notebook. Its pages are legal-ruled.

How Do I Choose the Best Paper Notebook?

Picture this: you’re at a meeting and a light bulb goes off in your head. You quickly reach for your phone to write it down. Here’s the thing; other people at the table will have a hard time believing you aren’t messing around or killing time. Now, here’s another picture: you’re in the same meeting and that light bulb goes off, but instead of your phone, you reach in your pocket for a notebook and a pen. You can guess the difference in the reaction you’ll receive.

A lot of people agree that there’s a difference in the ways our thoughts flow when we put them down digitally and when we do so in the traditional fashion of writing. There seems to be a deeper level of connection between our minds and the medium of expression when we’re able to twirl our pens, feel our pages, and perceive that unique scent of ink on paper.

This probably explains why notebooks have stayed relevant in this ever-changing world. We see them in classrooms, where technology has tried, and failed—at least so far—to edge them out; we see them in offices where they have a pride of place on our desks, in our drawers, etc. We even find them on our bedside tables, lying beneath our lamps, in our backpacks and handbags, and in the briefcases we log to work day after day, plus a whole lot of other places.

Notebooks have the advantage of being immune to crashing, something that’s quite common with electronic storage methods. We all must have experienced first-hand the frustration of losing important information due to a simple oversight that helped our trusty USB drives become corrupt. Let’s not even broach the subject of data security with Cloud storage.

Notebooks can be stored, and because of their acid-free quality, you can always retrieve them in the future—save they get destroyed in an unfortunate fire or natural disaster. No one prays for those anyway. Notebooks come in many beautiful colors and designs and you’re sure to find one that’s a true reflection of your style, taste, and personality. That’s another thing to love about notebooks; they add to a person’s personality.

You can find many notebooks with lots of pages, and you’ll also find those with not-so-many pages. This means that whether you want them for school to take class notes in or you need them to help you capture those thoughts floating and bouncing off the walls of your mind, there’s always a notebook with the right amount of room.

Still on the matter of notebook pages, they’re available in lined, unlined (plain), graph (squares), or dot grid styles; the choice of which will work best is up to you and what you need them for. Many of them have some really neat additional features as well, such as pockets, rulers, inspirational quotes, waterproof paper, and so on.

They’re also inexpensive units of stationery and can even be found in economical packs of 2 or more. Having said all this, we’ll leave you to make the final decision of which notebook is best for you, because of all the people in the world, you know you best.
During our research, the notebooks that we reviewed here were sold for around $2 to $14. They can be sold singly or in a more economical option of packs. So much goes into the process of determining how much a notebook will be sold for, and we’ll discuss a few of them here. Let’s start with quality. As we’ll discuss later, paper quality differs, and so the higher the quality, the higher the price of the notebook.

Then there is the issue of brand; many brands offer handmade notebooks and they put in the necessary attention to details; this qualifies the end-result to compete with those coming off the assembly line. Here is what to expect from the behavior of the price of such notebooks: they tend to cost more.

Then there is the issue of all the extra features that are incorporated into the design of many of these items. How do you think they will affect the price? If you’re thinking that they’ll cost more, you’re thinking right. Now that we’ve talked about these, do you think that a cheap paper notebook will deliver a satisfactory experience? No? We agree with you on that one too.
So how do you go about choosing the best paper notebook? Well, there are a number of features you should be on the watch for. Things as seemingly inconsequential as the type of cover it has may go a long way in determining how much joy you’ll get from its use. Hardcover or softcover, decide beforehand what you need the notebook for and the choice will be easier. Some other features you should consider are:
  • Size
  • Number of pages
  • The way the pages are ruled
  • Binding
  • Color
  • Paper quality
Construction and Design
Notebooks are essentially made with paper, and this means that you’ll have to have some knowledge about paper quality to shop wisely. There are different ways to determine the quality of paper; concepts such as paper weight, absorbency, acidity, and smoothness are important and we’ll discuss them.

The weight of a paper is how much a square meter of paper will weigh, and it’s referred to as Gram per Square Meter or poundage of paper. Higher GSM means that the paper is more densely packed and will be resistant to feathering and bleeding. GSM is directly related to a paper’s thickness; this means that paper with higher GSM will be thicker than paper with lower GSM. Thicker paper is great for artwork as it takes paints and ink well; the ink won’t feather or bleed through. Paper with lower GSM and poundage will perform better with pencils, ballpoints, and fountain pens.

You’d have to compare the paper used in notebooks to know which will serve your purpose best. Here is an example: 20-pound to 25-pound paper is what we use with our printers, and they’re usually around 90 GSM. The paper used to make pictures, complimentary cards, and artist’s canvas are much thicker and can reach up to 140-pound and 400 GSM.

Absorbency of paper is determined by how smooth it is. We want smoother paper for our notebooks; no one wants to have to put up with the drag that rough paper will cause as we write. Paper is coated to make it easier for your pen to slide smoothly across it when you’re writing. The more coated it is, the less absorbent it will be. This means that ink will not dry out quickly and it increases the chances of its being smudged, staining your hands and ruining your pages.

Acidity causes the paper to decay over time and makes it unsuitable for storing information for reference in the future; yet we have books that have lasted decades—how? Well, the pulp used to make the paper is naturally acidic; it is usually treated to bring it to a neutral pH, hence the term acid-free paper. This paper lasts for a really long time.

Let’s talk about the ruling on the pages of the notebook. Notebooks can be ruled (college-ruled or wide-ruled), they can have graphs or squares, they may be covered in dot grids, and they can be plain or un-ruled. Choosing which of these is best is again dependent on what you intend to do with your paper notebook. For example, college- and wide-ruled notebooks are typically better for writing, those with graphs are normally used for math classes, and plain paper may be most efficiently used in art classes.

Another important feature is the size of the notebook. They come in various sizes, from pocket-sized to large A4 sizes. For class and lecture notes, the popular choice is notebooks measuring 5 by 8 inches. Manufacturers always include the dimensions in the description of the notebooks, so you won’t have to shop blindly.

Also of importance is the number of pages in a paper notebook. If you’d like your notebooks to last through the school year, finding those with more pages makes a lot of sense. If you, however, only need them for jotting and storing information, then this isn’t much of an issue.

Pages in a notebook are held together by binding. There are a number of ways that a notebook can be bound; it can be stapled, glued, sewn, or spiral- or ring-bound. The most secure of these bindings are the ring, spiral, and sewn-in bindings; they’re closely followed by the staple binding, and the least secure is the glue binding.
Performance and Ease of Use
The way a notebook is held together has a lot to say about how convenient it will be when it comes to laying the open book flat on its back. Those bound with rings, spirals, and staples will lie on their backs flatter than those with the other types of binding. This means you will have to hold notebooks in the latter group down with your hands or something heavy.

Certain features such as being waterproof come in handy if you live in rainy climates or are prone to accidentally dropping your notebooks or spilling liquid on them. Notebooks with this feature are made from synthetic, waterproof paper or specially-coated paper. No doubt, they’ll cost more than your average notebook, but the knowledge that your notes, jottings, sketches, and all will survive being out in a rainstorm or an unplanned trip to the dry cleaners in your pants’ pocket makes them worth the investment.

There are also notebooks with helpful information such as conversion tables, multiplication tables, rulers, geographical references, ZIP codes and telephone codes, inspirational quotes, and so on. Let’s not forget specialty or custom-made notebooks. The bottom line is that there’s a notebook for everyone, regardless of your preferences.

Get the Best Paper Notebook of 2023!

We’re glad you stayed with us and we really hope you found your notebook. We hope you found your notebook among our featured options, but in case you didn’t, check out their collections for more. Go on and place your order.

Our Top Choice
Northbooks Notebook / Journal
Best Value
Rite in the Rain Top-Spiral Notebook
SamutNote Plain Handmade Notebook
Field Notes Kraft Ruled 3-Pack
Mead Spiral 1-Subject Notebook