10 Best Paper Notebooks for Students 2018

best paper notebooks

Studies like this one by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer show that those who take notes on laptops tend to fare worse in conceptual evaluations than those who write out their notes longhand. The mechanism here essentially boils down to the efficiency of typing itself. Because people are able to write so much more quickly on a computer, they tend to reproduce the content verbatim, rather than framing it in one’s own words. This removes the critical thinking aspect of note taking, however minute, that leads to deeper understanding and memory.

It’s important to note that writing your notes out by hand isn’t the end-all, be-all form of academic study. For every Mental Floss piece extolling the virtues, there’s a Time article to remind us that some of the evidence is anecdotal. That said, it has been firmly established that you can increase the likelihood that you’ll remember something by writing it down by hand.

To that end, there’s no end to the paper-based documentation systems out there. From traveler’s notebooks to Filofax, Bullet Journal to good, old-fashioned Day Runner, there are a million ways to take notes and keep track of tasks. These systems all require a fundamental underlying unit: the pieces of paper on which to write.

Choosing a notebook is as much about form as it is function. If you don’t care what it looks like, there are a million options for you out there. Most of us want to write in something we actively like and that matches our aesthetic. We have to stare at this thing everyday for at least a semester, so it might as well speak to you. We live in a golden age of well-made, well-designed notebooks, so you have your pick of different materials, paper, and ruling styles.

My wife is an avid planner and journaler. She’s tried them all. She has both a plain, lined notebook and a traveler’s journal, which she uses as a Bullet Journal. She used Filofaxes for years and is active in the online planner community, where people spend as much time decorating spreads as they do jotting in them. I use a combination of large size Post-it pads (which I also mention in this post) and a small traveler’s notebook, filled with two of the notebooks you’ll find on the list below. When I was in school, I took notes on the Ampad Gold Fibre Classic Legal Pad. I had a laptop with me, too, but I had much better success when I wrote them out.

The needs of students are in some cases simpler than those of the planner and Bullet Journal communities, but doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from the same great notebooks. We’ve chosen a mix of notebooks that offer excellent design, innovation, or just high quality. Of course, you don’t have to go fancy with it, either. The old standbys of the Mead Compsition or single subject spirals will always be available. Amazon also offers a cheap alternative in their AmazonBasics line. The options are endless.

Once you decide on a notebook, you might also consider a leather notebook cover to keep it in.

For all your note taking needs, here are the top ten best paper notebooks for students and beyond.


1. Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Rocketbook)

I tend to mention the Rocketbook often in posts because it’s just super handy. I first wrote about it in my best office gifts post. With it, you get all the benefits of writing longhand alongside all the modern convenience of digital record keeping.

There are two technical innovations here: 1. Using the companion app, you can scan in your notes to your favorite service, be it Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, and so forth. Symbols on the bottom of each page automatically organize your notes however you like. The scan makes them searchable and shareable for group projects and studying.

2. Since the price might seem awfully high for a single notebook, the second innovation is also key. When you use a Pilot FriXion pen to take your notes, you can erase this notebook five times, giving you a clean slate. When you buy the Pocketbook, they send along one of these pens, so you’ll be ready to go right out of the package.

In addition to the Wave, Rocketbook also make the Everlast, which, when used with the Pilot FriXion pens, work just like dry erase boards. All you need is a damp cloth to wipe the pages and start again. It offers the same digital backup as the Wave, too.

Maintaining the old-school practice of writing your notes doesn’t mean you have to pretend you live in a time without computers.

Price: $27

Buy the Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook here.



Specs:

  • Number of pages: 160
  • Dimensions: 8.5 inches by 9.5 inches (also available in 6 by 8.9 size)
  • Ruling style: Dot grid
  • Cover colors available: Blue
  • Cover type: Flexible plastic
  • Paper weight: Unknown (probably around 20 lbs.)
  • Binding: Plastic spiral

Find more Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook information and reviews here.


2. Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Moleskine)

The new-kid-on-the-block Rocketbook is not the only technology-enhanced notebook out there. The venerable Moleskine, relaunched in 1997 to recreate the notebook loved by Picasso and Hemingway, now offers an integration with Evernote to achieve results very similar to the Rocketbook. While the Moleskine isn’t erasable, it does catalog a digital version of your analogue notes with the use of Evernote’s Page Camera feature in the iOS and Android apps. The notebook features special lines (in both squared and ruled formats) that help capture the information. Once captured, your notes are searchable and sharable. In place of Rocketbook’s symbols, this Moleskine uses Smart Stickers to organize your uploaded notes. Each one of these notebooks comes with a three month subscription to Evernote Premium, which extends the capabilities of the software.

Of course, if you don’t need to back it up to a cloud service, the Moleskine Classic Notebook has long been a favorite of note taking types the world over. Whichever you choose, the hard cover makes it possible to write on any surface, while the sewn binding allows both books to lay flat. An elastic band holds it shut when not in use.

Price: $26.73

Buy the Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook here.



Specs:

Find more Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook information and reviews here.


3. Leuchtturm1917 Medium Size Dotted Pages Hardcover A5 Notebook

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Leuchtturm1917)

Returning to the world of standard paper notebooks, the Leuchtturm competes directly with normal Moleskines, employing a very similar design. This is a sewn-binding notebook that will lay flat as you write, and includes a pocket, two page markers, elastic band, stickers for organization, and numbered pages. What sets it apart from the Moleskine, particularly in recent years, is thicker, smoother paper. Your choice of dotted, ruled, blank, or squared lines allow you to pick per purpose. To further personalize your notebook, you can choose from 17 different color covers. There’s a table of contents at the front to make the most of the page numbers.

Price: $19.95

Buy the Leuchtturm1917 Medium Size Dotted Pages Hardcover A5 Notebook here.



Specs:

  • Number of pages: 249
  • Dimensions: 5.75 inches by 8.5 inches
  • Ruling style: Dotted, ruled, blank, or squared
  • Cover colors available: Anthracite, Army, Azure, Berry, Black, Emerald, Navy, Nordic Blue, Orange, Purple, Red, Royal Blue, Sand, Yellow, White, Chocolate, Taupe
  • Cover type: Hard cover
  • Paper weight: 54 lbs.
  • Binding: Sewn

Find more Leuchtturm1917 Medium Size Dotted Pages Hardcover A5 Notebook information and reviews here.



4. Field Notes Kraft Ruled

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Field Notes)

Field Notes are one of the two notebooks I use in my personal size traveler’s journal. (These will stick out a bit if you use the Midori Passport size.) By purchasing one three-pack, you’ve essentially set yourself up for three subjects worth of notes. True, you’ll have to write somewhat small in order for everything to fit, but I’ve crammed an awful lot of stuff into these pages and never felt constrained. Part of the joy of these notebooks is buying new ones, so feel free to write as much as you like. These are simple, staple-bound books that will fit in a pocket, purse, or in any bag. Ruled is great for notes, but other styles are available as well. I tend to use the squared version, in addition to the dotted Fabriano you’ll see later on this list.

The colors of these change a lot as they tend to be seasonal releases (I have the New Hampshire County Fair Edition), but this kraft-covered version mirrors the original that was hand-crafted by Aaron Draplin.

Price: $9.95 for three pack

Buy the Field Notes Kraft Ruled here.



Specs:

  • Number of pages: 48
  • Dimensions: 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches
  • Ruling style: Ruled, squared, dotted, plain, or mixed pack, depending on cover color
  • Cover colors available: Varies by season
  • Cover type: Cardstock
  • Paper weight: 60 lbs.
  • Binding: Staple

Find more Field Notes Kraft Ruled information and reviews here.


5. Five Star Spiral Notebook

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Five Star)

Moving into more general purpose notebooks for our next two picks, the Five Star five subject is the quintessential school notebook. The 180 sheets are divided by cardstock dividers with pockets in them. This means that one book will contain all your notes from five different classes, as well as hold a syllabus and handouts for each. If you’re using a binder, the sheets are perforated and three-hole punched so your notes can easily be integrated into it. The plastic cover will keep water from destroying the pages within. In addition to the standard college ruled pages, you can get single subject squared. If you don’t need five subject, they make a three subject and personal size, as well.

Price: $5.48

Buy the Five Star Spiral Notebook here.


Specs:

  • Number of pages: 360
  • Dimensions: 9.5 inches by 6 inches
  • Ruling style: Ruled or squared
  • Cover colors available: Black, Red, White, Cobalt Blue, Lime, Royal Purple (random color will be sent and can’t be chosen)
  • Cover type: Flexible plastic
  • Paper weight: Unknown (probably around 20 lbs.)
  • Binding: Metal spiral

Find more Five Star Spiral Notebook information and reviews here.


6. Behance Action Method Notebook

Action Method

Designed by the minds at Behance with support from their friends Ghostly, the Action Method notebook is something akin to a pre-made Bullet Journal. While they make a dot grid version, you’ll want to go for the Action Method notebook proper, as each two-page spread gives you a dot grid on the left and the full Action Method layout on the right. This gives you organized spaces for outlining areas of focus, specific steps to completion (with checkboxes — an organizer’s favorite), and a space for notes. The paper itself is high quality, with a distinct texture that makes it equally good for drawing or writing. I had a chance to test drive both versions of the notebook and found that I adapted quickly to the convenience of the layout. Equally usable for the BuJo crowd and the average note-taking student.

Price: $16.99 to $25.99, depending on retailer

Buy the Behance Action Method Notebook here.


Specs:

  • Number of pages: 50
  • Dimensions: 8.5 inches by 10.5 inches
  • Ruling style: Dot grid and Action Method
  • Cover colors available: Green, Orange, Red, Blue, Reduced, and Ghostly
  • Cover type: Semi-Hard Suede-Touch
  • Paper weight: 80 lbs.
  • Binding: Metal spiral

Find more Behance Action Method Notebook information and reviews here.



7. Rhodia Black Dot Pad Nº 19

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Rhodia)

Commonly found in art stores, Rhodia notebooks are aimed at people who love writing, calligraphy, and graphic work. Until recently, they only came in the iconic orange or black covers, so chances are you’ve seen them. They’re known for their excellent paper quality and overall great feel. The Nº 19 is the full American legal size, and is the third largest of the dotPad line. It’s perfect for notetaking, using ultra-smooth vellum paper, which is micro-perforated at the top. The ruling on this is dotted, which gives you maximum freedom without sacrificing order. Consider this an upgrade to the Ampad if that wasn’t cutting it for you.

Price: $9.95

Buy the Rhodia Black Dot Pad Nº 19 here.



Specs:

  • Number of pages: 160
  • Dimensions: 8.25 inches by 12.5 inches
  • Ruling style: Dotted, blank, squared, ruled
  • Cover colors available: Black or orange
  • Cover type: Coated cardstock
  • Paper weight: 54 lbs.
  • Binding: Stapled

Find more Rhodia Black Dot Pad Nº 19 information and reviews here.


8. Northbooks Notebook College Ruled

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Northbooks)

This small company manufactures all their notebooks in the U.S. They’ve designed a no-nonsense, quality notebook that works perfectly as a standalone or in a traveler’s journal. If you use a few of them with different ruling styles, you’ll be able to quickly tell which one it is by the graphic on the front cover. The page weight is right up there with the big names at 60 pounds and should stand up to just about any pen. Their customer service is great, too, should you encounter any issues with them.

Price: $7.84 (40 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Northbooks Notebook College Ruled here.



Specs:

  • Number of pages: 96
  • Dimensions: 5 inches by 8 inches
  • Ruling style: Ruled, squared, dotted, or blank
  • Cover colors available: Tan
  • Cover type: Cardstock
  • Paper weight: 60 lbs.
  • Binding: Glued

Find more Northbooks Notebook College Ruled information and reviews here.


9. Rite in the Rain All-Weather Universal Side-Spiral Notebook

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Rite in the Rain)

If you’re terrible to your notebooks and prone to spilling beverages or getting caught in the rain, you might want to consider this novel option. Made in Tacoma, Washington, these notebooks were designed to resist the rainy weather of the region. The paper is treated such that liquids and stains bead and run off of it. In order to take advantage of writing when the pages are wet, you’ll need to use a pencil or one of Rite in the Rain’s All Weather Pens, though normal ballpoint pens will work when the paper is dry. Water-based inks will bead off when and if your notebook gets wet, but this is a small price to pay for protection against accidentally tossing it in the laundry. The Universal ruling combines traditional ruled lines with squares for maximum function.

Price: $6.99

Buy the Rite in the Rain All-Weather Universal Side-Spiral Notebook here.



Specs:

  • Number of pages: 64
  • Dimensions: 4.625 inches by 7 inches
  • Ruling style: Ruled, universal (ruled/squared), blank, field ledger, level ledger, metric field ledger, or transit ledger
  • Cover colors available: Black, blue, brown, gray, green, tan, yellow
  • Cover type: Flexible plastic
  • Paper weight: 32 lbs.
  • Binding: Metal spiral

Find more Rite in the Rain All-Weather Universal Side-Spiral Notebook information and reviews here.



10. Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks

best paper notebooks, bullet journal, traveler's notebook, journaling

(Fabriano)

Alongside the Field Notes in my traveler’s journal is one of these Italian-made notebooks. At the moment, I’m using a Stone dotted pocket size version, which I mostly use to keep track of my music recording activities. For the purpose of taking notes, I would recommend the standard size notebooks, but they all have the high quality, textured cardboard covers. At 60 pounds, the paper is heavy enough to handle most pens. The “EcoQua” part refers to the environmentally friendly manufacturing process, which uses no chlorine or acid.

Price: $6.29

Buy the Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks here.


Specs:

  • Number of pages: 80
  • Dimensions: 5.8 inches by 8.25 inches
  • Ruling style: Dotted, squared, or blank
  • Cover colors available: Wine, Black, Lemon, Lime, Navy, Orange, Red, Stone
  • Cover type: Cardstock
  • Paper weight: 60 lbs.
  • Binding: Stapled

Find more Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks information and reviews here.


Now that you’ve chosen a notebook, you’re going to want something with which to write. Start with our top ten best pens for writing, then move on to best ballpoint pens and best rollerball pens.

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