8 to 1... or The Big Notebooks Play-Off

by Amanda Fleet

Here's the thing... I did a post on my favourite pocket notebook, partly because it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. And then Stu suggested I did a 'competition' between 8 desk-sized books, with pairs of them going head-to-head and the winners going forward until an overall victor emerges. So, that's what I'm going to do over the next couple of months.

The 8 notebooks in the competition are (sorted alphabetically):

I numbered the books 1-8 according to that list, put the numbers in a hat and pulled them out to give me:

Life Noble v Leuchtturm 1917
Clairefontaine Deco v Poach My Lobster
Midori v Palomino
Waverley Commonplace v Alwych


Let battle commence: Life Noble v Leuchtturm 1917

Both of these notebooks are A5 and both were in my stash. I've used a lot of Leuchtturm over the years; slightly fewer Life Noble, but each have their merits and drawbacks.

Life Noble Note

"Life notebooks are coveted by anybody who values quality paper. The Noble line of Life notebooks in particular are beautiful, featuring Life's superb fountain pen ink friendly Japanese paper, which is cream in colour and finely laid. As you would expect the paper in the Life Noble notebook is acid-free and archival quality. This A5 sized notebook comes in plain, ruled and graph paper (5mm grid paper and 8mm ruling) and features the LIFE logo, embossed in gold."

I reviewed the Life Noble Notes a while back.


Lovely paper - no bleed-through, no show-through and a bit of texture to it. If you write with a fountain pen, the Life paper is great. Toothier than Tomoe River (what isn't??) with a quicker dry time (again... what has a longer dry time than TR?) but still with great shading. Not a fountain pen user? Well, apart from mending your ways and becoming one, the paper is great for all pens and pencils I've tested on it.

100 sides - nice size. Not too many, but not just the small number in the more 'exercise book' size.

Little dots on the top and bottom lines to assist with drawing vertical lines. Unobtrusive enough to be ignored if you don't want to use them; brilliant if you do want to make tables/divide the page.


Well, there are some (for me). I find the cover a bit busy without a lot of space for me to label what the notebook is for. Since I have a gazillion on the go at once, this is something I need to do. There's just about enough space at the bottom to add a label, but I prefer a less busy cover.

The paper is also a touch too yellow for me. I prefer off-white/ivory, but again, this is a personal preference.

The biggy though is the 'flattability index'. They're not that easy to open out flat, mostly because of the way the sections are bound together, leaving a small flap of blue cover between two sections. Flattability can be improved by opening it all out and leaning hard on it, but the book looks just like you've done that to it afterwards!

Others may find the lack of page numbers, ribbon markers and back pocket more of an issue than I do, but I don't miss any of those hugely.


These are great little books, though the paper quality has suffered in recent years. The books are hardbacked, with page numbers and space at the top of each page for the date. There are two ribbon markers, a pocket in the back cover, and space for an index (by which they mean table of contents...) in the front. This is the listing from the site:

•249 numbered pages
•8 perforated and detachable sheets
•Gusseted pocket
•Blank table of contents and numbered pages
•Page marker
•Elastic enclosure band
•Thread-bound book opens flat
•Ink-proof paper (80 g/sqm)
•Sticker for labelling and archiving
•Dimensions: 145 x 210 mm

It's the same price as the Life Noble, so how does it compare?


Lots of pages, but still quite a slim book. That's because the paper is thinner. More on the paper in a minute.

For those that like these kind of things, there are more 'bells and whistles' with the page markers, elastic closure, perforated sheets etc.

For me, the 'flattability index' is much better - the book will lie flat without coercion.


Well, the paper. It used to be much better, but recently, the paper has become much less ink-proof and fountain pen friendly. There isn't much feathering, but there is a lot of show-through and sometimes bleed-through too. It's usable, but it could be better.

For all the bells and whistles, there isn't a pen-loop! I care more about having a pen-loop in a book than perforated pages.

For some, the ruling of 6mm might be too narrow (Life Noble is 8mm, which may be too wide for some...).



So, who is the winner??

This was a tough one, but I think the Leuchtturm wins (for me) by a smidgen. Yes, the paper quality isn't so good, but the pages are usable with many fountain pens. But it's the flattability that wins it, really, along with the less yellow paper colour.

Both notebooks are available from Nero's Notes:

Leuchtturm 1917

Life Noble Note

Next time... Clairefontaine Deco v Poach My Lobster