I’ve been using the Leuchtturm1917 A5 notebook as my bullet journal for more than four months now. I feel that’s enough time for an objective and thorough review.
But first, a bit of context.
I had loved using Muji’s A5 double-ring notebooks as my bullet journal. Loved it so much, in fact, that I would go through 2-3 notebooks a year. It wasn’t economical and it was a pain to have to transfer notes so often. Obviously 70 sheets wasn’t enough.
And so I found myself in need of a new notebook that had more pages. Leuchtturm1917 often came up as a recommendation, so I decided to give it a try.
Now in order for my review to make sense, it’s important I establish the way I… bullet my journal. BuJo notebook reviews tend to be subjective as the whole bullet journal system is open to interpretation.
So how do I use my BuJo? In a word, UTILITARIAN.
I do not use it for art. I do not use it for journaling. I don’t even use it for long-term planning (at least, not much). My bullet journal is a series of daily to-do lists. Whatever I list there then gets scheduled into my Outlook calendar. I may have the occasional text like notes and minutes dumped in there, usually out of convenience.
If you use your BuJo in a similar way, then you’ll be able to make the most out of this review.
That established, let’s start off with the good points shall we?
- LOTS of pages. This was the primary reason why I switched from Muji in the first place. At 249 pages, that’s more than 3.5x the writing space Muji ever offered. I started on this notebook on the 1st of October last year, and I’m still on page 104–just a little over 40%.
- Numbered pages. All the sheets are pre-paginated. No need to manually write down the page number! And what a time-saver for indices!
- Dotted or Dot-grid Ruling. The Leuchtturm1917 comes in four possible paper rulings:
- Ruled (your average notebook)
- Squared (that math notebook you never used properly)
- Plain (aaarrrrrrrtttttttt), and
- Dotted (the queen to rule them all).
Dotted is my ruling of choice. It isn’t as common in other brands so I’m quite pleased Leuchtturm1917 offers it.
- Sturdy Packaging. The notebook comes in a hardcover which means it can deal with a bit of wear and tear. I didn’t know how important this was to me until my older Muji cardboard covers started to fray at the corners.
- Elastic enclosure band. Same as Muji, there’s a simple band that helps keep the pages in place. Leuchtturm1917’s seems to be sturdier though.
- Stickers for labeling and archiving. Someone had once asked how was I going to tell my three Muji bullet journals apart. I don’t have an answer to that yet, but for Leuchtturm1917 at least, it comes with sticker labels for the cover and spine.
- Colors. Available in 21 colors, there’s a lot of room for personalization. As I love pink I had my pick between the colors “New Pink” and “Berry”.
- $$$. Leuchtturm1917 is expensive, there’s no going around about it. One of their selling points is how it, “stands for premium quality in more than 50 countries.”
$20 for a notebook is definitely a premium. Locally, its priced at P1,200 (almost $23) at National Bookstore.
- Limited availability. Even though its available locally, stocks are limited especially the dot grid kind. It’s so bad, actually, that I had to get family to buy mine from the US.
- Table of contents (ToC). This is one of the most subjective points in this review. The way I use my BuJo requires an index rather than a ToC, so I find the three pages Leuchtturm1917 dedicated to the latter useless.
- You can’t tear off pages. The pages are thread-bound, so if you detach a page you may end up ruining the notebook’s binding. The notebook does come with 8 perforated and detachable sheets, but I’ve already used all of them up.
Neutral, but possibly important, points
- Gusseted pocket. If you’re like me and don’t know what “gusseted” means, I’ll save you that Google trip and tell you it’s an inner pocket. The pocket contains: stickers, an information booklet, and a thank you note (aww). I can imagine this pocket would be useful for art journalers to keep scraps in, but I haven’t found a use for it yet.
- Thin paper. Fountain pen users beware! The paper, while smooth, is very thin. Like I-can-almost-read-what-I-wrote-in-the-back-level of thin. It won’t be able to handle fountain pens, heavier inks, and most especially paints. I just use ballpoint pens so this isn’t a deal-breaker for me.
- Two bookmarks. I just need one bookmark–to tell me where’s my most recent page–so I find the second bookmark excessive. Your usage may vary.
For my utilitarian purposes, the Leuchtturm1917 makes for a pretty great bullet journal. My biggest gripe is the lack of an index, but I can live with it.
The cost hurts. But considering the Muji notebooks I was using weren’t that cheap either, I can justify the price. Your budget may vary and there are definitely a lot of cheaper alternatives out there.
There’s also an official Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal, a collaboration with the original BuJo designer. It costs around $5 more, and from what I’ve seen the changes aren’t worth it. About the only advantage is that it uses a proper index rather than a table of contents–my biggest gripe, but not worth the extra dollars.
I’ve gotten a few recommendations around other notebooks, particularly cheaper ones, but as I’m not even halfway through I’m in no hurry to test them. Realistically, I’m likely to stick with the Leuchtturm1917 unless it runs out of stock again.