» Journals Opening Flat – Is it important to you?

Whenever I review any kind of bound journal, one of my top criteria for a book is for it to both open and lie flat. Some do one or the other, both, or none.

However you choose to write in your book, whether at a table, with it propped on your leg, or by standing and holding it, there is always one hand that is doing the writing. When the book does not open flat – and by flat I mean that the pages are perfectly horizontal with one another with out any indication of the “V” shape shown above, it means that your non-writing hand, does not need to be pushing the down the pages so you can write from the inner crease out to the edge of the page with ease. When the book does not open flat, your other hand is always having to fight to keep those pages down. If the binding does not allow the book to lie flat, you will be fighting both the cover material and the paper.

I am a writer and I love to write. I love writing longhand much more than using a computer keyboard because it feels good to push the pen across the paper and see the words growing organically from the nib. I write with a fountain pen because not only does it allow for effortless writing, but because it adds an additional depth to the overall experience. Ultimately, I want each element of the task whether it be pen, ink, paper, or chair, to be comfortable enough during its use that it does not call any attention to itself in a way that causes me to lose focus.

Finding the perfect journal to meet all of my needs has been a bit challenging… The more brands I try, the more I find features that I want to add to my wish list, but no matter what, if I am going to really enjoy it, it needs to both open and lie flat.

Is a journal’s ability to open/lie flat important to you? I’d love to hear your response either way.

Of note – in all my tests, I’ve found that smaller journals that do not open flat are much harder to work with than larger ones. Smaller books are just harder to hold down and keep open. Bigger books like the A5 hardcover Clairefontaine shown above  are a little easier to work with.

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Posted on April 8th, 2010 by Stephanie
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Frankly, I find it hard to take seriously any journal that does not lie flat. Think I’m biased? ;)

Yes. Not just because I want them to lie flat on the table top, but also because it’s harder to write close to the centre of the book.

I’m open to books that open flatter with use.

By FooWriter on April 8th, 2010 at 6:50 am

A journal that lies flat is certainly more enjoyable to write in than one that doesn’t. I like to use my off hand to as a base for my other hand when I get to the “drop-off” at the bottom of the page, for instance. That said, it’s more important to me that the binding not have oversized rings or spiral binding. It may guarantee that the journal lies flat, but it is ALWAYS in the way, all the way down the page. Any ring/spiral bound journal I buy – and I avoid them, generally – must be designed with the least intrusive spirals or rings necessary to get the job done.

Absolutely! A journal not opening flat is a deal-breaker for me.

By bpgoldman on April 8th, 2010 at 10:13 am

Agreed, lying flat is very important to me, second only to the pen friendliness of the paper. For these reasons, after years of trying all kinds of journals, I always come back to the standard cloth-bound Clairefontaines. Nothing comes close to that 90g paper for fountain pens, not even the Rhodia webbooks.

Yes! I have put up with many journals that lie almost-flat, but I would much rather have one that lay completely flat.

Foo above has a good point about spirals; they vary widely in quality and some I can totally deal with and others I totally can’t.

Being left handed how a Journal lays is extremely importnat to be. Journals with thick spine make writing in them more difficult. I have an older journal that has a thicker spine, I decide to write in it backwards. Yes a flat laying journal would be my preference. It is very difficult to find journals, notebooks etc, that work well for left hand writing.

Yes – I agree, it can be very annoying to have to be always pushing down the pages to able to write. This is especially important for journals and notebooks that I will be writing in for long periods of time. If the book will only be used for jotting down quick notes and it has other features that I like, then opening flat may not be as important an issue.

Something that helps a book lie flat, especially a saddle-stapled or stitched item, is to exercise the spine upon getting it home. This establishes a habit of opening upon the book, and gets it to lie flatter if not actually flat. I entered a link to some directions I wrote on my blog in the “website” space of this commentary (which seems a little like a grab for hits on my own wite, but it is meant to help).

Opening flat is a necessity in all sizes, thin ones with soft covers should actually bend back on themselves. I refuse to write up and down hills. That’s the whole point of spending money on a nice journal as opposed to some cheap notebook.

Yep, needs to open flat as ease of use is important and the flow on is that you are encouraged to use your journal more often.

All of my journals, notebooks and planners absolutely MUST open flat (or at least nearly flat), and stay open on their own, easily. I have abandoned beautiful notebooks and planners that I otherwise loved, because I couldn’t stand having to hold them open with one hand while writing with the other.

One of the things I liked about Moleskines was that they would lay flat when opened. (But they have crummy paper, so I actively eschew them now.) I like the format/paper of the large Webbie, but I’m interested in looking at a Quo Vadis Habana because its pages (so I’ve seen in reviews) do stay flat.

My current ideal notebook? Large webbie that lays flat when opened and has grid ruling.

The journals that lie flat are just easier to use. When writing with a dip pen in particular, the journal that lies flat will stay put and the wet ink line from a glass pen will not end up smearing and looking terrible. I have a few journals that don’t lie flat and I will fill them up, but I’ll probably not buy more like them as a general rule (sure, I’ll probably make an exception now and again).

By Dragan from Macedonia on April 14th, 2010 at 3:04 am

Journals Opening Flat – It is very important, but second important think to me. First and most important is fountain pen frendly paper!

I recently bought a journal that is Coptic bound, which is a very old style of bounding that allows the book open completely flat. It’s awesome!

YES. This is very very important to me, and when I am deciding whether to buy a product or not, this is actually the first thing that I look for. It drives me insane when I have to put in so much effort to hold a notebook flat while I write something in it, or use some other object to hold it down (which does not usually work successfully). I have yet to find a notebook that does not do this though. Suggestions?

The latest version of the Webnotebook (Webbie) opens pretty flat. With all of the different brands I have tested, it’s about as flat as you are going to get with such a thick (quality) paper. The Quo Vadis Habanas also open very flat – the new version will be coming soon. (85g ivory paper)

A journal that lays flat IS VERY important to me.

By pensive on May 9th, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Yes! I have some composition books that are an ordeal to write in because they do not lie flat. Flat, flat, flat! As flat as possible!

Flat? Necessary but not sufficient. My ideal is a notebook that will fold completely back on itself. I write only on the right facing page, so the left side of the boom just gets in the way. In practice that means I’m limited to spiral/coiled (the “circa” style with plastic discs is just a bit *too* temporary). I did try the moleskine ” reporter style, but contrary to their pictures, it doesn’t remotely fold over.


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