Levenger Circa Notebook
Customizable spiral bound journal
I’ve been using Levenger’s products for about 10 years, most notably their Circa notebooks. The ring-based binding allows not only quick removal and replacement of pages, but also a nice mix and match format for a variety of sheets, including ruled, blank, grid, address book, calendar, and more. I have a couple leather covers that I change around a bit to reduce wear on the notebooks. I tend to walk around with a normal junior size Circa notebook (about 5″x8″) with pages of several types inside, including little contact information cards, 3x5s, etc. Sometimes I’ll take a page out and offset it by one ring so it sticks out above the others to denote a new section (though I believe they have all kinds of dividers and such now). The rings themselves, though plastic, are sturdy and heavy — notably better than the Rollabind notebook. The paper is a fairly heavy stock with good absorption and a great feel when writing on it with either rollerballs or fountain pens. The line printing is subtle but clear and it comes in a variety of layouts, though I tend to stick with the Columbia note taking system layout (with a column down the left-hand side), which used to be their only offering. They also sell paper in larger packs of 300, so I tend to keep a couple reams on hand. The hole puncher from Levenger is also a well-machined thing.
I can’t really go back to normal notebooks. Hard-bound notebooks don’t lay flat. Even with a spiral notebook with double-ring wiring I rarely find one with a high enough paper quality to suit my tastes. Nevertheless, there are a couple downsides (I’m not a complete sycophant). If you “work” a page too much in the binding (and it really has to be quite a lot) the little tabs will wear a bit and without the strength of being sandwiched between other pages, it can be a bit less secure in the bindings. A small price, but I’ve had pages that I repeatedly go back to fall out. Also, the diameter of the rings restricts the width of the notebook to something close to 5/8 of an inch while the rings stick out a bit. However, you can buy bigger rings. The Circa was the first and only disc-based removable/replaceable page binding I’d ever seen. Though there are a couple competitors now (like the Rollabind), I really find Levenger’s product line second to none. I do flinch at the price when I click “checkout,” but I’m always vindicated when I open the box.
— Mike Wilson
I’ve been using various Circa products since their inception. The real value of the Circa notebooks is that I don’t have to buy many of the notebooks any more. I have enough binders and pieces that now I typically purchase only the refills and create my own notebooks designed for specific uses, mixing the different formats (lined, grid, blank). I have a couple 5-subject letter-sized notebooks, the junior and letter-size single-subject notebooks, and I also carry a Circa PDA in my coat pocket for noting things I find while I’m out. I can use the lined pages for normal notetaking and writing, insert a grid page for a table or a blank page for a mind map. I generally start with about ten lined pages and five blank and grid pages in a notebook and then arrange them as needed. Being a minimalist, I like to start with the least number of sheets to do the job and then add as needed to the capacity of the rings. There have been only two problems I had with them over time: 1) the paper is twice as thick as normal note paper, so the 5-subject notebook simply weighed too much, and 2) I tended to wear out the paper connections in one section before reaching other sections. However, since switching from the 5-subject to the junior and letter single-subject notebooks, I don’t have the weight or wear problems.
— Gary Scott02/28/08
(Recently we posted a Source Wanted request from a Cool Tools reader searching for a notebook with alternating blank and lined pages. An overwhelming majority of readers recommended the Levenger Circa. -- SL — editors)