For a long time, the Leuchtturm1917 was my favourite A5 notebook. I even wrote a blog post about how it was the best A5 notebook you could buy. Well, it turns out there is a new contender and it might be even better than the Leuchtturm. This is quite surprising for a number of reasons. The main one being that I didn’t like the MD Paper notebook when I first saw it.
I guess I should explain this story a little more. I was browsing a few stationery shops online when I came across the MD Paper notebook. At the time I was looking for a new notebook and thought this could be a contender. The MD Paper range is sold in the London Graphics Center so when I was in the area, I decided to take a trip to have a look at the notebook in person. With the assumption that I would buy one.
No one was more surprised than myself when I decided to not buy the notebook because of a few little issues I had with the notebook. As you may be able to tell I eventually got over those issues.
So in this post, I’m going to review the A5 gridded MD Paper notebook and explain how it has become one of my favourite notebooks.
MD Paper consists of a range of products owned by Midori. Midori is one of Japan’s most well-known stationery design companies and has been operating since the 1950s. You might recognise Midori as the company who created the Traveller’s Journal range.
Midori has continued to create innovative new stationery products including the MD Paper range. This is a series of high-quality paper notebooks which according to the website “use the inherent appeal of paper to enhance the writing experience”.
ABOUT THE MD PAPER NOTEBOOK
The MD Paper notebook comes without a cover. According to the Midori website, this is to place more emphasis on the use of the notebook rather than the design. The notebook comes in three designs.
The blank version which I’ve learned works very well as a sketchbook. MD Paper also makes a sketchbook in this range with a slightly different paper but a blank A5 notebook is an option too.
The next design features lined paper. This paper is divided down the centre of the page so it’s easy to divide the page in half. This could be used as a journal or diary and it would be easy to add dates to the page.
I bought the version of the MD Paper notebook with gridded paper. This grid uses 5mm squares with gaps in between. The reason I didn’t like this notebook at first was because of the grid. Unlike other notebooks where the grid or dot grid patterns run off the edge of the page. The MD Notebook has a slightly thicker line denoting the boundaries of the grid.
For whatever reason when I initially looked at this notebook I didn’t like the boxed-in feel of the page. This is now something I love about the notebook and I actually prefer it to gridded paper in other notebooks. The lines are coloured in a pale blue which works well with the cream colour of the page. This makes the grid less obvious, putting more focus on your writing.
I love how functional this design is. On the outside of the gridded area are small dots defining every 10 squares horizontally and vertically on the page. This made it even easier to lay out headers in my bullet journal.
THE MD NOTEBOOK COVER
The notebook is bound with thick cardstock and wrapped in a paraffin paper which can be removed or left on depending on your preferences.
The outer design of the notebook is very simple with the binding visible on the spine. I think there is something quite pleasing about these design choices. It enhances the simplicity of the notebook rather than adding embellishments to the cover.
If you just can’t live without a cover for your notebook there are a range of options to be bought separately. These come at different price points. The cheapest is a simple plastic cover. The clear cover allows you to see the minimal design of the notebook, but the plastic is very flimsy. I broke my plastic cover before I had even put it on my notebook.
There is a paper cover made of a thicker cardstock. This is the cover I bought and I quite like it. The only problem is over five months the cover got absolutely trashed.
I wasn’t doing anything special. I treated my notebook the exact same as I would any other. But this cover ended up looking far shabbier than I would expect. This is especially annoying since I had to buy it separately.
You can also buy a leather cover for the MD Paper Notebooks. This cover would last much longer. However, it is made leather and costs around £100. I’m all for spending more on something which will last longer, but I still have my limits.
The MD Notebooks come in two types of paper. The MD Paper Cream and MD Paper Cotton. When the MD Paper range was originally created the notebooks were only available with white paper. This was the same paper used with the Midori diaries.
More recently the Paper Cream version was launched and this is the version I bought. I really loved the paper in this notebook. It’s an off white colour and complements the pale blue grid design in the notebook. It’s a lovely surface to write on, working well with coloured pencils and the Muji gel pens.
MD PAPER DESIGN
The notebook comes with 88 pages. Slightly less than what you would get with Moleskine or Leuchtturm notebooks. But I prefer having fewer pages in my notebook. It meant the pages don’t bulk out quite so much once I have added writing to them. This is a slight pet peeve I have with sketchbooks and notebooks.
There are also a number of stickers which accompany the notebook. These are intended to be used as index tabs. Some are left blank so you can add your own titles while others have frequently used headings on them.
I will write the dates I started and finished a notebook on the inside cover. I loved that the MD Paper Notebook came with an index sticker for this specific purpose. It had space to include a name for the notebook, start and end dates and a space for notes.
USING AS A BULLET JOURNAL
I used this notebook for six months as a bullet journal and as I mentioned in other posts, I think the design of this notebook really helped me keep a bullet journal. The minimal design made it something I enjoyed using.
The layout of the grid made it even easier to set out my bullet journal pages. The simple design of the notebook helped me focus on the act of bullet journaling rather than wanting to make my notebook something nice to look at.
PEN & INK TESTS
One of the best things about having such high-quality paper in the MD Paper notebook was when it came time for me to try out art materials in the notebook. As I made my way through the notebook I began using it almost as a sketchbook.
Considering how thin the paper is I didn’t think it would hold up well to wet media. It was surprising to learn that it worked very well. I began experimenting with calligraphy in my bullet journal, using it to create headers for my monthly logs.
I went on to try a number of different calligraphy inks in the MD Paper notebook. It turns out that the Dr PH Martin metallic inks worked particularly well thought they take longer than usual to dry.
After using ink in my notebook, I went on to try some brush lettering using gouache. Again I found that the paper held up surprisingly well to the paint. I had no problems with the paper warping or becoming soggy when adding paint. In fact, I would say this notebook works great with gouache. It almost makes me want to buy a blank version to try using as a sketchbook.
IS THE MD PAPER BETTER THAN THE LEUCHTTURM?
Now, this is a really important question. Is the MD Paper notebook better than the Leuchtturm1917? If you take a direct comparison I’m going to say no. The MD Paper notebook is great, but so is the Leuchtturm. There are just a few things which make me prefer the MD Paper.
Firstly, I prefer the cover of the MD Paper notebook. I know I complained about having to buy a separate cover earlier, it sits somewhere between a hardcover notebook and the softcover. I think I preferred having a notebook which was sturdier than a softcover but still had some give to it.
The MD Paper notebook also lies flat. Something which the Leuchtturm does not do. Having the notebook lay flat makes it easier to write in. Especially when you’re getting towards the end of a page and your hand is falling off the notebook.
It also doesn’t have any page numbers or an index at the start of the notebook. The index isn’t something I must have in a notebook. But I always find it useful when I’m referring back to old notebooks.
There also isn’t quite as many lines on the page compared to the Leuchtturm1917. This meant I had to spread my monthly log over two pages. I’m probably getting to the point where I sound very picky. It was a slight annoyance that my monthly log was spread over two pages. But in a way, it looked better as a result.
I think it’s really difficult to say which notebook is the best. I love both the MD Paper and the Leuchtturm. But I enjoyed the experience of using the MD Paper notebook more. Which I guess is the whole point because it was designed to be an enjoyable experience.
If you’re looking for a new notebook I really would give the MD Paper notebook a try. I loved the minimal design, the simple cover is very aesthetically pleasing. As I mentioned it was designed for writing and I enjoyed the experience of using it.
Because Midori is a Japanese brand the MD Paper notebook is slightly harder to come by. If you’re in London take a trip into London Graphics Center. You’ll find the MD Paper notebooks along with other hard to find stationery brands like Field Notes.
Online the notebooks can be found at The Journal Shop and Amazon. The MD notebook retails for £10 making it cheaper than the Leuchtturm. If you decide you do want to buy an additional cover there are a few to choose from. The plastic cover costs around £5 and the paper cover is slightly more expensive at £10. I would recommend spending a little more money on the paper cover but that is just my personal preference.
Have you tried the MD Paper notebooks before? Or is this your first time coming across the Midori brand. Let me know in the comments.