In my How Lawyers Work interview, I complained that, while I prefer paper notebooks, I use Evernote because “I can’t get the hang of organizing my thoughts one after another, so I need to be able to move the pages around.” That comment prompted Bindertek to offer me one of its new Boundless notebooks to try.
About the Bindertek Boundless Notebook
The Boundless notebook is made up of a binding made of separate discs, covers, and filler pages. The cover and pages have cutouts along the edges so you can “snap” them onto to the discs. To remove a page, you just pull the top corner closest to the binding. To put a page in, you just press it onto the binding. It’s the same idea as a ring binder, but without all the loud clacking and painful pinching. And it’s a bit more professional looking.
Here’s the video overview:
Bindertek’s filler paper has reinforcing mylar lamination along the binding edge of each page to make it more durable. I’m assuming this is a good thing since the notebook staying together depends on the integrity of those little paper tabs. The pages are also punched to fit into a regular ring binder. Other than that, the Boundless notebooks are actually compatible with other disc notebook systems like Levenger Circa (Staples and Office Depot also have similar notebook systems). So if you want to use Levenger Circa filler paper in your Boundless notebook, go right ahead, you rebel.
Speaking of paper, Bindertek offers a variety of paper refill options, including paper for taking notes during depositions, to-do lists, calendars, communication tracking, project management, and more. You can even buy blank pages to print your own templates, then cut out the binding using a special punch.
I’ve actually been considering trading in my index cards and Moleskine-style notebooks for a small 3-ring binder or a disc notebook, so I was excited to give Boundless a try.
What I like about the Boundless Notebook
The disc-style binding doesn’t look like it should work, but it actually works great. Like a spiral notebook, it opens perfectly flat or you can fold the cover all the way over. This makes pages especially easy to scan with an app like Scanbot. Like a ring binder, you can easily add, remove, and rearrange pages. And the Boundless pages are thick, high-quality, 24-pound. paper. They hold up to some abuse (i.e., rearranging) and they feel great to write on.
If you prefer writing on paper to typing on a keyboard or writing on a tablet screen, as I do, the Boundless notebook gives you back much of the flexibility you get with Evernote or OneNote—namely, the ability to rearrange your notes as you go so that you can keep all your notes on a single subject together even if you get interrupted.
Speaking of rearranging, I like the way it works with the disc system as opposed to a binder. Binders are loud, so it’s disruptive to rearrange more than a page at a time. And binder rings inevitably get bent and go out of alignment. That’s not a problem you’ll have with the Boundless. The discs are pretty close to indestructible. Pulling a page out and putting it back in is a straightforward and easy process, even when you want to move a bunch of pages at once.
It is, in short, a really great system.
There are, however, some things you might want to know before you click the buy button.
Some Things You Might Want to Know about the Boundless Notebook
In alphabetical order, here are three things that have nothing to do with the utility of the notebook, but are mildly annoying as far as I am concerned. You probably won’t care unless you are as sensitive to minor details as I am.
Branding. Each page has Bindertek’s B logo at the top and a Bindertek inventory number at the bottom. I am not a fan of this.
Customization. My notebook came personalized with my name on the cover in gold foil. It’s a nice idea, but the font is lifeless. Arial, maybe? Plus, it was already partly rubbed off when I opened the box. If I were you, I would not bother with personalization, particularly as it costs an extra $6.
Holes. Besides the disc binding, the pages are hole-punched to fit into a 2- or 3-ring binder. This is probably really handy if you use other binders and want to add your notes to them. Since I don’t, I would rather have the option to use that part of the page for writing.
Here are two things that aren’t good or bad, but that you might want to know before you buy:
Cost. These are not inexpensive notebooks, even compared to other premium notebooks. The laminated edge reinforcement comes at a cost. The travel-size Boundless notebooks start at $20, and filler pages cost 18¢ per page. For comparison, Levenger Circa refills are 10¢ per page. But if you do a lot of rearranging, the extra durability of the Boundless pages may be worth paying for.
While we’re making cost comparisons, you’ll pay about 20¢ per 24-lb. page for the top-notch Rhodia Webnotebook, and about 15¢ per ~18-lb. page for the large Moleskine notebook. Both include the binding and covers, of course, but you obviously can’t move the pages around. I don’t think a notebook is necessarily a smart replacement for a legal pad, but for reference, the Levenger legal pads are about 13¢ per 24–lb. page. You can obviously pay much less for legal pads if you are budget-minded.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think the cost should deter you. These aren’t legal pads that you will go through at the rate of one a week. But if you churn through notebooks, it’s worth taking into consideration.
Narrow rule. The ruling is extremely narrow and only printed on one side. Here is a Moleskine notebook for comparison:
I don’t think I prefer lines that are so closely spaced, but you might. On the other hand, I like dot grid pages, and the Bindertek ones are pretty great. So I’ll probably use those most of the time.
Finally, here is one thing that probably only applies to me, if I’m honest.
“Feel.” For all its considerable advantages, I don’t think the Boundless notebook “feels” quite as good as a Moleskine-style notebook. Feel being here a completely subjective, personal measure of how I feel about the notebook. Or perhaps how the notebook makes me feel. Every time I pick up my Moleskine I feel like Indiana Jones checking his dad’s grail diary in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade even if I am just making a grocery list.
If that sounds familiar, maybe you should be realistic: you’re an irredeemable daydreamer who just wants to use a Moleskine whether or not it is actually useful.
On Balance, Disc Notebooks Are Probably as Good as Paper Notebooks Get
I don’t think any other style of notebook does a better job of combining quality and flexibility. If you want to use a notebook, you should probably give this a try. It even has some advantages for lawyers, like the deposition pages and ring binder compatibility. Besides, if you end up feeling the same way I do about the extra holes or narrow ruling, you can always try filler paper from Levenger, Staples, or Office Depot.
If you are frustrated with regular notebooks, I think you will like the Bindertek Boundless system.