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Guide to Notebook Sizes

If you’re looking for a notebook, the simplest question is probably what size you’re looking for. But maybe there’s no question too simple for you to overthink. And we can relate, especially when it’s to do with stationery. But, to be fair, we could probably overthink a plate of beans.

A stack of notebooks of various sizesSizes in General

Let’s start with a rough idea of size groups - not getting too specific here, we’ll dive in a bit further later.


Pocketable notebooks are handy - they can go everywhere with you. But they have limited space. If you’re looking for a quick way to jot down ideas, or somewhere to keep quick lists, they’re prefect. But if you’re trying to take notes in a meeting or lecture, you’d be flipping pages fast.

Being able to tuck a notebook into your pocket or a small bag is super convenient, but if you need space for sketching out big ideas, you’ll need more room.


A medium-sized notebook is one that would fit into a small-ish bag, and is easy enough to carry, but it’s probably not going everywhere you go. It’s a compromise, but sometimes compromise is good. Small enough to not feel like too much trouble to take with you, or need you to switch to a bigger bag, but still way more space for notes than anything that would fit in your pocket.


Big notebooks. Love the space. Not so keen on carrying them. But if you’re taking the sort of bag a laptop would fit in, they’ll usually go in without much trouble. And for any situation where you’re going to be taking a lot of notes, or trying to sketch out ideas that need a bit of space, they’re pretty much necessary. And a big area can also mean leaving a bit of space around your ideas to build on them later, annotating or adding to them as your thinking grows.

Maybe that overthinking tendency will pay off?

‘A’ Sizes

For anyone outside the USA, the ‘A’ paper sizes won’t really need any introduction, they’re either common, or the standard, almost everywhere else.

It’s actually a very elegant system of paper sizes, where each size is double or half the previous one, and enlarging or shrinking a sheet in a photocopier will give you the next size up or down. The bigger the number, the smaller the paper or notebook.


An A4 notebook is big - it’s the most common size for things like students taking notes, or big meeting books. They’ll take up a lot of space in your bag, and won’t fit in smaller bags, but there is a lot of room for notes.

For any Americans reading, it’s not too far off from US ‘letter’ paper, but a bit longer on the long side.


Half the size of A4 - if you fold a sheet of A4 in half the shorter way, you get A5. Notebooks in this size are too big for almost all pockets, but fit nicely in most bags. That makes them a fairly good compromise on size - enough space for notes, but without feeling too cumbersome to carry.


If you have large pockets, A6 might be pocketable, but it’s probably pushing it for most people. Get cargo trousers and you’ll be fine. Those with smaller pockets might find it a somewhat awkward compromise - just too big to pocket, but still small enough to only be good for little notes.

‘B’ Sizes

‘B’ sizes follow the same pattern as the ‘A’ series, where each is half or double the next or previous size, and they’re the same aspect ratio. They fill in between the steps of the ‘A’ series, though, so the ‘B’ probably means ‘Between’ or ‘Bit Bigger’. Well, maybe it should. So a B5 notebook is a bit bigger than an A5 notebook.

So if you find yourself wanting something a bit bigger than one ‘A’ size and a bit smaller than the next, look for the ‘B’ size in between.


The only size seen very commonly, B5 is bigger than A5, but smaller than A4. If you find A4 is just too big to be bothered dragging around with you, but A5 just doesn’t quite cut it for space, a B5 notebook might be just what you’re looking for.

We don’t often see notebooks in other ‘B’ sizes, but the same pattern would follow - a B7 would be a bit smaller than A6, quite a handy pocketable notebook.

American Sizes

We don’t tend to get them over here in Europe, but the USA uses ‘Letter’ paper, which isn’t too far from A4 in size, but without all the clever advantages. On the one hand, they really should join the rest of us in using much better paper sizes. But on the other hand, it would mean trying to change settings on their printers, so we get it. Nobody wants to do that. Rage Against The Machine might have been angry with the political machinery, but it also seems quite reasonable to think they were just trying to print something on a different paper size.

Letter paper, but longer on the long side, gives you the American ‘Legal’ paper, which they seem quite fond of if it’s in a pad, and yellow. No, we don’t know why it’s yellow, but that’s ok, the Americans don’t know either, they just insist it has to be that way because it’s been like that for a long time. Pretty sure they learned that argument from us in the UK. And it must be a good argument, we've been using it for centuries.

US Letter paper is common in a few other countries around the US - Canada and parts of Central America use it quite often too. Maybe they get their printers from the US.

Other Sizes

90x140mm Pocket Notebooks

We’re not sure what the origins of the 90x140mm notebook really are, but it’s likely there’s an element of happy coincidence to it. It’s a very handy size for pockets, and 90x140mm in metric just happens to almost exactly line up with 3.5x5.5 inches. So the same notebook can be a nice round metric number around most of the world, a nice round number in America, and be just about as big as a notebook can be, while still fitting most pockets.

Notebooks in this size are available from all sorts of different brands, including Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Moleskine and many more. And the American-sized coincidence means they were also the choice for Field Notes, whose classic styling and design innovation made pocket notebooks popular with a whole bunch of geeks.

Traveler's Notebooks in both sizes - Standard and PassportTraveler’s Notebooks - Standard and Passport

The original Traveler’s Notebooks, from TRAVELER’S COMPANY (now spun-off from Midori), are odd sizes, and at first, look like they don’t make much sense. Why go with a different size to all the readily available standards?

Well, we can’t speak for them, but there could be an element of long-term sales going on - make really nice leather covers in an odd size, and people will have to buy the refill notebooks from you for years to come. But, to be honest, the sizes are really nice.

The ‘Standard’ size is actually an A4 sheet, folded in three. So with their larger covers, you can take a full A4 sheet and with two folds, it fits into the cover. There are even inserts you can put A4 paper into, and the whole insert folds in three to fit. And a tall, thin notebook is pretty good for making lists, which is going to be a major use case for a lot of us.

The smaller ‘Passport’ size is 90x125mm, so it’s that popular ‘pocket notebook’ size, just a bit shorter, to fit more pockets. Especially useful when the leather cover adds a bit of size too.

And while the non-standard sizes do mean you don’t have many ‘third party’ options for notebooks and accessories, they make so many good ones themselves that we haven’t found we’ve missed the extra choices in practice.

Further Reading

If you really want to dive further into paper sizes, we’d recommend Wikipedia’s Paper Size page. It’s a way more complicated subject than you might think!