Time For A Notebook Review…..ARC by Staples

Once again, toooooo long since a posting. Time to change that.


So Ok, I’ve been playing around with disc based notebooks for years now. I first saw the Circa system in the decadent “Levenger” catalog (LOVE their stuff. Expensive, but I love it). Soon after, I discovered the Rollabind system while in Staples one day, probably 2006 or 2007. Awesome, I thought, a notebook system just like Levenger’s Circa system (in fact, completely compatible) but at a fraction of the price. So, I picked up a couple. How could I go wrong at $6.99 ( for the Jr size)? I thought – I really thought – I would love it. But after a few weeks of use, my attitude was “Ehh…” (Exaggerated shrug of the shoulders). I found that I didn’t want to replace my daily planning/list notebook. I typically use a 5.5″ x 3.5″ moleskin knock-off notebook of some sort. I just like that size. But I loved the idea of being able to rearrange and better organize my notes. So for my daily work use, I went back to the small form factor. I did start using the Rollabind notebooks for church sermon notes and general Bible study (Yeah. I’m one of those….)

The Rollabinds soon fell out of favor for me because of the paper. My initial notebooks had very good paper that came with them. But once I had used up the initial supply, and bought refill supplies, everything went south. Obviously, due to very name of this blog, I’m a fountain pen user. Die-hard. And the refill Rollabind paper was so bad as to be almost unusable. The bleed through was so bad! So back to the shelf for the Rollabinds.

Now, move forward to 2014. I’ve never lost the infatuation for the disc system. But Rollabind was out for me and Levenger’s Circa is just too expensive for me to consider. I’m back in a Staples again about six weeks ago, and what do I see? A new disc system (I’d noticed the Rollabind products had disappeared a few years ago): M by Staples ARC System. And most intriguing, they had a leather product (at least it claimed to be) in a Jr size for $16.99. In an apples to apples comparison, the Levenger Jr size in leather is $79. A $62 dollar difference. So I came home without one, and went online to do some research before I plunked down $17 for another disappointment. ‘Cause I’m cheap like that. Reviews were glowing. The leather appeared to be real. Rollabind had offered a “leather” notebook (I have one). Nope. Vinyl. This thing appeared to be the real deal. And the paper was getting good reviews as well. So off I headed, back to pick one up.

That was about six weeks ago. And I admit, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I now have the leather Jr size, a leather Sr size, AND I bought the paper punch. That punch has proven to be the game changer for me. Now I’m using these notebooks and the disc system in general, for everything I’m doing. It allows me to use any paper item I need, to be securely bound in my notebook. I’m an insurance broker and now I can develop my own custom forms to use in my day-to-day business activity. The paper has been nothing short of fantastic. Just to be sure, I bought a refill pack, and it seemed to be the exact same quality as the paper they ship in the notebooks.

I can only compare this system to the old Rollabind system. To me, unequivocally, the ARC system is superior. Both systems are completely compatible. However, in the Jr size, the paper is slightly different in size, though, each will fit the others discs and covers. The paper for the ARC Jr size is exactly 5.5″ by 8.5″ (exactly half the size of a standard 8.5 x 11 letter page). The Rollabind is slightly smaller at 5.5″ by 8.25″.

The net is full of good reviews on the ARC system. Here are some I thought were worthwhile:


Inside cover of the Jr size ARC notebook. Test for fountain pen bleed through



Almost no bleed-through



Letter size ARC



The Punch. This is what REALLY makes this system usefull.


Author: Will Isaac

Pen addict.

13 thoughts on “Time For A Notebook Review…..ARC by Staples”

  1. Thanks for the ARC review. Similarly I was intrigued by the Levenger Circa but deterred by the cost. While a blatant copy, the Staples ARC system brings a great system down to a reasonable price. And I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the paper! I did a side by side w/ Levenger and the ARC is at least as good if not better! Smooth, no bleed, no feathering, minimal show-through – even with wet fountain pens. I tried punching my own Tomoe River paper but it’s too thin to hold up to the ring system. Thanks again!

  2. While the Rollabind web page still exists… DO NOT BUY from them. There are numerous reports of them never delivering. In fact, I have an order outstanding for weeks! I agree, Arc is the way to go. It’s good value for money. As advised by Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens, I purchased HP 32# Premium Choice Laser paper. It’s a dream for fountain pen use. I make my own writing paper with dots and punch to fit.

      1. Thank you.
        I will buy several Arc sizes first to make sure which size is my preferred one and the go and buy the Levenger Circa disc’s as they are expensive plus I’ll likely need to pay international carriage.
        Several people on-line have said that the Levenger hole punch, although more expensive, is a little better because the holes are a tiny bit bigger because of it’s “mushroom head”. Do you find that using the Levenger disc’s in an Arc makes the pages hard to turn?

  3. I was looking for some discs for my circa system and came across you write up. I did not know Staples provided a similar system. I was actually looking at the website for the original and grand daddy of them all – Atoma in Belgium. Very big in Europe. And the discs they use have some advantages. But can’t find them in the US.

    Levenger is too expensive. So I stopped using it, and just use my own copy paper and their punch. I print out lines on the paper, double sided, and cut it down to 3 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches. This way it fits in the inside breast pocket of my jacket and give me enough writing space even at my desk.

    I also cut down some of the Levenger clear plastic covers to that size.

    It appears the Arc system of Staples only has 1 inch and 1 1/2 inch discs. . Those are too big for by pocket notebook. So I will probably stay with my homemade form factor. I use 3/4 inch discs, but may even to to 1/2 inch

    1. Hi.
      I purchased the Staples Arc notebook because it is good quality at a great price but I then purchased the Levenger Disc (in the size I wanted and because i could buy aluminium which look nicer than the Arc’s plastic one’s).

      1. I’ve done the same thing. Most of my notebooks are Arc, but the disc’s themselves are Levenger’s. I’ve used the aluminum and Kyoto.

  4. Hello, just wondering, do you have any recommendations for these notebooks when it comes to ruled paper? Trying to find a good quality unpunched ruled paper brand.

    1. Sorry, I don’t. Not for store bought. What I do is I buy a heavy laser paper (HP make some REALLY good laser paper) and download a ruled template, then print them off. If you do a Google search for notebook templates, you should find several. I also use a dot grid template I like a lot too.

      1. Gotcha. After searching on-line for the past half hour I came to same conclusion. Any recommendations on what weight of paper would be best for college note taking? I found this: https://www.staples.com/Staples-Multipurpose-Paper-8-1-2-x-11-Case/product_513096 and can’t help but think its a steal as I probably won’t need paper for the next decade with that. Also, I found some templates as well but I am trying to find one that would let me add page numberings to them, any clues as to how I could do this? Thanks for the prompt response btw!

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