“Beware of the person of one book.”–Thomas Aquinas

There’s something elegant and timeless about hardbound notebooks. It’s almost as if whatever you capture in them becomes more meaningful. Investing in one is like investing in your own story, and with a little love, they will be your companions for years. With the official Bullet Journal Notebooks now available, I wanted to share a quick technique to help greatly extend the life of your hardbound notebooks. In fact, this tip is great preventative care for any type of hardbound book.


The thing you want to avoid to open a new hardcover down the center. This literally is breaking the book’s spine. That’s just as bad as it sounds. The spine holds the book together, and putting a crease down the center puts a weak point right where the most amount of weight is carried. The trick is to distribute the wear across the spine evenly.

To do this, set the book down on a table in front of you. With the book still closed,  stand it up so that the spine is on the desk. Now, take about ten pages from the front of the book and flatten them down onto the table. Run your hand along the inside of the book to flatten them down. Now take the last ten or so pages from the back of the book and do the same. When you’re done, take the next ten pages from the front and repeat. Keep alternating sides until you get to the center of the book.

By working your way from the outside in and NOT the other way around, you’re distributing stress points evenly. In other words, you’re making the spine flexible so that it doesn’t snap. The added benefit is that it will help your notebook lay flat faster.

I like to turn this process into a little ritual. While I’m flattening down pages, I think about the first things I want to log, about what I  want to carry over and what I don’t, but most importantly, I think about the story that I want to this notebook to tell. After all, each book is another volume in a library dedicated to your life.
Do you have any rituals setting up your notebook? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Image by: Glen Noble

About Ryder Carroll

Ryder is the creator of the Bullet Journal. He's a Brooklyn-based digital product designer and art director.
  • Suzie

    As a book lover and former librarian, thank you for talking about how to care for a new book! When I was single watching how a person handled a new book was a personal test moment as to if I could have a relationship with them.
    Also, thanks for the whole bullet journal system. I’m really enjoying having a system to clear out my mind. Because my mind is finally uncluttered, I’ve been able to start really expressing myself artistically

  • MaidMirawyn

    This is amazingly helpful; thank you! I treasure my hardcover books, and like to keep them as nice as possible.

    Wish I had know this when I was in art school; I would have taken extra care with my sketchbooks. But hey, never to late to start!

  • I love this and the ritual you have with setting up a fresh notebook. My ritual: I think about what I want to try out. There’s fresh opportunity to try out a different future planning method. I’m always wrestling between adding and subtracting. The divide between complexity and simplicity is a balance I constantly play with. I visit this website often to reread and rewatch to pick up more nuggets of wisdom from you 🙂 That’s actually my favorite part of the ritual, revisiting the original system to figure out how I can improve by reading thoughts from the master Bullet Journalist himself. 🙂

  • Grammar issue in the text. Lie, not lay. The added benefit is that it will help your notebook lie flat faster. I noticed you used lie in the video. 🙂 Love breaking in a book! My dad taught us when we were kids and I never forgot it.

  • Brilliant!

  • Love it

  • Rose Davila

    I learned this process from a teacher in grade school-fifty-five years ago! I love doing it. It’s a sort of “book massage”, my way of showing reverence for the printed page. I’m new with bullet journal, but it’s working for me so far.

  • Just wanted you to know that your video isn’t displaying correctly. I’ve seen this video before though, and I was like “That makes so much sense!” when I first saw it!

  • Shab Shab

    For those who want to purchase some elegant, discounted Moleskine notebooks, check out this article: