24 June 2015

Guest Post - Looking for the middle way, via Japan - Part 1 - By gmax

I'm always interested in different size formats, and I'm sure some of you might remember the double width early Deskfax organisers. Well this is a little different to that even! Thank you Max for sharing this with us. 

One of the long-standing dilemmas facing us is that of which format to use. In particular, I have seen much soul-searching here on Philofaxy about whether to opt for personal or A5. And, having decided one way, it seems a nagging feeling often starts that maybe the other way would be better.

I have always stuck firmly to personal myself, and it would be unthinkable for me to change, if only because the continuity of all my paper records would be broken. For me, personal is the ideal size for keeping a diary, lists, addresses and finances. There is just one thing I’ve found it less than perfect for, and that’s note-taking. The pages are just that bit too small and the rings intrude that bit too much for real comfort when writing at length.

Thus, even I, as a personal format devotee, was intrigued recently to discover a Japanese invention that aims to give the best of both personal and A5 formats in one. A company called Ashford has come up with a new format called HBxWA5. The “H” here refers to the page height, and B stands for Bible, which is the name used to refer to personal size in Japan. The “W” refers to the page width, and A5 is as you would expect (i.e. the ISO A5 standard paper size). So what we end up with is a hybrid – basically a widened personal leaf that extends to the width of A5.

As I’ve implied, A5 has never been a temptation for me, but HBxWA5 was different. The holes are all still in the “right” places, and it might at last let me make notes comfortably. So I felt compelled to give it a try.

Ordering from Japan is more of an adventure than my typical internet shopping. I used Rakuten, which allows you to make the order, including payment details, and then passes it to the particular shop/vendor to be processed. This does take a while to happen, and leaves you wondering for a few days as to what the postage and packing is going to come to, but it all seems to work fine, and my parcel arrived a couple of weeks later.

The leather on the binder I ordered is black, with contrast stitching in an unusual and attractive purple colour. The rings are at the same places that personal format uses, and have a 15mm inside diameter. I’m hoping this will be more portable than a normal A5 would be.

The binder seems very well made and doesn’t appear to use any stiffening within the covers, so it opens flat immediately. There is a large, double-width, top-opening pocket on the outside covers, which effectively makes them doubly thick. There are two pockets inside each cover, and an adjustable pen holder, as well as a simple loop-style fastener. All very nice really.

I hadn’t ordered any leaves, and the binder just came with the one shown. In part 2 of this post I’ll show you how I’ve prepared my note-taking set-up.


  1. Hmmm, interesting. I currently use a vertical format in FC compact size. These would allow for wider columns. I feel a printer fiddling session is in order - Cheshire CST grin.

  2. I had a look at the various organisers and liked their pockets' configuration. The size is very interesting, but the rings are really tiny. Thank you for your post, Max.

  3. Your new binder looks nice. How will you store pages for it? I store my Franklin pocket pages in an accordion file since I do not have an extra binder.

    1. Thanks Be. I think I will probably fold the right-hand edges to make them personal size, but that may not be ideal.

    2. Hi gmax. Thank you for the reply. Storing the pages in the way you describe is clever especially if you do not need to keep all the pages for such a long time.