There are advantages and disadvantages for using either a ring binder (such as Filofax or Franklin Covey) vs. a bound book planner (like Moleskine etc.). In the end it comes down to personal preference. But it is worth thinking about what you need from your planner to help you decide which will work best for you. Personally, I’m always going back and forth between the two, for all the reasons below:
1) Your choice of pages
Unless you happen to find a bound-book planner that has exactly the pages you want, it's hard to beat a ring binder for page choice. Maps, forms, notes pages (as many as you want), tabbed dividers, accessories--anything you want can be in your binder. You can even print out pages and hole-punch them to insert in your binder. The choices are endless.
With a bound book, you get what you get. If there are information pages or maps that you never use, they just take up space in your book. If there are other pages you want to include in your book, you can either put them into the pocket (if your book has one) or paperclip them in.
Moleskine has a partial solution on their website: MSK templates. You can type in your information, or select the pre-formatted Moleskine template of your choice. Print it, cut it out and glue it into your book.
Ultimately though, you are limited by the pages bound into your book.
This goes along with choice, and again a ring binder wins over a bound book. Your book can hold whatever you need when you need it, and can change as often as you need it to. Going on a trip? Pop in your maps and info pages. When you get home, you can take them back out again. Very busy? You can add some day per page diary pages to have more space to write your daily details.
With a bound book, you are stuck with the contents all year. Often when I use a bound book and write on the notes pages in the back, those notes are irrelevant a few months later and by the end of the book they are, as I told my sister, "so last year." In a ring binder, you can choose to keep only the pages that are currently relevant.
This is where I prefer a bound book, hands down. Even when I diligently put my Filofax pages into archival binders, I still can't reference past information or events as easily as I can when I've used a bound book. This is because of #2 above. In a Filofax, I use only the pages I need at the time. Other things get shifted around, removed, lost, or if I do manage to archive them they are not in the place where I originally used them so they're harder to find.
When I'm using a bound book planner, I write relevant information directly onto the daily or weekly page. A phone number, directions to a new place, and notes go right there at the moment I need them. When I use a Filofax, I tend to write this information elsewhere, for a few reasons: either my weekly page isn't large enough to accommodate the extra info (due to the classic Filofax dilemma of small page/ big book) or I feel like I should categorize this information somehow, so I write it someplace else in my book.
The situation where the ring binder is better for keeping track of information like this is in the case of lists or contacts that I carry over year to year. These things tend to get lost if I have to re-write them year to year.
In the end, bound planner books become a sort of a time capsule of the year. Unless you shelve your Filofax at the end of the year (an expensive option), then you can't re-create this in a ring binder.
For example, I used my first ring-bound planner for several years. Even though I kept many of the pages, they got mixed around, some were carried over from year to year and others weren't, and some were lost. I don't have the year-by-year record I would have had in bound books.
By contrast, when I found my old Septanote from 11 years ago, I discovered a detailed record of my life at the time down to the amounts of my bills and the dates I paid them. Relevant cards and papers were still stuck inside the cover. I can't seem to recreate that level of detail when archiving my Filofax pages--it just doesn't have the same permanence.
This is the flip side of the Page Choice coin. In general, ring binders are larger than bound books of equal page size and number. The rings add bulk and often the binder's cover is bulkier too. Add in the human factor of adding too many pages (which I'm guilty of) and you can wind up with a much larger book than if you use a bound planner.
5) Tab hell
This can happen with either format, actually. When I use a ring binder I tend to use too many tabbed sections which adds bulk, and makes it difficult for me to find things (did I put that page under "Lists" or "Actions"??).
Meanwhile, people who use bound planners or notebooks can add their own tabs, whether marked on the pages or as sticky tabs. The classic problem with making tabbed sections in a bound notebook is, what do you do when one section fills up before the others?
Like I said, ultimately it comes down to personal preference more than functionality. Some people prefer the style of a Filofax even if Franklin Covey might work better for them (you know who you are). Some people want the streamlined portability of a bound book even though a ring binder might technically work better for them. Some people want the minimalist cool-factor of a Moleskine even though they might actually function better with something more structured.
We are humans. We do what we like, not always what's best for us!
Which do you prefer, and why?