|This article does not cite any references or sources. (January 2013)|
The term loose leaf is used in the United States, Canada, and some other countries to describe a piece of notebook paper that is not fixed in a spiral notebook or otherwise permanently bound in place. In some places, like the United Kingdom, the phrase "loose leaf" refers more to the flexible system of storing loose pages in a ring binder than to the actual paper.
Typically loose leaf paper has straight blue lines with pink margin lines. This type of paper is normally sold in packs of 100 or 200 sheets and are not necessarily sold loose which means they can be torn out of notebooks with perforations. Loose leaf generally has three holes so that the piece of paper can fit into a three-ringed binder.
There are two common types of loose leaf paper: wide ruled and college ruled. College ruled paper has less space between the blue lines, allowing for more rows of writing. Wide ruled paper is intended for use by grade school children and those with larger handwriting.
The chief advantage of loose-leaf paper is its flexibility and economy in use. A punched sheet of paper can be inserted into a ring binder, removed for separate use, and then returned to the binder. Different sheets can be organized into a different order in a binder, or removed entirely and refiled in another binder, or disposed of as needed. This ability to rearrange and update the contents of binders is convenient for students and other workers, who can carry only the papers they are likely to need on a given day, while leaving the remainder elsewhere. The ability to add or remove an arbitrary number of pages has been useful for reference works that are frequently updated, such as computer software manuals, parts catalogs, and legal indexes.
The chief disadvantage of loose-leaf paper is that individual pages can be easily removed or lost due to tearing or wear of the punched holes. Adhesive hole reinforcements or sheet protectors are available to make pages more durable, and ring binders are often equipped with sheet lifters or other features to reduce wear and damage to their paper contents. Ring binders are sometimes banned from use for written journals, logs, or registers, which may even have pre-numbered permanently-bound pages to discourage removal of pages, or at least allow a removal to be detected.
Looseleaf service is a form of publishing invented by Richard Prentice Ettinger in 1914, founder of Prentice Hall. As a 19-year-old assistant to his Princeton University tax professor he was awarded with the then lucrative task of publishing the professor's book at his own risk. The first print run sold well and he ordered a second print run from an outside printing company. On the very day that this second print run arrived the United States Congress changed the tax law enough that the book was outdated. Faced with this challenge Ettinger came up with the idea of cutting the pages (leaves) loose, replacing the few pages where changes in the tax code had occurred, drilling holes through the pages and putting them into a ring-binder. Even though it was more costly it did have the added benefit that all future changes of the tax code could easily be accommodated by simply exchanging a single leaf or group of pages.