The Moleskine

17 Feb 2005

Paul R. Potts

What follows is the merchant review I wrote for the Yahoo store Moleskine US. There has been interest recently in the Weblogging community in the idea of a pocket notebooks as the ideal “analog PDA.” I was, and am still, pleased with my traditional pocket Moleskine notebook, but I am now also wondering if there might be other manufacturers out there that build notebooks of a similar form factor but perhaps with different features, such as a place to insert a pen, thicker paper with less show-through, or other features.

I had a vague hope that Moleskine US would read the review, which was CC’ed to them, and decide to send me a set of the Cahier notebooks to replace the Volant line that I was dissatisfied with. Now that would be customer service. I’m not going to demand it from them, though, especially given that a set of the Volant notebooks places them only at about $2.00 each. There’s a limit to what I can expect in the low-cost line.

Anyway… original review notes follow. Now all I need is some vacation time so that I can spend some afternoons in cafes or on a beach actually writing something in my Moleskine!

Moleskines are the best handheld notebooks for writers: they are the perfect size for a shirt or coat pocket, and use good paper with a binding that is stitched rather than just glued, so they will stay open as you hold them to write. They also have a built-in cloth bookmark and an elastic band to hold them shut. Theres a little expanding pocket in the back where I can stuff receipts and loose notes. These little touches give a strong impression of time-tested, practical quality.

I really like my traditional Moleskine notebook and will probably buy more of them in the future. I am extremely satisfied with the service, packaging, and shipping speed of Moleskine US. There are a couple of areas where I feel there is some room for improvement:

It would be nice if the web site would allow me to log in as a return customer, and keep my shipping and payment information on hand, so I dont have to re-enter it if I come back to buy something more later.

The paper exhibits a little bit more show-through than Id like, when I write on both sides with a Rapidograph (liquid ink pen). I am guessing a fountain pen would have a similar issue. I should probably try the sketchbook type, but that paper is thicker, which means either a fatter notebook or fewer pages, so there is a tradeoff.

I bought a set of three of the Volant notebooks as well as a Volant address book. Im disappointed to say that the quality doesn’t match the traditional Moleskine notebooks. I knew that they would not have the the bookmark and elastic band, but I did not expect the paper to be of lower quality: it has a rougher feel, and absorbs more ink, with more show-through. The last 16 pages are micro-perforated and can be torn out. That feature doesnt really appeal to me. But the big problem is the cover material. My address book had a big crease on the frong cover where the plastic faux-leather material was not flat and properly glued to the backing. One of the others has bubbles.

I like the thinner form, and they are much less expensive per notebook than the traditional Moleskine, but I was just thinking that the Volant line might be better with plain cardboard covers. Lo and behold, today I discovered that Moleskine US is now offering the Cahier line, which seems to be just that, a Volant with a cardboard cover, and which also includes the pocket in back. I will try those next time. If they have the higher-quality paper, I’ll declare them the perfect thin-format notebook to go with the traditional Moleskine.

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