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Before judging me on that rather strange headline, just hear me out. Moleskine notepads are extremely cool. You have probably seen them when looking around for stationary and noticed a cool looking plain notepad among the offerings. The chances are it was one of these (don't let the name worry you, its not actually made from moles) and jus by looking at one you feel a sense of quality which isn't often found with note books. As an amatuer director/writer I wanted something to store any ideas I may have during the day, and honestly being a bit of a snob I opted for one of these.
To start, this note pad feels amazing. I'm not sure what it is about these notepads but it always feels like a pleasure to write in one, like what you're writing inside is so special that it could only be written in this particular notepad. The exterior is very smooth and feels extremely well made, the pages inside also feel thick so there isn't much risk of ink bleeding through to other pages. An elastic band is attached to the book, allowing you to prevent the book from opening by accident even if you have simply slipped a piece of paper in for safe keeping. The back of the book also makes use of a folder type system, where extra notes can be stored if you don't want to write them down yourself. I personally have found this useful for business cards for example. A ribbon bookmark is also attached allowing you to quickly turn to an important page, or even to the next blank page. My only gripe with the pad is that the paper is not very absorbent meaning ink can sometimes smear onto the next page but perhaps this is simply because I am too impatient for my own good.
Overall I would recommend these clear notebook who would like to keep their notes quick to hand at any time, by having the pages blank it can also me used for small sketches which is always a useful safety net. Don't let cheaper pad's fool you, this is the note book you want if you are serious about note taking!
Moleskine Notebooks - What good are notebooks? (David Byrne)
If you have never come across a Moleskine notebook previously then here is a bit of history for you. Originally made by a small family owned French business in Tours and later on bought back to life and rebranded by a Milanese publisher in 1997. (Details on Moleskin Website www.moleskine.com).
Purportedly owned and used by a host of famous people which the website uses to give the books a degree of respectability. (Or to charge more?)
Moleskine produce many different varieties of books however I have only purchased 3 types and can only discuss these, they are:
Small notebook - 14cm x 9 cm, black. Lined throughout with just under a 100 pages the end papers are slightly thicker than the others and have a printed space for your name and address and a space for you to enter a reward amount , should you consider your little black book to be worth one. There is also a small concertina pocket to the rear for putting away those bits of paper that you keep losing and an integral elastic band that keeps the book shut when not being used. The covers are hard and covered in (My case) black leather type material and are rounded on the corners.
There is also a page marker attached as well, made of a sort of cloth material. Paid £7.04 with free delivery from Amazon.
I use this book for important numbers and passwords, it is small enough to pop in my pocket and robust enough to get bashed about a bit and still be in one piece when I find it. The pages can be awkward to write on but this is due to the size and you compromise the ability to write with the size on these products. Love this little book and never go far without it.
Medium Notebook - 13cm x 21cm - This book is exactly the same as the one above in every detail except the size. I use this one as a daily journal and have no issue writing on the pages and have taken it to the top of Ben Nevis and written in it there. Although to be fair the cold got to my fingers and it does look a bit like a spiders scrawl on that page.
The concertina pocket on this one is large enough to put postcards and larger items and I find very useful as I come across items that I want to stick into my journal but not straight away. It keeps them flat and stops them getting crumpled prior to sticking in. Again this is a hard backed book and this stays in my brief case most of the time as I use it on a daily basis. Over 200 pages to this book and I find using it as a journal very economical. Cost £9.92 from Amazon
Extra Large Notebook - 25cm x 19 cm Again this follows the standard rules for this type of book, the exception here is that I chose a flexible soft cover. I chose this because I wanted something for a specific event. In this case it was for my English Channel Solo crossing. It allowed me to pass the book around for people to write in prior and afterwards to the swim and also collect the countless cards and emails I received from people and stick them in like a scrap book. It also has the elastic cover holder which helps to retain the pages and the flexible covers allow some movement to allow for the now bulky look of the book. Cost for this one was £9.34 (but this was an offer and I bought two)
I have several of these books unused and waiting on the shelf, I buy them when I see them on offer which isn't very often. They are not the type of notebbok that you would want to buy and use as scrap paper. These books do look good but are also very practical and if used as journals or "little black books" then they will last a long time and become an economical buy. If you have some bits you want to stick in a book and keep for a one off event then again these are nice to use.
For daily notes and scribbling paper - use something else.
So to answer David Byrne (Talking Heads, Life During Wartime, Stop making sense album) "What good are notebooks?" - I think they are great, the better made the more I like them and each size has its own use. An extravagance that lasts.
My first Moleskine purchase was the Book Journal, but since then I've bought myself a couple of notebooks. I know that those of you with serious Moleskine addictions will think that is not much, but I am well and truly hooked on these notebooks, and although my collection may be small at the moment, I'm sure it won't be for too long.
The first plain Moleskine notebook I bought was what is called the large size, which is not far off A5 size (13 x 21cm). The notebook is hard-bound, with a black leather style cover. The paper is rather obviously plain, and is a pale cream colour. The notebook has a "if lost please contact..." page at the front, and the back cover has a small expanding file, handy for loose bits of paper or receipts. The notebook is secured with an elastic strap around it, to keep it closed.
I bought the notebook when I wanted something to scribble research notes in - I made a special trip to the shops for a notebook, and although I tried to convince myself that I should get a cheaper notebook for the sake of my wallet, I ended up paying full price (about £14) for the large Moleskine notebook in WH Smith.
My large Moleskine notebook is, quite frankly, lovely to write in. I've always liked writing and scribbling, but I've never enjoyed the act of writing quite so much. I generally use a biro pen, and it moves so smoothly over the paper. The paper is good quality and smooth, a good weight but not unnecessarily thick. Writing on it encourages me to write neatly, to keep the notebook looking nice rather than full of unintelligible scribbles.
I rarely take this notebook out of the house, as I don't tend to need it away from home, so it hasn't been subjected to being rattled around in a bag very often, but even so it is still in pristine condition.
My other Moleskine notebook was a kind of accident. I purchased a Moleskine plain notebook from Ebay for £6, with a Star Wars cover. I thought it was another large one, but when it arrived it was a pocket size notebook, at 9 x 13cm; having checked the Ebay listing, I realised it was my mistake and it did in fact state pocket sized. This notebook was intended for carrying around in my bag, so although I had wanted the large size, I realised that maybe it wasn't such a bad thing I had made a mistake, as the smaller size means less bulk and weight in my handbag. As with the larger notebook, it is hard-bound with a leather style cover.
As it turns out, I adore my pocket Star Wars notebook. Not only is it exceptionally cool, with the scrolling intro text to Episode IV printed on the cover surrounded by stars, but it has turned out to be the perfect size for my random scribbles - working out my budget, making lists, noting down things to remember. The paper is the same lovely stuff as my larger notebook, and is just as nice to write on. There is an expanding file in the pocket notebook too, and this holds a Star Wars poster print. The inner covers of the Star Wars notebook are printed with the starry sky, and the front inside cover features a picture of the X-Wings en route to the first Death Star, complete with quote: "Man your ships. And may the force be with you."
The Star Wars notebook lives almost exclusively in my handbag, and seems to be holding up well, despite spending it's days being rattled around and being bounced off things such as chargers and my umbrella. After a couple of months, it is still in perfect condition.
I may not have an extensive collection as yet (next on my list is a 2013 Star Wars diary - there's one with Han Solo on it), but I am completely hooked on these wonderful notebooks. They are very smart things, a pleasure to write in, and hard-wearing. The price tag is high, but it worth paying more to get such high quality, and such a nice writing experience.
As addictions go, I could do a lot worse than having an uncontrollable habit of buying notebooks. It's unlikely to harm my health, drive me insane or lead me to spend my life on the wrong side of the law, but none the less it's an addiction and I have to be conscious of my weakness and try not to let it get out of control. I could probably stop buying such things for the next 5 years without exhausting my stock of gorgeous notebooks but one of the ways that I try to keep things under control is by buying rather a lot of Moleskine products. Whilst many of my notebooks are just too beautiful or impractical to actually use or to carry around, Moleskine make products that are so overwhelmingly useful that I can almost pretend I'm buying them for sensible, logical, rational reasons instead of just indulging in my passion. I have several of Moleskine's specialised 'theme' notebooks from their 'Passions' range - the book notebook, the travel one and I've given several friends the health and wellness volume - I use a Moleskine diary and have Moleskine concertina files in every available size, but when push comes to shove, if I had to choose the Moleskine that epitomises the range, and the one I'd buy if I had to collect the money from down the sofa for a year and could only pick one, it would be this - the pocket plain notebook. And of course I'd have to buy it in red.
Whilst the listing doesn't specify that this is for the pocket size, that's the one I use the most. I do also have the large notebook which measures up at 13x21cm format but I find that too big to carry around and there's something that just feels wasteful about such large pages. Instead, the 'pocket' format is the one I buy most often since its diminutive 9x14cm pages give me enough space to scribble things down without demanding I fill a large page.
~Fact and Fiction~
The history of Moleskine has been 'acquired' by the current manufacturers who don't explicitly state that theirs are the genuine, original real McCoy but they certainly hint at it. Whilst Moleskine is an iconic brand that associates itself with a rich and (in their words) 'legendary' heritage the books you can buy not are not identical to the ones used by Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemmingway and Chatwin all of whom get a name-check in the little pamphlet that accompanies all the Moleskine products. The original company was French but closed down in 1986 leaving its many fans and users bereft. Twelve years later a publisher in Milan revitalised the Moleskine with a new range of products that built on the long and honoured tradition and heritage of its predecessor. What you buy now is therefore less of a copy and more of a 'homage' to the famous notebook.
I first experienced the old-style notebooks as a student geologist doing field work in Canada. A local guy who was a friend of a friend of someone in my department came along to help out and gave me some of his old oil-field logging notebooks. If I recall correctly the reason they were so loved by geologists was that the pages were waterproof and most field work is done in peeing down rain which makes that handy. They were truly waterproof as I found when dropping them in the sea and in various streams. I was not a dainty field worker and my notebooks had a lot to put up with. I have no idea if the new ones are also waterproof and have no plans to test them by making notes in a thunderstorm. My needs have moved on and waterproof pages are no longer on my must have list.
~What you always get with Moleskine classic notebooks~
Whilst the products vary slightly the standard notebooks - by which I exclude the Passions range and those cheeky soft backed Volant interlopers - is a hard cover in red or black. I am crying out for more colours but up to now Moleskine take a Henry Ford approach to colours - you can have it in any colour you like so long as it's red or black. For colour fans you'll need to buy the Volant range (and of course I have those too). I buy red because I hate to have too many black things in my bag as they're hard to find. In order to distinguish between my red diary and my red notebook I have marked the spines with Scotch Magic Tape with one saying 'Diary 2012' and the other saying 'Notes' - not rocket science, but it helps. If I'm also carrying the Pocket Folder full or expense receipts, that's currently not marked.
Inside the cover on the first page you are encouraged to enter your name and address and if you're feeling really generous, to offer a reward to anyone who returns your notebook. Mine are priceless but I'm too mean to offer rewards. However, the only time I lost a Moleskine, it was returned to me so I do recommend filling in the address.
Inside the back cover you'll find the classic Moleskine pocket with a pamphlet telling you about the company. Diaries and Passions notebooks come with stickers in the pocket but the standard pocket notebook doesn't need such gimmicks. The pocket is strengthened with red fabric on the billows and I have never had a pocket get damaged even though I'm prone to stuffing lots of things inside them.
The other standard features of a notebook are the red ribbon and the red elastic - black on the black version. The ribbon helps you to find the page you marked, maybe the last you were writing or the one where you've scribbled the address of the hotel so you can wave it under the nose of a taxi driver and the elastic keeps your notebook closed and tidy in your bag. This helps to prevent all the other junk you carry around damaging the pages and folding or scrunching them in the bottom of your bag. On the downside, compared to some other notebooks with tie fastenings, it does mean you can't tuck a pen inside or clip it to the notebook.
You can get Moleskine notebooks with plain, lined or squared paper. I always prefer plain as I'm prone to scrawling and tell myself that lines will 'constrain' my untidy thought processes. I particularly hate lines that are too close together and force me to squeeze between them or to consciously defy their suggestion to write between them. I mostly use my Moleskine notebooks for travel notes and I like to draw things to remind me of what I've seen and I find that easier without lines. Squared paper just makes me break out in a cold sweat so if I were offered free notebooks with squares I would turn them down; Just too French!
The paper in a Moleskine notebook is not white - it's more of a light, luxurious cream - and the paper surface is smooth and the quality is thick enough for what you've written not to show through on the reverse side. Admittedly I use pencils or biros so if you're prone to leaking fountain pens you might not find it so good but I find it a pleasure to write upon Moleskine paper. My notebooks get dragged out frequently as I tend to take years to finish writing reviews from each holiday and they also get thrown around my handbag and work bag as I'm always convinced I might just get round to writing a few reviews whilst I'm on a plane. Of course mostly I don't.
These notebooks are hardwearing, great quality and instantly recognisable across a room by legions of Moleskine obsessives. They are NOT perfect - even I would admit that. In a perfect world where someone let me loose in their product development centre, I would definitely be looking for more colour choices in the hard back formats, perhaps soft or semi-soft covers on this format too (unlike the Volant which is soft but has no pocket at the back, no elastic and no ribbon). Why not take the colours of Volant and the features of the classic and make the perfect notebook? Having up to three red Moleskine products in my bag at any time does lead to confusion and occasional frustration. Other than that, there's nothing I would change.
Bookshops like Waterstones tend to stock Moleskines and sell them at full retail prices. A simple pocket notebook can set you back as much as £10 each so I recommend shopping around. You can usually get them on Amazon or Bookdepository at around £6.50 to £7.50 and if you watch for special offers you can occasionally do even better. However, there's something about having to pay more than you think you should for these notebooks that oddly seems to somehow add to their allure and mystique. After all, when another Moleskine fan spots your notebook, you want him or her to think that you are indeed the sort of person who'd pay silly money for a notebook.
My husband is lucky in that he often gets freebies with his job. Now and again he gets something really cool, but more often than not they tend to be stationary or novelty items branded with the name of whichever company wants their business. One such item he brought home a few months back was a beautiful Moleskine notebook. He said it was of no use to him as any notes he makes are written into his laptop or iPhone, but he knows I like to write lists and thought this would be handy for me.
Before I talk about the book, I'll just clarify exactly which one I have. The Plain Moleskine book comes in different sizes and cover types, but the one I have and am therefore reviewing is the pocket book with hardback cover. There are also larger versions available as well as those with softer covers, which are flexible, so can be bent/rolled up slightly.
The notebook is 9cm x 14cm and according to Amazon has 192 pages, although I can't confess to having counted them myself! The size is perfect for a handbag and the compact size of the pages make it ideal for jotting down short notes and lists. It's probably not great for any large amounts of writing or note taking though as the pages are so small, but for general day to day use, I find it ideal.
The main thing I noticed when I was given this is simply the quality. It has a black cover with a slightly textured finish to it (don't worry - it's not actually made of mole skin, which someone did actually ask me!), which feels lovely to hold. My husband mockingly refers to it as my 'executive notebook', but it does have a very professional look to it and I actually think it might make a nice little gift for someone starting a new job.
The pages of the book are plain and made from acid free paper. They're not so much white as a creamy colour. To be honest, I think if I was to buy a replacement for this notebook in the future, I'd prefer a lined version, but that's just me. The paper the pages are made from is of a medium thickness and feels good quality.
The page has a ribbon securely attached to it, so that you can mark your page as you go. There is also an elasticated band attached, so that the book can be securely closed without the fear of the pages splaying and then becoming creased in your bag - something which frequently tends to happen to me with notebooks!
On the back page of the book is a pocket which I thought rather unusual. Inside the pocket you will find a sticker with a quality control number. All Moleskine notebooks are made by hand and should you find any defect, you will need to quote this number in any correspondence with Moleskine. How do I know this? Well that's because also in the back pocket is a booklet detailing the history of Moleskine. Having just skim read it, I don't find it very interesting or relevant, but I believe it's a feature of all Moleskine notebooks.
As with all things the price will vary depending on where you wish to shop, but Amazon are currently charging £7.07 for it, and simplymoleskine.com are charging £9.99. Obviously that is quite pricey for a small notebook, but you are paying for both the quality and the branding in this case.
On the whole, I really like this notebook and due to the hard and durable exterior I expect it to last me well. I do think it's perhaps more than I would personally like to pay for a notebook, but it certainly looks impressive and just by holding it you can tell it's a quality item. The pocket size is ideal for carrying around with me and I would happily recommend it.