I usually try not to jump on the bandwagon of talking about “how much better Moleskines used to be before they were made in China.” They were always made in China, and I can’t say I’ve always seen huge differences between the old Modo & Modo Moleskines I bought years ago and more recent ones. But I just recently felt compelled to buy a new one– not sure why, since I have quite a stockpile already, but for some reason, I picked one up off a store shelf, and it called my name. It felt good in my hand. I had to have it. You know how that goes…
When I brought the new notebook home, I realized that the reason it seemed to fit in my hand so nicely was that it was slightly smaller than the current Moleskine I was using. The cover is only a hair smaller, probably less than a millimeter difference in height and width. The thickness is the same, or maybe just a teensy bit thicker due to some extra bulk in the accordion pocket. But the difference in the paper size is really noticeable. Rather than being 9 x 14cm, the pages are 8.8 x 13.8 cm. The slightly smaller overall size is not in itself bothersome to me, but the page size difference of course leads to the dreaded cover overhang, most noticeably at the corners of the notebook. And this is something that drives me nuts.
I know cover overhang doesn’t bother some people, but for me, it’s been the main reason I’ve always loved Moleskines, despite their annoying marketing. I have never found any other hardcover notebook without a cover overhang. The squared-off-ness of the edges are part of what makes it such a satisfyingly minimalist object. Other notebooks may have better features, better paper and better overall quality, but the cover overhang issue has always sent me back to Moleskine. (The other notebooks I use the most, HandBook Artist Journals, are also great for having almost no cover overhang, but the thicker, rougher paper makes them more appropriate for sketching and watercolors than everyday note-taking.) For the classic notebooks that are the backbone of their product line, Moleskine’s main point of differentiation against the competition was the lack of cover overhang– if that goes away, I have no reason any more to stick with the Moleskine brand. I’ve reviewed so many alternatives that were, for me, just very slightly less good. If Moleskine changes this one thing, all those alternatives may be just as good, or better.
Again, Moleskine’s production has always taken place in China, but I think what has changed is that their volume has increased to a point where they can’t be as selective about their manufacturers. They are also owned by private equity investors who are about to take the company public, so I’m sure there is pressure to pinch pennies. I don’t expect any mass-produced item to be 100% perfect every time, but it makes me crazy when someone takes a good product and then ruins it for their most loyal customers by cutting corners in annoying little ways. I really hope this was a temporary variation in a print run and not a long-term strategic decision to reduce their paper usage and make a fraction of a cent more profit. Don’t drive me away, Moleskine.