Review & Giveaway: Moleskine Color-a-Month 2010 Planner

The Moleskine Color-a-Month 2010 Daily Planner has turned a lot of heads this year– it’s certainly the most colorful and unusual product Moleskine has introduced. But what’s inside that chunky rainbow package? Let’s take a look!

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The planner is the size of a pocket Moleskine notebook, but at 2 1/8 inches, it’s about 4 times as thick. It consists of an outer cover and 12 loose booklets inside, one for each month. Inside the front cover, there is a vertical version of the usual expanding pocket usually found in the back of the notebooks.

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The funny thing about the outside cover is that the back cover angle is a fixed 90 degrees, while the front cover folds back and forth freely. It just wraps around 3 sides of the inner booklets– I had expected it to have a bottom and function more like those boxes for storing magazines, but the elastic is all that holds the monthly booklets in. I worry that this won’t be very secure over time, as the elastics can lose their tension. The product description on Amazon says “The 12 months are packed in a gift box that protects, organizes, and preserves,” which just isn’t true, as far as I am concerned.
In addition to the 12 booklets, you get a card showing the colors and months, which I suppose could be used as a bookmark, and a sheet of stickers you can use to label the spines.

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The front of each booklet is already labeled with the number of the month, 1 for January, and so on.

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The booklets are just like the Moleskine Volant notebooks— same thin, flexible, slightly shiny cover (not the lighter, matte stock of the Cahiers). Inside the front, you get the usual space for writing your “if lost” info, then a more detailed personal info page, and quite a few pages of other information, including time zones, holidays, measurement conversions, a year-to-view calendar, month-per-page planner pages, etc.

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These pages actually take up half of each booklet, to the point I’ve marked below:

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Only after that do you get to the per-day pages:

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The daily pages have the usual layout found in Moleskine’s other daily planners, with hours of the day noted along one edge.

If I had designed this product, I would have done a few things differently, as noted in this post: I would put the front-matter of the monthly booklets into a separate booklet of its own, rather than repeating it 12 times. Then the monthly booklets could either be thinner, or have a 2-page spread per day. I also might have made it an undated calendar, so the user could choose which color booklet to assign to each month. Personally, I think January and February should be grey and November and December should be red, rather than vice versa, but perhaps that’s just my geographic and cultural biases showing!

What about usability? Is it handy and does it work? It depends. I think separate monthly booklets are great if you want to create a backwards-looking diary, but probably not so convenient if you want a forward-looking planner. Are you going to carry all 12 with you? Or the current month plus the next month or two? What if you need to note an appointment a few months from now? You can note it in the yearly planner at the front, but there’s not much room, and you’d have to transfer the info to a different month’s booklet later. That would drive me crazy.

But I don’t use a paper planner for that kind of scheduling anyway– that’s where I’m all electronic. I use paper, currently a Moleskine weekly planner/notebook (week on one page, notes page facing), to keep a diary, or more like a log book. I record what I ate, what exercise I did, my health, any interesting dreams I had and other little details of daily life (but not longer journal entries, which I keep elsewhere). I don’t carry this notebook around with me, so sometimes I have to go back and fill things in after being away from home. This works pretty well, but next year, when I start using the Color-a-Month booklets, I’ll carry around the current month. It will be nice and light, and I’ll have lots more space for each day. I’m hoping it will encourage me to add more detail about each day’s activities and thoughts, or perhaps keep more of an art journal. (I wish it would look like this one!)

Bottom line, this is a great-looking product that no Moleskine collector will be able to resist. I like it and will be using it starting January 1, 2010. But depending on how you like to use a planner, it might not be right for you. And even if it is practical for your purposes, you might wish a few of the details were a little different. I also have to note that at a list price of $40.00, it’s not cheap! (I purchased the planner I reviewed when it was deeply discounted at Amazon, otherwise I think I would have waited and hoped to receive it as a Christmas present!) It will be interesting to see if Moleskine continues to offer it for 2011 and beyond, or whether they’ll consider it a one-off and try something else next year.

You can get one via Amazon here, currently 10% off at $36.00.

CONTEST HAS ENDED. Or, you can try to win one in my latest giveaway! Thanks to the friendly people at Moleskine’s US distributor, Chronicle Books, I now have a couple of these planners to give away, plus some other Moleskine goodies.

Prizes awarded to 3 randomly selected winners will be:

Prize package #1: Moleskine Color-a-Month 2010 Planner & Pocket Ruled Notebook

Prize package #2: Moleskine Color-a-Month 2010 Planner & Pocket Ruled Reporter Notebook

Prize package #3: Moleskine 2010 Desk Calendar & 2 Large Ruled Volant Notebooks (blue covers)

There are two ways to enter:

  • Follow me on Twitter @notebookstories AND post this message as a Twitter update: Win a #Moleskine planner this week @notebookstories http://bit.ly/8SkKII
  • If you have a blog, write a post linking to this review and email me your blog post URL at contest@notebookstories.com

Deadline to enter is Friday Dec. 4th at midnight. Good luck!

BLACK FRIDAY

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As for the other kind of Black Friday, if you can’t handle visiting stores today, do your holiday shopping online using these links and a small commission from your purchases will help support this site:

Notebook Stories Store — my collection of notebooks and other favorites available via Amazon

Amazon — everything else at Amazon

Blick Art Materials — a great selection of journals, sketchbooks and other art supplies, often at discounted prices. The offer FREE SHIPPING on orders totaling $200 or more– and below $200 it’s a flat rate of $6.95 regardless of the order size.

Thanks, and happy holidays!

Which Notebook Did I Write That In???

I’m impressed by Anne at Tagged and Cajoled, who writes about here notebooks in this post. She always knows where to look for things she’s jotted down. I sometimes know but often I might have to search back through several notebooks for something I know I’ve written, but I’m not sure exactly when or where.

I do not throw these notebooks or writing pads away, because no matter what, if I’m looking for a lost piece of information that is not otherwise filed away regarding work or some such other, I can reach for the exact pad or notebook where I last jotted that information.

It’s like photographic memory gone wild, but it works.

Can you remember where to look for things in your notebooks?

Read more of Anne’s thoughts on notebooks at Tagged and Cajoled …: scrawlllllllllllll ………………………..

Thoughts on Journaling

From The Unfolding Moment, this is a lovely post about the ups and downs of keeping a journal, and now it feels to go back and re-read old journals: Reflection: Leave the Roots On.

Every once in a while, I become reacquainted with old notebooks.

My life is flush with them: sketchbooks and art journals, commonplace books of other people’s poetry, binders of old poems and nonfiction and school papers. scrawled journals chronicling nearly every developmental phase—the identity crisis we call “adolescence,” a bleak period of young adult depression, the secondary identity crisis known as graduate school.

I liked the images she shared from her various notebooks, which you can see in the original post. One of them is a jotted quote, from a poem, I guess, which reads

THESE DAYS

whatever you have to say, leave

the roots on, let them

dangle

And the dirt

Just to make clear

where they came from

-Charles Olsen

She concludes:

The only thing that doesn’t change is the urge to document what’s happening. There’s not really a specific motivation. It’s not just about keeping a record for myself, with an awareness of how helpful it is to touch base with all of the old myselves. It’s not just a means of expression for difficult or confusing or overwhelming feelings. It’s not just because I would like someday to share some of these journals with my children, or to revisit them in difficult parenting times as a way to remember what’s hard about being four or 14. It’s not just because I want to leave as many marks on this earth as possible in my time here.

It’s also just because I am compelled to do it.

I’m sure many of us can identify with that.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Brooklyn Artist James Cospito

Here’s a nice image from Flickr, from someone who’s obviously a notebook addict! There are Moleskines, of course, but I think I also see a HandBook Journal and a Rhodia Webnotebook in there. You can see the artist’s work here.
James Cospito's Moleskine Stash, Brooklyn Art Project HQ / Dumbo

The photo was taken at the 13th annual D.U.M.B.O. Art Under the Bridge Festival® (Sept 25 to Sept 27, 2009), which I actually attended, but I didn’t see these! Wish I had!

James Cospito’s Moleskine Stash, Brooklyn Art Project HQ / Dumbo Arts Center: Art Under the Bridge Festival 2009 / 20090926.10D.54637.P1.L2.C23 / SML on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

EBay Find: Scottsbluff Typewriter Company Notepad from 1949

Here’s another neat-o EBay purchase, a promotional notepad from a typewriter company! Actually, I guess they must have started out as a typewriter company but expanded into general office supplies, given the motto on the cover “Everything for the Office.”

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Inside it’s pretty simple: just plain perforated pages. There aren’t many pages left in the notebook. Theoretically, it’s refillable, as the pad is held into the cover by a little clip, but I don’t know if I’d find a compatible refill nowadays. The back page is a calendar for 1949. The notes on the page seem to refer to getting a pick up truck serviced, and its mileage. The notes were made in 1998, and the vehicle only had about 53,000 miles on it, so I guess it wasn’t as old as the notebook!

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The inside back cover has the branding info. I love the name: Buddy Handy Mem!

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This only cost me a few dollars on EBay– well worth it for such a cool old relic!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Range

I’ve noticed a couple of great posts about notebooks by Range over at Memoirs on a Rainy Day. I love it when people can just talk about their notebooks and why they like them and how they use them, as in this post: Notebook Obsession and Rhodia Love. He doesn’t have a photo of his whole collection, but he seems to be using 10 notebooks concurrently, as described in a post called Never Enough Notebooks, which I’ve excerpted below. Check out the links for more details:

1 – Moleskine Reporter Plain Paper Pocket

This is a small notebook that I always carry around. I chose reporter over traditional style, since I find that reporter notebooks let you use the pages better, especially in this smaller format.

2 – A6 Miquelrius Kukuxumusu

From the website, it looks like the design that I bought is out of print. Nevertheless, this 140-page little notebook is ideal for writing to-do lists and just getting organized. I don’t really use a dedicated weekly or daily planner, I just use this instead.

№3 – Moleskine Watercolor L

This is a neat little notebook that I use for inking and drawing stuff. They aren’t really sketches, but this high-quality paper works well.

№4 – A4 Moleskine Sketchbook

I bought this two weeks ago, but haven’t had time to start using this. It will be a journaling book. I want to use this often and add bits of color.
Class notebooks
These are the notebooks I use for my classes. I settled for the Rhodia notebooks, as they have 96 pages and the paper is quite nice¹, making them ideal for doing problems. I would have preferred spiral notebooks with more pages, but I couldn’t find any that I liked.

№5 – Moleskine Plain Paper XL Real Analysis class notes
№6 – Rhodia stapled A4 notebook Real Analysis exercise book

№7 – Moleskine Plain Paper XL Modern Algebra class notes

№8 – Rhodia stapled A4 notebook Modern Algebra exercise book
№9 – A4 Moleskine Plain Paper Complex Analysis class notes
№10 – Rhodia stapled A4 notebook Complex Analysis exercise book

That is a lot of notebooks to have going all at once! I hope he’ll post some photos someday.

Kolby Kirk’s Hiking Journal

I love, love, LOVE Kolby Kirk’s travel journal. He’s documenting his project to do 100 hikes between May 5, 2009 and the end of this year. He’s about to embark on hike #77 as I write this!

He uses a plain, pocket size Moleskine journal and each page is gorgeous– notes, maps, sketches, objects pasted in… just wonderful to look at. Makes me want to go on a hike right now!

Check out his website, 100 Hikes, and the rest of the images on Flickr: Hiking Journal photoset on Flickr

Bauhaus Moleskine at MoMA

I think I’m going to have to take a trip up to MoMA! I’m very intrigued by this Bauhaus Box– what exactly is in it?!?

“Moleskine, the heir of the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers from Van Gogh to Hemingway, is pleased to announce the launch of two new products created to celebrate Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity on view at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City from November 8, 2009-January 25, 2010. The Bauhaus Exhibition Box and Bauhaus Pocket Black Ruled Cahier Notebooks feature the well-loved and familiar details of the iconic black notebook but have been specially designed by Moleskine for sale during this major exhibition.”

There also seems to be a notebook featuring a map of the museum:

Via 2Modern Design Talk – Modern Furniture & Design Blog: Moleskine and the Bauhaus Exhibition.

Review: Doane Paper Notebooks

What nice people they are over there at Doane Paper… I’ve been intrigued by their products for a while but hadn’t gotten to the point of buying anything, mainly because you had to buy a set of 3 Utility Notebooks and I just wanted to try one… but by a happy coincidence, I was able to do a trade for the ones I didn’t need, so I finally placed my order. As far as I can remember, I in no way identified myself or associated that order with this blog, which is what makes it even more amazing that after paying $9.50 plus shipping for a set of Utility Notebooks, I received a pack of A4 pads, a pack of small pads, a large wire-o bound Idea Book and a copy of Squares, Checks, and Grids (Communicating with Pattern), a book in which Doane Paper was featured, all as free extras! Now that’s a nice way to win some customer loyalty! And since I’m writing this review, they’re getting some publicity out of it too.
Here’s the front and back covers of the utility notebook. You notice right away that this is a very nicely made product. They just care about design and quality– everything is straight and sharp and tight, somehow.

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Look at the spine below– even the staples seem perfectly spaced.

Inside, the grid/line paper is carefully aligned with the edges, nothing askew.

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It’s very nice paper to write on– not quite as smooth as Clairefontaine paper, but it worked beautifully with all my rollerball pens. Show-through wasn’t too bad, though a few pens did bleed through a bit. I understand that an earlier run of these notebooks was made with heavier paper, which I’m kind of sorry I missed.

The grid+line concept is handy, but in using one of the larger Doane Paper pads to take notes in meetings at work, I found that the line spacing was a bit too big for me– I tend to write pretty small, and as you can see below, my natural line spacing doesn’t seem to quite jive with the Doane Paper lines. I might have preferred having a line to every 2 grid boxes instead of every 3.

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I also loved the Idea Book they threw in. It’s a nice size, and has very sturdy, thick cardboard covers, which overhang the edges of the paper a bit. This is pretty much the perfect large wirebound notebook, as far as I’m concerned, notwithstanding the line spacing issues I mentioned above, though I have to say it seems a wee bit pricey at $10.95.

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Again everything seems nice and square. It’s just a nice, simple notebook, just well-made.

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There is one sheet of plain paper inside the back cover.

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My only complaint about these notebooks is that the Doane branding seems very blatant, particularly on the Utility Notebooks– I don’t blame them for wanting to get their name out there, but I wish it was less conspicuous. I think I just feel a bit self-conscious carrying around a product that tells the world that I am a big geek who cares SO much about what I jot my notes in that I have to buy some obscure, high-concept product because regular old notebooks just aren’t good enough for me– I’m not saying this isn’t true, but I don’t want to advertise it that much!

But that said, I really love the quality of these products, and it’s nice to know you can support a small business who cares so much about doing what they do well, not to mention having fabulous customer service.

To order Doane Paper products, visit their online store page.

Utility Notebooks, 3.5 x 5.5″, $9.50 for a set of 3, available in black as shown or in traffic light colors.

Idea Journal, 8.375 x 10.875″, $10.95 each. Also available in 5.25 x 6.875″ size for $8.95.