Tag Archives: quality

Moleskine Monday: My Collection

I haven’t done many Moleskine Monday posts lately… and it’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my stash of spare Moleskines. For those who haven’t read other posts where I’ve talked about how I feel about the Moleskine brand, here’s an abbreviated version:

Late 1990s/early 2000’s— not too long after Modo e Modo introduces them, I start seeing Moleskines in stores, and receive a pocket Sketchbook as a gift. It re-awakens my slightly dormant notebook fetish and I start using them for occasional notes and drawings. But I’m not totally obsessed because I’m still really into Palm Pilots. During this period I think I once bought 2 sketchbooks while on a 3-week business trip, and it made me feel like a crazy hoarder.

Mid-late 2000’s— the softcover Moleskines are introduced and for some reason, I fall head over heels in love with the pocket size squared softcover. It’s the first notebook I’ve truly filled from cover to cover. I start this blog and allow myself to wallow in full-on notebook adoration. (Palm Pilots are over, the iPhone isn’t as exciting, and I turn back to notebooks to satisfy my life-long need to fondle something small and rectangular.) My love affair with the softcover fades, but I am using and buying lots of hardcover Moleskines and other similar notebooks such as Piccadilly, HandBook Artist Journal, and the many others I’ve written about here. The Moleskine brand has exploded. They’re everywhere. They’ve become a bit of a cliché, perhaps, but I still love them. I settle into a habit of simultaneously using a pocket squared or plain notebook for daily list-making and journaling, and a pocket sketchbook for drawing and watercolors. (My other routine notebook is a small Moleskine cahier or Field Notes that I use for my French class.) At some point during this period, they stop putting the Modo e Modo name on them, and start using only “Moleskine” in all their branding. They also change their US distributor from Kikkerland, who used to be mentioned on the packaging, to Chronicle, who is not. At this time, I maybe stockpile half a dozen Moleskines, a few Piccadillies, and a couple of HandBook Artist Journals.

Early 2010’s— Moleskine’s rapid growth seems to have led to declines in quality and changes in how they’re made. They are introducing new products at a dizzying pace and focusing more on bags and wallets than notebooks. There’s too much cover overhang, they’re less refined, the paper is thinner– they’re just not as nice. But there still isn’t any other brand that quite meets all my preferences for daily notebooks. When I buy Moleskines in a store, it’s only after inspecting them very carefully to see if they are good ones. Sometimes I find older stock from batches that were better made. I would guess that at this point, I might have hit about 20 unused Moleskines stashed for future use.

Mid- 2010’s— I can’t find good Moleskines in stores anymore.  I have to send in quality complaints about a couple of notebooks ordered online– the company sends replacements, but they aren’t much better. I’ve had it. In February 2014, I post Moleskine Monday: I May Never Buy a New Moleskine Again. But I also turn to the internet and start searching for older stock that still has the Modo e Modo name on it, and once in a while, I hit the jackpot, especially on eBay. I quickly realize that I can only buy Moleskines if I see a photo of the actual notebook, not a standard product shot which may be out of date. Whenever I see the older-looking belly-bands (someday I’ll do a post on how their design has evolved over the years), I snap them up if I can get them for a less-than-outrageous price. I start building up my stash of spares, which by August 2014 includes 37 assorted Moleskines that I would potentially use as everyday notebooks/sketchbooks. After a while, it’s grown quite large and I start trying to track my inventory in a spreadsheet, but I don’t do a great job keeping it up to date. Last time I updated the spreadsheet, the total count was 132. I decide to cut back a bit on my eBay browsing, as I’m running out of room to store all my notebooks!

Now— below are some photos of my stash, which is stored in shoe boxes, some under-bed plastic boxes, and in piles on shelves. Whenever I look at some of the really nice old ones with their perfect corners, I get all pissed off all over again, knowing that somebody once figured out how to make the perfect notebook and then they turned it into crap!

 

I also had a whole drawer-full in my office, until I started working from home. I’m counting just my actual Moleskine branded notebooks for the purposes of today’s post, though I also have a bunch of similar non-Moleskine notebooks earmarked for potential daily usage someday (as opposed to things that are fun to have in my collection, but not planned to be used). Here’s the count:

56 pocket sketchbooks. (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

55 pocket squared (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

12 pocket plain

30 pocket ruled (I normally don’t like ruled notebooks but on a couple of occasions I bought large lots of mixed paper styles. Since they are old ones with good paper and good overall quality, I’m willing to use one occasionally just to stretch out the lifespan of my inventory.)

Other pocket size: 1 storyboard, 1 music, 1 info book, 1 plain softcover, 1 address, 2 Japanese album, 2 ruled reporter, 1 squared reporter

Large size: 1 Voyageur, 1 large sketchbook, 1 large squared

I have not counted any “cahier” or Volant thin notebooks, as I have a few of those mixed in with various Field Notes and other similar stapled or stitched-spine notebooks. But the quantity is very small, just a few I’ve been given.

A few of the sketchbook, squared and plain ones are more recent models that I will use as a last resort. The info book is all crooked and defective, and I’m not quite sure why I’m even keeping it. But the count ends up at over 166 Moleskines, over 150 of which I am likely to potentially use on a day to day basis. (I haven’t counted the sketchbook and squared notebooks I am using now, or any of the dozens I’ve already filled.)

So… I know I’m a little crazy. My partner, who has to live with notebooks constantly arriving in the mail and taking up way too much of our limited space, definitely thinks I’m a little crazy (but also knows there are far worse vices). But the question remains, is it enough? 56 sketchbooks divided by 3 a year is a little less than 19 years, and I’ll only be about 67 years old at that point. The squared ones, if extended with the plain and ruled notebooks, will last up to 32 years, when I’ll be 81. I can probably ease off buying any more of those (unless I spot any really good cheap ones!) but I think I’m allowed to buy some more sketchbooks. Yay!

 

Moleskine Monday: Voyageur Notebook Review

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The Moleskine Voyageur notebook was introduced last summer, and so far remains a unique outlier in their product line. It’s an odd size, in between the classic pocket and large notebooks. It has a brown cloth-bound cover. It has a fancy die-cut paper wrapper with a travel-themed collage element. It has colored endpapers. I guess you could say it’s a departure from the norm (pun intended).

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There are other aspects of it that seem like an offshoot of their City Notebook series, which makes sense, given the travel theme. (The City Notebook line has been scaled way back to only the biggest destinations. It’s a shame, but understandable, as they must have been very expensive to produce in the first place, let alone trying to update transit maps as needed. But I love them nonetheless.) There are 3 different-colored ribbon markers, and a section with useful travel info. This part is similar to what is found in many diaries by Moleskine and other brands– dialing codes, time zone map, places to write extensive personal details including loyalty card numbers, etc. There are pages titled “Places to Go” and “Places I’ve Been,” as well as one meant for stamps, and at the end there are perforated packing list and to-do list pages. There is also an index, and a sheet of stickers. In between are numbered pages in 3 sections– lined, dot grid, and plain.

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Some of the elements of this notebook sound very similar to the Travel Journal in the Passions series. I haven’t looked closely enough at one of those to really compare it to the Voyageur, but it does make me wonder why they decided to create this other product which would seem to target the same niche. Perhaps the Passions format was seen as being a little too structured, and the Voyageur was aiming at a better balance of pre-formatted vs. blank pages.

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And yet… there are a LOT of instructions to this notebook. Before you even open it, you’re being instructed to use the paper wrapper in your travel photos to say “I Am Here,” and hashtag them to connect to “the Moleskine community.” (What does that even mean anymore? It’s like trying to connect to “the Diet Coke community” or “the Nike community.”) Then there’s a whole how-to page telling you to download things and paste them in your notebook, share your travel details in a Flickr group, and turn your snapshots into a Moleskine photo book. It’s a shame so much of this is printed on pages in the notebook itself rather than in a removable booklet.

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The overall impression is that there’s a lot of elaborate fuss over how to use this “traveler’s notebook for the digital age,” and it’s rather a shame, because A) utter simplicity and blank-slate-ness is what made Moleskine’s notebooks iconic in the first place, and B) when you get past all the fussy stuff, I think it’s actually the best notebook Moleskine has made in years, at least in terms of its construction. The brown cloth cover is lovely. The notebook is beautifully made, with a tolerable degree of cover overhang, everything even and square, and very neatly tucked corners. It’s as if they brought their quality control team out of hibernation for this product. Some of the features, such as numbered pages and an index, have been on Moleskine fans’ wishlists for years, and have driven them to switch to Leuchtturm to get them. I love the extra ribbon markers and the colors they chose for them. I even like the size– it’s not one that I tend to use a lot, but at 4.5 x 7″, it is the same proportion as the pocket notebooks in 3.5 x 5.5″, and that ratio always seems to appeal to me. I like having the sections with different paper types, and how they used different color inks for the page numbers, dots, and lines. The colored tabs along the edges might encroach a bit too much on the page space for some people, but as a design element they are attractive and I like the idea of putting a subject header or date in them, though some inks may bead up on the tabs.

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Moleskine paper is the major thing that has driven many fans away, and the Voyageur is no different in that respect– lots of show-through, and bleed-through with quite a few pens. Fine point gel ink pens are ok, though, and fortunately those are what I use day to day. I did a side-by-side paper comparison with one of my old Modo Moleskines– bleed-through performance wasn’t great in that one either, but you can see how much better it was on show-through. The only test where the Voyageur out-performed the older paper was the 5-second stay-in-one-spot test with the Accu-Liner, which spread out more in the Modo notebook.

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I bought my Voyageur online— I was intrigued by the description of the features when I first heard about it, but I had my misgivings. It had already been a while since I bought any current-production Moleskines due to the quality issues, though I still snag old Modo & Modo ones from time to time if I come across them. Fortunately, the quality of the Voyageur was a pleasant surprise when it arrived. It has that hard to define “wantability” that would have drawn me to it on a store shelf, and “wantability” is exactly what the rest of Moleskine’s products have been lacking for me the past few years. I don’t know how or when I’ll use this notebook, but I do want to find a way to use it. But just out of orneriness and dislike of redundant instructions, I probably won’t use the Voyageur for anything related to travel!  #m_iamnotthere

Review: Metro Notebook

I bought the Metro notebook about a year ago, at artsupply.com. I think I had just stumbled across it while browsing around and searching for notebooks, and I was intrigued because it looked like a standard little Moleskine-clone and the price was really low, only $2.48 (plus shipping). They are no longer available on that site, and I haven’t seen them anywhere else. Before you get all frustrated thinking there’s a nice cheap notebook out there and I can’t tell you where to buy it, let me just say it’s no great loss! The Metro notebook wins the prize for being the WORST NOTEBOOK I’VE EVER REVIEWED ON THIS SITE! (So far, anyway…)

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Pretty harsh, huh? I’ve reviewed notebooks that had a few quality issues. And I’ve reviewed many notebooks that weren’t really my cup of tea, but I could at least appreciate things about them that other people might like. But this notebook should have been exactly the type of notebook I love, except that it failed miserably in pretty much every respect. Let’s dive in and explore the atrocity!

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As I said, it’s a standard made-in-China Moleskine-clone: pocket sized, black cover, elastic, ribbon marker, and expanding back pocket. Pretty much the same size as the pocket Moleskine shown next to it for comparison, just slightly shorter. There’s no branding inside, and the Metro name is stamped on the back cover in metallic ink.

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The minute you pick it up, you start to notice the crappiness– the cover material has a shiny, cheap feel to it and shows some wrinkles and dings. The printed-on logo is already wearing off. The cover overhang is all over the place– completely cock-eyed with the pages sticking out slightly at the bottom on one side and the cover sticking way out on the top on one side.

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The corners are not exactly rounded, as they’ve just folded them with one little tuck that leaves them kind of angled. When you open to the inside front cover, you can see glue stains along the edges (they are hard to see in these photos, but very noticeable in person), and the glue is coming loose.

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The notebook does not open very flat as it does not have sewn signatures– it is perfect-bound, with the pages cut and glued together at the spine.

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The pages are a yellowish creamy color– to me it looked like the kind of yellowing that can come from acid aging the paper, so I was surprised to see my pH test show that the paper was acid-free. The paper is a bit less smooth than a Moleskine, and perhaps a bit thinner (no weight is specified). The pens I tested worked fine for the most part, with a bit of feathering from the Accu-Liner, and some spread when I held it in place for 5 seconds. But showthrough and bleedthrough were worse than usual.

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The paper in this notebook is not great, but it shines in comparison to the shoddy construction around it. I suppose it’s somewhat to be expected for a notebook that was so low-priced, but I was still kind of amazed at just how bad it was! I would be interested to know if any readers have bought one of these with better results. As a notebook enthusiast and addict, I can usually find something to like or appreciate about almost any notebook, but the Metro really has no redeeming qualities! I feel like I have to keep it in my collection just for comparative purposes, but I’ll have to bury it somewhere I won’t come across it often. If you love notebooks the way I do, you know what a pleasure it can be just to fondle a really nice one– the opposite is true as well! It’s almost painful for me to look at and touch this deeply disappointing, badly made notebook.

Verdict: Do not waste $2.48 or even a penny on the heinous, awful Metro notebook!!

Review & Giveaway: Brügge Notebooks

Here’s a new brand of notebooks from Buenos Aires, Argentina: Libretas Brügge. The owner of the company was kind enough to send me 3 samples to review.

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Brügge’s notebooks offer pretty much all the standard features: a hard cover, removable paper band with branding, elastic closure, ribbon marker, and back pocket. They come in pocket and medium sizes, a variety of colors, and side- and top-opening styles. (Other styles are also displayed on their website.) Shown below with a pocket size Moleskine for comparison:

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Inside the front cover, you have the brand name, and lines to write your contact details. In the back, the company’s web address, and an all-paper pocket– no cloth reinforcement on the expanding sides. The spine is flexible enough to open nice and flat. The elastic closure has just the right amount of tension– not too tight, not too loose, so you can tuck it around the back cover to get it out of the way.

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Here’s my major disappointment with these notebooks: the cover overhang is really pronounced, and it’s not symmetrical. In each of the samples I received, the book block is not centered on the cover. In the orange one I test-drove, it sticks out much more on the top than on the bottom, and the side edge of the front cover sticks out much more than the back cover.

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If the front cover had been even with the back, I think there would have been a lot of extra room in the spine– it’s almost as though the book block should have been thicker for this cover, but they chose a lighter paper. There’s also some extra glue in the spine that makes the orange cover stick to the spine of the pages. In general, the quality of construction on these is a bit behind other similar brands, all made in China as these are. (If I had to guess, I would say they are making these notebooks in the same factory as Piccadilly uses, or used to use a few years ago, at least, because some of the materials seem quite similar, and also because one of Brügge’s other products is a notebook identical to the Piccadilly Primo I reviewed several years ago. They also offer a softcover notebook, and if that’s anything like the Piccadilly softcover I reviewed, I’d be excited to try one, since they offer plain and squared page versions.)

Inside, the notebook has creamy white paper. It feels quite pleasant to write on, fairly smooth but with a very slight tooth to it. It feels great with fine point gel ink pens and pencils but started to seem a wee bit feathery with wetter pens. It’s pretty thin, though– showthrough and bleed-through were worse than average.

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So unfortunately, I can’t give these a glowing review due to the quality issues. These seem to be sold only in Argentina, where at least one online retailer has them priced at 73 Argentine pesos, which is about $9.26 in US dollars right now. If these were sold at much lower retail prices, I could overlook some of the quality concerns… but I know Argentina is in a tough economic situation right now, so perhaps lower pricing would be impossible.

But I’m still very pleased to have had a chance to try these, and to add a new country to my notebook collection. And you can take a chance at adding one to your collection too, by entering the giveaway!

I’ll be giving one notebook each to two lucky winners randomly selected from entries received in any of the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Brügge,” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @libretasbrugge.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Libretas Brügge page, and post something containing the words “Brügge” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Brügge” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday March 7, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.

 

 

 

 

Moleskine Monday: I May Never Buy a New Moleskine Again

I am really quite depressed. I keep poking around in stores, looking at their stock of Moleskines to see if anything’s changed with how they’re making them. At one point several months ago, I’d had a glimmer of optimism that maybe there had just been a blip in their manufacturing rather than an overall decline in quality, but at this point, I no longer think so. I occasionally find an older, slightly dusty Moleskine on the shelf and when I do, I buy it and am so happy to have added to my stash. But I can’t bring myself to buy any of the new ones any more. They’ve obviously made a decision to down-spec their hardcover notebooks and it really shows. The edges are often uneven, the corners stick out, there are big gaps between the cover and spine, and the outer covering isn’t neatly and tightly tucked around the corners of the cover. Sometimes they aren’t quite square, as if they were pushed askew during the binding process. They just feel cheap. They are pretty much indistinguishable now from the Piccadilly notebooks I bought a few years ago for a fraction of the cost. It’s not that the newer Moleskines are always totally unusable, and I’ve found the company to be good about sending a replacement when you complain about a significant defect (though sometimes the replacement is just as bad)… but the problem for me is that they no longer distinguish themselves from other brands in the subtle little ways that they used to. And if they don’t, why should I buy them?

I fell in love with Moleskines because of the thick, smooth paper in the sketchbooks, which no other brand used to have. Even now, I think the Pen & Ink Sketchbook is the only one quite like it. Then I started using the squared paper a lot, which is at least easier to find in other brands. Other Moleskine features aren’t that uncommon now– lots of brands offer ribbon markers, elastic closures, back pockets, etc. For me, the main thing is the corners and the way the spine is bound. Moleskines used to feel more refined, somehow. Just that little extra bit of care in making it a precisely trimmed-off, clean-edged package that didn’t tear at the spine. No one else quite did that, and that was why I’ve always continued to use mostly Moleskines instead of the many other notebooks that were almost as good– regardless of price, regardless of misleading marketing, regardless of the paper not being top-notch, regardless of whether people would think I was a just a trend-follower after they became so popular. I don’t even care if they’re made in China– they always were anyway. I could ignore all that if the notebook felt well-made and looked nice, with those clean, tight edges and corners. Yes, I’m being nit-picky, but these little nit-picky things are the only reason to choose one brand over another– if all I wanted was any old random thing to write in, I’d buy a 99 cent notepad at the supermarket. And if Moleskine hadn’t spoiled me with their former quality, I wouldn’t be complaining that things had changed. What’s frustrating is that the people at Moleskine obviously appreciated these distinctions at one time, and designed their notebooks very specifically around them. Now, they have made a calculated decision that these higher standards aren’t worth the cost. I wonder if the original founders of the company feel just as disheartened as I do, knowing that their brand is slapped on products they would have rejected back in the early days.

I do have other options, even if I haven’t yet found one that suits my personal preferences better than the Moleskines of yore. There are many great notebooks out there, and I hope I will discover many more over the next few years while I exhaust my hoarded stock of old Moleskines.  If Moleskine doesn’t maintain an edge in terms of quality and I have to settle for something slightly less than perfect, then I might just use Piccadilly, or the Pentalic Illustrators Sketchbook, or the Pen & Ink Sketchbook, each of which is almost exactly the same, and cheaper. Piccadilly can have some quality issues, and Pen & Ink’s squared notebooks have darker grid lines than I prefer. I’m actually pretty excited to try the latest iteration of the Pentalic Illustrator’s Sketchbook as they seem to have upgraded their paper from the one I first reviewed, (though it’s still not as thick as the Moleskine Sketchbook paper) and it will be interesting to see how it stands up to everyday use. Though their paper is nice, I don’t like the way Rhodia’s Webnotebooks are constructed (and they tend to be pricey), and while Leuchtturm comes pretty close to my ideal in terms of construction, I hate their taller 90 x 150 cm format. HandBook Artist Journals are great and I’ll continue to use them a lot for sketching, but the paper is not what I want for a daily notebook/journal. There are some other promising brands, but they’re harder to find on store shelves or online, at least in the US. And none of them has quite nailed the exact combination of qualities I’m looking for, because if they did, I’d order them in quantity from wherever, as I now wish I’d done several years ago with Moleskine.

So, ironically, for me, it’s just like the Bruce Chatwin story Moleskine made part of their mythology. He thought those nice little Parisian notebooks would always be available, and when it seemed that they might not be, he tried to buy 100 so he’d never run out. But it was already too late– they told him le vrai moleskine n’est plus, because that little family-owned stationery company had gone out of business. Now there may be a giant multi-national lifestyle company churning out a variety of notebooks and other products that are available wherever gifts and office supplies are sold, but le vrai Moleskine® n’est plus.

Moleskine Monday: Reviewing My Latest

It’s been a while since I actually reviewed a Moleskine notebook, and with all the concerns about quality going downhill, I thought it might be a good time to look at one I am currently using, a plain pocket size notebook (with regular paper, not sketchbook weight) which was purchased in recent months.

This is the notebook I posted about recently to call attention to the smaller page size and larger cover overhang. Since then I have been using it as my daily notebook. I continue to find the extra overhang at the corners annoying. The other issue I’ve noticed is that the corners seem to be fraying more than on other Moleskines I’ve used. The corners at the spine have really not held up well. This has happened to a few other notebooks I’ve used, mostly ones bought in recent years. I’ve only been using this notebook for two months, and have only gone through about half the pages, so the deterioration seems to be happening faster than usual. I definitely have older Moleskines that were used over 6 or 8 months without ever showing this kind of wear.

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One of the outside corners is also wearing down– the black wrapping has rubbed away to expose the white board underneath. I wonder if they’ve changed the material they use on the outside– I noticed this one feels a little waxier than others I’ve owned.

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I also did all my usual pen tests. The paper still feels great to write on. The smooth surface is really nice with fine point pens. I was also surprised to see how well it worked with my fountain pens, with no feathering or bleed-through at all. But it’s the other side of the page that shows the problem– pretty bad show-through and lots of bleed-through with some other pens, worse than any other notebook I’ve tested in a while.

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It’s really disappointing to see Moleskine’s quality slipping in all these little ways. When I was using some of my Piccadilly notebooks, I barely noticed similar issues because the $3.99 price point lowered my expectations. But for a $12 notebook, from a brand that has at least somewhat built itself on quality, I would expect better. Given that the Moleskine company has grown bigger and now seems to be caught up in private equity transactions and going public on the stock market, I can’t say I’m optimistic that things will improve– I’m sure they’ll be cutting more corners to squeeze out more profit.

Moleskine Monday: A Comparison and Complaint!

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.

Moleskine Monday: Quality Control Responsiveness

Have you ever had to take advantage of Moleskine’s warranty? Here’s someone who tried to but didn’t have a great experience:

[In every Moleskine, there] is always a little promo sheet that includes their warranty. Basically, it says if there is “a defect of any kind” (quote from the sheet), just send them a digital photo and “Quality Control #” and they will replace it. So when the binding on one I am currently carrying broke apart, that’s what I did. And got no reply. So, wrote again, and sent another photo.

That was 6 months ago. [As of July 2011]

Still waiting for a reply…

I’ve only had to contact Moleskine about a quality issue once, when I bought a squared notebook with very dark lines. (See here and here.) Within a couple of days they’d replied to say that this was not a defect but rather a design choice. It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, but turnaround time was very good. Has anyone else had good or bad experiences to report about how their customer service people handle complaints?

Read more at Moleskine Notebook “Warranty”???. (FYI, this is from the “Blade Forums,” which some corporate networks may block because it’s “weapons-related.”)

Moleskine Monday: Hello, Goodbye

Here’s a nice detailed look at one user’s switch from Moleskine to Leuchtturm: Hello Leuchtturm1917, goodbye Moleskine!.

The blogger at Recording Thoughts has been using squared Moleskines for a while but started to find the quality inconsistent:

Ever since Moleskine moved their production to China every book is a little different than the previous one. The cover feels different, or the binding is tight, or it smells funny, or something.

His main complaints were that the graph paper lines had become darker and thicker, and aren’t as precisely aligned as they used to be:

I have to agree with him on the darkness of the graph lines– Moleskine squared notebooks have always been one of my favorites and I’ve used many of them over the years without ever having such dark lines as in the one I just opened most recently. It really is distracting.

Of course, Moleskine’s production has always been in China… but they definitely seem to be having some trouble finding factories with the capacity to higher volumes of notebooks at the quality people have come to expect.

Why Ming Stopped Using a Moleskine

I bookmarked these posts ages ago: Why I stopped using a moleskine (part 1) and (part 2).
I’m always fascinated by the different ways the Moleskine brand has imprinted itself on people, and the passion it can inspire. And as with all great passions, when the love affair ends, equally strong feelings are experienced.

Ming recalls his first Moleskine, given to him by his mother and used while traveling:

I was sold. And by the end of my 3 week trip to England my new found friend and I would have shared so much.

You know how you get when you just come back from a place, every time some one talks to you, becomes an invitation to repeat some exagerated story about how your trip went! Well you are not alone, for months I went on and on about my trip with my dear hard covered travel buddy.

In those months and a few months beyond that I must have forced hundreds of people to buy moleskines of their own, I believed in my Italian friend.

Ming’s Moleskine “had become part of my identity, and psyche. It was more than a notebook, it was a testament to my creativity, a fashion statement, a mark of quality.

The reason so many people stop sketching or taking notes would often be the inability to find a suitable replacement. Notebooks go out of fashion, or out of stock. but moleskines could be found in their shiny shrink wrap anywhere in the world.

Now I knew that no matter what the little leaflet in the back says, that the moleskine’s artificial legacy was manufactured. Yet I was happy to play a long.

Ming’s disillusionment comes when the cover of a softcover Moleskine tears away from the spine, and he decides he can’t rely on their quality. He also sees them as having become too ubiquitous, and losing their air of exclusivity– they no longer have that elusive appeal that’s not obvious to the uninitiated. “A Moleskine diary for everyone. For everyone?” he asks. “Since when was exclusivity for everyone?”

I guess that’s the fine line many exclusive brands have to be wary of– how do you give your fans the feeling of being in an exclusive club while trying to open that club to as many people as possible? If you’re not careful, the magic can suddenly disappear, as it did for Ming. As of the writing of those posts, he’d switched to Muji notebooks and an iPhone.