What's the hype around Moleskine
February 16, 2005 9:44 PM   Subscribe

Moleskine -- why the fuss?

It's just a notebook. The heritage? (Hemingway & etc.)
The accessories?
posted by Rash to Grab Bag (56 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Until recently, I assumed these products were
made with actual mole skins but I just
noticed that extra "e"
posted by Rash at 9:46 PM on February 16, 2005

I use mine as a wallet (the smaller lined ones). It's slim. I don't carry cash and it fits my debit card, my id and my health club card, plus I can use it as a ledger, and jot down ideas when I have them.

They last longer than normal memo pads, and they look sleek.
posted by drezdn at 9:49 PM on February 16, 2005

This is my belief. In our modern, hyperactive, distracted-by-the-flashing-lights society, a whole bunch of people have suddenly discovered that sometimes simplicity is best. They've reached the realization, in this case, that sometimes a notebook is more practical and enjoyable than a PDA. But, still having lots of disposable income, they choose to buy the most prestigious, expensive notebook available.
posted by Jimbob at 9:50 PM on February 16, 2005

What Jimbob said. In simpler terms: snobbery.
posted by xmutex at 10:01 PM on February 16, 2005

Actually I take that back. It's late, and I've been drinking.

The things are built really well and hold up. Which is exactly what you need when you are roaming Paris, drinking and whoring, writing the poetry of the ages.

They are also easier to write in as they -- well, they fold open and lay flat in a better way than other notebooks. I don't know how else to put that.

But this comment just applies to the notebooks.

Now I'm off to drink, whore, and write the poetry of the ages.
posted by xmutex at 10:07 PM on February 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

Because that elastic makes such a satisfying SNAP!
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:20 PM on February 16, 2005

It's the pocket. And the bookmark ribbon.

And the variety--sketchbooks, euro-style grid lines, accordion-folded cardstock, there's one with all pockets, an address book, a travel diary divided into sections to note restaurants, lodgings, sights you saw...and there are big and little versions.

We live by them.
posted by padraigin at 10:24 PM on February 16, 2005

Moleskine -- why the fuss?

As a (somewhat reluctant, due the hype) Skine fan, I'll say this: The ribbon, the pocket, and the fact that you can get one that is so damn handy for ~$8. Sold.

The hype is the hype, and normally I hate it, but the questionable premium that you pay for Moleskines, which is, maybe, a buck or two at best, is definitely worth it. YMMV, of course.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:42 PM on February 16, 2005

I just asked Merlin of 43folders this exact question last week. He said it would be the best notebook I've ever had and that I'd find it more useful than I would think. I just got one in the mail and my first impression was that I was underwhelmed. I thought it'd be even nicer, but in the days I've had it, it has proven useful and I'm starting to use it during meetings instead of a laptop.
posted by mathowie at 11:14 PM on February 16, 2005

Because I can't afford to replace a PDA should I lose it.

I bought some moleskines in bulk and I like the bookishness of them. Plus they fit snugly into a pocket; notebooks I've used previously have been too large, ring-bound (bleurgh, ribbed for your discomfort) or just badly made. I did manage to collar some police-style flip-top notebooks once, which look cool and people comment on them when you use them.

Another plus is, if you've got one on you, you've got two of the most frequently asked for things. A pen/pencil and a piece of paper. The only thing you need then is a lighter. Oh, and your wallet and keys.
posted by Navek Rednam at 11:22 PM on February 16, 2005

At first I thought moleskine's were for hypey hipsters but, when I needed a small pocket notebook to keep track of all the crap going on in my life-in-a-startup, I decided to give it a shot.

I love it. It takes tons of abuse, looks slick, folds flat and helps me organize my day and thoughts. And no spiral wire to stab me in the butt when it's in my rear pocket.

This thing comes with me everywhere and is especially handy when I don't have the laptop with me. Get it and a comfortable pen or mechanical pencil. Really. I regret waiting so long.
posted by Tacodog at 11:42 PM on February 16, 2005

Opens flat, the pocket, the elastic, the blackness, fits in pocket. It's a well-designed notepad. Paper and handwriting is a remarkably useful technology.

I'm getting nervous because I've almost filled mine. I'm on my second pocket squared notebook over a period of two years. I need a new one, and I'm worried there won't be any in the stores. I may finally be at the bulk-buying and hoarding stage.
posted by Turtle at 11:45 PM on February 16, 2005

See Jimbob.

People are buying this:
For two centuries now Moleskine (mol-a-skeen'-a) has been the legendary notebook of artists, writers, intellectuals and travelers. From gifted artists Henri Matisse (1869–1954) and Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), to poet and leader of the surrealist movement André Breton (1896-1966) to Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) considered the most influential writer of the last century, to famous travel writer Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989).
But you can buy expensive Nikes and never be anything like Mike.
posted by pracowity at 12:14 AM on February 17, 2005

Something not mentioned....the paper is always excellent quality in them as well...which is nice to write on...

I couldn't live without mine...never more than 2 feet from my hand when I am at my day job...
posted by mattr at 12:43 AM on February 17, 2005

pracowity, I bet that for most people that's not the whole story. It's true that I found the Bruce Chatwin etc. blurb, first read in a museum store, rather appealing. And why not try out the tool professionals used? But anyway the notebook has proven itself in daily use over the years. My Moleskine habit costs me a dollar a month. Please indicate a cheaper alternative that has all the above-mentioned features (no dead artist references necessary), and I'll be happy to buy it. Also, how much does people's [insert favorite gadget: PDA, phone, shoe, pen, glasses, etc.] habit cost? I think this is a pretty good deal.
posted by Turtle at 1:03 AM on February 17, 2005

It's pronounced "mol-a-skeen'-a"? Wow, more pretentious than I thought.
posted by grouse at 1:52 AM on February 17, 2005

It is pronounced "mole-a-skeen"-a" if your Italian and/or pretentious, but if you say 'mole-skin' the person at the stationary store will know what you mean. It has all been said above, but they are incredibly well made and sturdy. The paper is very high quality. The elastic band keeps it nice and neat. I keep a spare twenty in the accordion pocket. The bookmark makes sure that I'm on the right day (I have the calendar). It lies flat. Its inky blackness is mysteriously compelling.
posted by fixedgear at 2:02 AM on February 17, 2005

I always figured it was pronounced "mol-skIn" like it's spelled. But what do I know?
posted by grouse at 2:14 AM on February 17, 2005

And why not try out the tool professionals used?

For starters, it appears to be debatable whether these people used mol-a-skeen-as. They had notebooks something like them. So did lots of other people. Idiots who wrote like crap had notebooks like that. And most great writers and artists did not, of course, use Moleskins, and somehow they managed to write great things. The company had to really scrape to come up with a short and dubious list.

So, yes, it's down to "features" (as if we were talking about a complicated machine). The feature I want in a notebook is paper, and I've had pretty good luck finding such notebooks. I don't care what they look like, because writing isn't a fashion statement, so the added expense of the faux leather is out. I don't want acid-free paper, because I write notes and drafts in them but I finish on a computer. I wish my notebooks would decay. I want paper with extra acid. I don't want a little bookmark or a little pocket. For that price ($8? $10?), I could buy a good notebook and a lot of other things.

Are there cheap Moleskin knockoffs on the market? Would you buy one if it had a purple cover that said "Cheap Moleskin Knockoff" in large type?
posted by pracowity at 2:15 AM on February 17, 2005

Can't afford a PDA + don't like to learn their way to write (but PalmaSutra nearly got me).
Had ideas in the street and used to forget them by the time I got home. I only call myself for musical ideas, now.
Need to relearn how to handwrite (sad, yeah)
Sturdy + lightweight + fits in any pocket.
posted by XiBe at 2:35 AM on February 17, 2005

When I was first year in NYC art school there was suddenly a big hubbub about moleskins going out of business/stopped being produced and would soon run out... A mass of students rushed to the art shops on lunch hour and after school buying up the very last moleskins everywhere. Including me, who had never even heard of these things before. For a few weeks there were no moleskins... But then, they were back.

Now that I use my artsy fartsy education in advertising, I know I fell for one of the oldest hype tricks in the book. I'm a sucker.

I have one now, I like the pocket and the smoothness. I use other notebooks too but the pocket thing is clever.
posted by dabitch at 2:38 AM on February 17, 2005

If it was a fashion thing we'd all be carrying Roma Lussa Journals around with us. I guarantee you will fall in love if you ever get your hands on one.
posted by Navek Rednam at 4:19 AM on February 17, 2005

what pracowity and jimbob said. I'm sure they're nice notebooks, but I think it's equally relevant that most of our desires and purchasing priorities are molded by a cultural context of self-indulgent plentitude and personal expression through choice of accessories.
posted by introcosm at 4:20 AM on February 17, 2005

I bought a moleskein because I wanted to keep a journal, so I needed the elastic strap to give at least the illusion of privacy. From a brief internet search, the moleskein was the cheapest journal I found that had what I was looking for. Given the alternatives of glitzy 'locking' diaries for seven-year-olds and £50 tooled-leather masterpieces, the moleskein was a pretty attractive option.
posted by talitha_kumi at 4:39 AM on February 17, 2005

glitzy 'locking' diaries for seven-year-olds

That would be the coolest thing to take to business meetings. Just unlock your My Little Pony diary, find your spot (probably marked by a pony's tail or something), and start writing with your sparkly pen. And there's a 1.5-inch x 2-inch My Little Pony key chain mini-notepad! Why didn't Moleskine think of that?
posted by pracowity at 4:52 AM on February 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

The phrase "paté poverty" comes to mind...
posted by gimonca at 5:43 AM on February 17, 2005

I suppose the better your handwriting is, the more you'll appreciate such archane contrivances. Like fans of fountain pens.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:52 AM on February 17, 2005

Fits well in the pocket, durable, folds flat, snaps shut, page marker, pocket for business cards and other stuff, good paper doesn't let the ink bleed through. A quality product for what I think is a reasonable price; one lasts me about six months and then I buy another. I don't care about it's history. I'm not a poet; I'm a roboticist and I use it to jot down notes, ideas, phone numbers, and directions, to draw things I can't explain as well verbally, to do quick calculations when I don't have or need a computer. I get the grid-ruled kind. Hype or no hype, I'll keep buying it until someone makes one better...
posted by tss at 6:55 AM on February 17, 2005

I'm a total gadget hound, and I have horrible handwriting, but I love my Moleskine. The quality and durability are very, very good- it'll never warp or crease, and the paper is soooo smooth to write on. And for people with sweaty palms like me, it's nice to have a notebook whose cover won't fade.

Though pracowity's MLP idea is sounding pretty excellent...
posted by mkultra at 6:56 AM on February 17, 2005

I am a Moleskine convert, though I usually need larger notebooks to do real, high-volume writing in. But I love the portability and light weight of these, especially now that being out in the world requires me to lug a big full diaper bag around.

I'm also partial to the Clairefontaine cloth-bound notebook. This is all I would write in when I lived in France and Germany. More expensive and harder to find here, alas. And more colorful than Moleskine, if you like that kind of thing.
posted by melixxa600 at 7:50 AM on February 17, 2005

For me, the biggest part of the appeal is the durability (especially after reinforcing 'em with book tape). Most notebooks do not stand up to being shoved in and out of pockets a hundred times a day.

The hipster branding I could frankly do without, though were it not for that branding I might not know the notebooks exist. (Incidentally, I'm pretty sure I first heard about Moleskine notebooks via Metafilter.)
posted by box at 7:53 AM on February 17, 2005

Moleskines are cool, but I am a heavy, heavy user of pocket notebooks, and at $8-10 a throw a Moleskine habit would tax me considerably.

My solution? The Reporter's Notebook. Perfect form factor (a half-width steno pad) that fits easily in pocket or backpack; sturdy; cheap as all hell (about $1.25 each when bought by the dozen.)

Recycled paper, for Green Cred, to boot.
posted by enrevanche at 7:58 AM on February 17, 2005

I suppose it must be cool to be able to see through on the Moleskine hype but for anybody who just wants a good notebook it's the way to go. I go through individual notebooks like crack and I've tried every notebook on the market. I settled on the Moleskine for three reasons: (1) pages don't fall out. This is the most important thing ever ever ever. (2) it's easy to write on both sides of a page whether you're 1 page in or 60 pages in. (3) writing doesn't smudge.
posted by nixerman at 8:17 AM on February 17, 2005

Here is a previous MeFi discussion on Moleskines from a while back that has similar points to browse. I think that one of the things I like best about them is that they are sturdy, but slim.

Other sturdy notebooks seem to be too bulky and other slim notebooks seem to be too flimsy.
posted by jonah at 8:33 AM on February 17, 2005

Less than two years ago an agency fellow laughed at me for my (moleskine) notebook and asked me why I didn't have a PDA. Lately I've heard more chatter about them and to be honest I didn't know they were that popular. The first one I bought was in a paper specialty shop in the notebook section, it looked like it would fit in my pocket so I bought it. I liked the strap, the little leaf pocket, and the placemark so when I filled the first one up I bought another, and another. They have held up better than the notebooks I used to buy at the Pearl River Mart better and I appreciated that as well. Still, it's just a notebook.
posted by safetyfork at 8:36 AM on February 17, 2005

I take a Moleskine on trips. Not a'whorin' in Paris, usually, but on vaguely similar adventures. For day-to-day, I keep a Farm Notes pad in my front pocket with a stubby ball-point I once found at Target (pronounced "Tar-jhay"). Farm Notes are 2x2 inch, cheap pads made from recycled paper, and they have a farm animal on the front (currently I have a rooster; my last one was a duck). They disintegrate over time, but they're good for daily to-do lists, and the little boutique store where I get them charges a buck each.
posted by booth at 8:45 AM on February 17, 2005

I would totally buy pracowity's Cheap Moleskine Knockoff. If it had good paper and held up well, I'd be thrilled. If it had shitty paper and fell apart, I'd swipe the label and put it on my real moleskine. Either way, I could have a good notebook and bitch about all the moleskine-weilding hipsters.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:58 AM on February 17, 2005

I know hipsters are annoying, but you can't really use them as a gauge for the value of a product. If you decide *not* to buy something because it might lump you in with the annoying hipsters, aren't you still using 'them' to define yourself? Forget those hipsters.

Moleskines are expensive, but worth it if you like to write things down for the reasons posted in the above comments. I'm a writer, but I don't do much creative writing in them (I use a computer or cheap big notebooks for that) but they are great for notes, lists, phone numbers, directions, etc and where I would either forget to carry or destroy other notebooks, I always remember to take this one because it can be stuck in back pocket without fear that it will snag or tear apart. If you don't need one, that's fine too, but I find it to be pretty useful. Maybe not for everybody, but it's my 8 bucks.
posted by drobot at 9:12 AM on February 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Perfect - I was wondering this very thing myself. I don't want to be cynical about people buying them for status symbols - I am just as guilty as anyone about enjoying "luxury" items, and just because a particular notebook is a little pricier doesn't necessarily mean the price is not justified. The other extreme is just as bad also - my dad would scoff at the idea of buying a notebook like this when he can get "the same functionality" from a 99 cent comp book at Walgreens. Now, in this case there is actually additional value for you money, but even if there wasn't I would still have a problem with statements that imply that everything should be evaluated in terms of function and no consideration of quality - or even of a consumer's desire to own something a little nicer.

I still have a problem with people who associate with a brand just because of its "heritage," though.
posted by NinthWave at 9:26 AM on February 17, 2005

Everyone keeps saying "the lay flat," but nobody mentions the thing I hate about Moleskine notebooks: they don't fold over. Annoying. Because of this, they take up too much table real estate, they are difficult to write on if you are balancing them on a leg, and they are even more difficult to write on if you are holding them. I'll take a reporter's notebook over a Moleskine any day.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:45 AM on February 17, 2005

Everything positive that people say above, plus:

1. The first one I bought was a pocket notebook with music manuscript lines in it. I've wanted one like that for twenty-five years, so it was the fulfillment of an ambition.

2. On a recent jaunt to Italy, there was a woman who, it turned out in conversation, was as much of a stationery fetishist as I. She had the small squared Moleskine, I the larger one, also with squared pages (I prefer these to lines, for some reason). To cut a long story short, we got it as together as was possible under those straitened circumstances (up the Alps, in winter, in a village of scout huts, with between twenty and thirty other people around and a lot of stuff to do so not very together) and plan to get it more fully together in the near future.

She said what attracted me to her was the Moleskine notebook. So they'll be in my debt for a long time to come.

(She lives in Japan. Expect questions on the subject from me in the near future.)
posted by Grangousier at 9:49 AM on February 17, 2005

When I started writing seriously, I thought to myself "What happens if in 20 years I want to wallow in nostalgia and then find my notebooks have fallen to pieces?". I remembered being about 5, and finding one of my dad's old moleskines while hoking furtively in the parental bedroom. Must've been over 30 years old, and it looked a bit bashed around the edges, but it wasn't missing a page and the paper was in great nick. And it was at least 6 times as old as me, so I gawped.

Yeah, they're expensive (not as expensive as this glorious thing, however) but they last. Ciaks look quite nice / posey / promising too.
posted by paperpete at 9:53 AM on February 17, 2005

I also tend to be overcynical to overhyped items, but I think Moleskines stand up to the hoopla. As somebody that has a large graveyard of discarded sketchpads and notebooks I finally stopped my quest when I discovered Moleskines.

The large sketchbook (which seemed too small to me at first) has a a great paper quality that can hold most inks without bleeding through. I draw with markers and the ink bled through the pages of all of the other pads and books I tried. Plus they're study and stand up to alot of abuse. I have my sketchbook with me almost all of the time - either in my coat pocket, bag, or bouncing around the passenger seat of my car.

I don't really care about the history of them, but I'm sure there's a subconscious attraction to them that I don't fully understand. But since I've switched to Moleskines I find that I write and draw more frequently and since they're almost always with me I actually have access to the info when I need it.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:10 AM on February 17, 2005

The history of moleskines as told by Modo and Modo is highly suspect.

Ignore the history, and appreciate them as well made and very usable notebooks.
posted by sid at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2005

Huh. Been trying to remember the name of this brand of notebook for ages, and then this thread pops up.

So. Where can you buy them? (I live in Philly.) Is there an online retailer? Am I just daft, or am I correct that they only seem to be sold wholesale online?
posted by desuetude at 10:26 AM on February 17, 2005

I bought a moleskine as a gift, one of the small notebooks with the pockets, and I'd never heard of them, I was just looking for a nice pocket sized notebook that didn't feel cheap, and I'd found one of those for 6$, but then I saw the moleskine for 8$ and the paper was a good quality and the leather felt nice, and there was a pocket, a bookmark and an elastic strap that held it altogether. I ended up buying 2, one for the gift, and one for myself.

It was just more pleasant than anything else on the shelf, while remaining cheaper than some, but nicer than others.
posted by nile_red at 10:29 AM on February 17, 2005

desuetude - They sell them at Barnes and Noble (at least in Alexandria, VA they do, so I'm guessing Phil stores probably have them, too.)
posted by drobot at 11:41 AM on February 17, 2005

Buying Moleskines online: http://www.moleskineus.com
posted by dnash at 11:42 AM on February 17, 2005

I am a small girl - thus I have small pockets. It was the only notebook that was small enough *barely* for my pocket that held up while in my pocket without losing pages or poking my bum.

I tried a PDA and hated it. Just another gadget to carry around and possibly break and it didn't fit in my pocket.

The moleskine was smaller, cheaper, and sturdier. I got a pocket diary and it works as daytimer/wallet/workout/food log. All in one sturdy package.

I figure the cost of a PDA or Daytimer + wallet + workout/food log = 12$ is super economical. A dollar a month for a year.

I don't care if God herself uses one - All I know is that it works for me.
posted by jopreacher at 12:50 PM on February 17, 2005

Hah, last time I bought one, the clerk asked me pretty much the same question. As she asked it, the manager happened by and said "I love those things!" So I said, in answer to the clerk, "Every time you pull one out, someone says 'I love those things!'" So, that, and what everyone else said.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:59 PM on February 17, 2005

I see. I am indeed daft. Thanks much.
posted by desuetude at 1:00 PM on February 17, 2005

I spent a couple of years writing notes on captioned and/or described movies in dark theatres with a plexiglas reflector in front of me and giant headphones digging a groove into my bald scalp.

The size and hard covers were adequate for that task (essentially hands-free writing), but I've tried writing with them in a more deliberate fashion on a desk and they're just too damned narrow. The binding gets in the way.

Plus they're severely overpriced here in Toronto.
posted by joeclark at 2:40 PM on February 17, 2005

As Slack-a-gogo said, the sketchbooks are good. I carry one with me at all times, and the paper in it is really nice and doesn't bleed through, which is great because I also use markers. The book holds up to abuse and is the right size. Other sketchbooks I tried were either too big, the paper was too thin, or the binding fell apart.
posted by litlnemo at 4:40 PM on February 17, 2005

Since the sketchbook one has "heavy stock pages," does it have fewer pages than the other types?
posted by gluechunk at 3:20 AM on February 19, 2005

Hopefully you'll check back and see this -- yes, the sketchbook has fewer pages IIRC. It has plenty for my use, though.
posted by litlnemo at 1:18 AM on March 1, 2005

"Essentially eyes-free writing," I meant.
posted by joeclark at 12:20 PM on March 6, 2005

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