Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Keeping a Lot of Notebooks

With apologies to Joan Didion...

Many readers will know that I am a die-hard user of Palm OS PDAs. I've probably spent between $5,000-6,000 on assorted devices, software and accessories over the past 10 years or so, (some of which was later recouped by selling old Palms on ebay) and I feel like most if not all of that money was pretty much worthwhile. I love to carry around lots of information, and I am now so addicted to electronic reminders that I find it impossible to remember tasks and meetings without little beepers going off.

But despite my adoration of electronic gadgetry, I am also a notebook person. My infatuation with notebooks started when I was a child: a family member would give me the little pocket sized diaries that she received each year as a member of the Harvard Coop. They were great little notebooks, with a week at a view, and lots of extra pages with space for addresses, measurement conversions, lists of holidays, etc. I would carry one of these with me everywhere, writing down whatever little things I could think of to write. (Since I was, after all, a kid, I was often frustrated at my lack of important things to write down-- I didn't go to any meetings, I didn't have many expenses to track, and spying on the neighbors didn't really result in clues to any mysteries that I might be required to solve.)

Beyond those little diaries, I've probably spent thousands of dollars on hundreds of notebooks over the years, from little wire-bound notebooks to clothbound sketchbooks to expensive leather Filofaxes. When I moved almost two years ago, I packed at least 3 or 4 shoeboxes full of small notebooks in varying degrees of jotted-ness. I just loved notebooks so much I would often want a new one just for the feel of it, whether or not I really needed any more space to write things down. I was always looking for one that would be a little closer to being THE PERFECT NOTEBOOK, my definition of which shifted over time. When I got into the Filofax stage of the addiction, it got much more expensive, and I bought a few things I really shouldn't have spent so much money on. I was seriously addicted.

When my obsession with information-carrying 3" x 5" objects morphed from paper to electronics, I kind of took a break from buying notebooks. But I still liked to keep a journal, and that is something I can't do in a PDA. For at least the last 5 years or so, the only notebooks I've used for this purpose are Moleskines. The pocket sketchbook became my notebook of choice-- it's got nice heavy unlined paper, good for writing and drawing, but also even for the occasional watercolor painting. I have about 12 of these notebooks, full of all sorts of things: memories, musings, lists, numbers, sketches of Venice and floorplans of apartments. I also have 3 of these notebooks that are brand new and still in the wrapper: spares, since I don't like the idea of running out.


I had to go to a stationery store a couple of weeks ago to find a gift for someone, and for some reason, I found my old notebook lust re-awakening. I bought a Moleskine-ish sketchbook that I thought would be good for drawings-- the paper is rougher than the Moleskine, and I liked the thicker, bulkier feel. But of course I still gazed at the Moleskine display too, and discovered a new kind of Moleskine that I'd never seen before: the soft cover Moleskine, with graph paper inside. It looked nice, it felt nice, it smelled nice: I had to have it. And the minute I took it home and started writing in it, I wanted another one with plain unlined paper too.

The store I'd been to didn't have any soft cover ones with unlined paper. I went into a few more stationery stores who didn't have that kind either. In the process I noticed that different stores charge very different prices for Moleskines. The $12 I just paid for a pocket size Moleskine seems to be about the minimum retail price, but places like Kate's Paperie on 57th street charge up to $15.
Then I looked on Amazon, where the prices vary quite a bit-- sometimes they are the standard $12 retail, some models are discounted 20% or so, and of course you get the other "Used & New" sellers sometimes offering prices as low as $3 or 4 plus shipping. I also found a site called Moleskines.com which offers lower prices and discounts for buying in bulk. The thought of having a dozen pristine Moleskines delivered to my doorstep is disturbingly pleasant.

What can I say... for people like me, Moleskines seem to be one of those things where any sense of financial reason just flies out the window. And I'm not alone-- throughout this post, the word Moleskine links to different sites where these notebooks are artfully used and appreciated, but I particularly enjoyed this writer's summation, at the Cranking Widgets blog:

So, since we’re neat, organized people - here’s a list of what Moleskine’s really are:

1. Paper Notebooks - This is first and foremost. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, these things are just pads of paper. You write things in them just like you would a $.59 spiral-bound notebook from the drugstore or on the back of a cocktail napkin.
2. Expensive - A single large (5.5″ x 8.5″) Moleskine notebook will set you back anywhere from $15-$20, depending on where you buy it. If you were to tell me 5 years ago that one day I would drop that kind of cheddar on a book of blank pages, I would’ve laughed in your face. But, i did it...

I should also point out here, and I feel like a commenter may have mentioned it in the past, that Moleskines can help with expense tracking if you want to do it manually. The pocket on the inside back cover is a great place to store receipts!

Do we have any other Moleskine fans in the peanut gallery?

Other notebook blogs:

24 comments:

mapgirl said...

I like Moleskines, but I definitely am not brand-loyal. I will use pretty much any blank sketchbook or notebook as long as I like the paper inside and the cover isn't too annoying. I like blank pages for free-form things like travel journals, but lined pages for grocery/to do lists. It's bad, but I usually have one of each in my backpack.

****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

OMG! I thought I was the only one obsessed with notebooks...I've done pretty much the same thing my whole life. I currently have two little spiral notebooks in my purse...and another by my bed...now you've got me checking these Moleskines things out.

twannette said...

Add me to the club. I affectionately refer to myself as a paper ho. Friends call me Paper Girl. I, too, keep a journal and have separate books for finances, household stuff, career related stuff and another one specifically for work. I like Oh Boy notebooks, Russell and Hazel and used to be hooked on all things Clairfontaine. There are even a couple around my condo that are still in the wrapping.

mfaorbust said...

I love Moleskines! I stocked up last year, when a flea-market vendor was selling large, unlined Moleskines for $4 apiece, but I've also picked up a few small three-packs at the Strand. The physical stores usually have every kind stocked, at 25% off.

Al Nye said...

Do we have any other Moleskine fans in the peanut gallery?

Me, me!

Al

Vegannewbie said...

My Pastor introduced me to Moleskines, and mine has replaced my daytimer, and very efficiently, I might add. Also, not only am I a paper freak, I have passed this trait on to my teenage daughter, whose habit is even worse than mine! Can you believe that her favorite gifts are notebooks, stationery, and paper of all kinds? I think there are more of us than anyone knows.

Kady said...

I'm obsessed with notebooks and moleskins. Like you, X, I have not yet found the perfect notebook, which for me, must have sections, but can't be too thick, have college rule, with a perfect paper size (about 1/3 of a 9.5 x 11)and have that nifty moleskin inner pocket.

My husband thinks I'm crazy

Reid said...

Thanks for the great post! I have a moleskin that was given to me as a gift from Google...it has a Google Booksearch logo stamped on the cover (I also work in publishing, and I'm my company's contact for the Booksearch program). I haven't been using it, but your post makes me want to start! I'm also addicted to PDA's. I bought the very first Palm back in 1996, and I've owned (and subsequently sold on ebay) I don't how many versions since then. I ended up switching to a PocketPC a couple of years ago out of frustration that Palm wasn't keeping up with wi-fi & bluetooth, but I returned to the Palm fold when I bought my wife a T|X last year...now I have my Palm envy!

Anonymous said...

*Raises hand*

I love me some Moleskins. I'm working on probably my 6th one now. My favorite is the 5 X 7 graph paper - it makes me feel like a scientist (which I'm anything but!). It's my grocery list, expenses w/out receipt list, journal, sketchbook, recipe, memory, & clipbook. I never leave home without it.

Sentient Money said...

I have a ton of notebooks myself. One for passwords, random thoughts, novel ideas, etc. Though, they are only the cheap small ones.

Jessica said...

I bought my first Moleskine just a few weeks ago before a trip to Belize. That notebook held receipts, kept lists of who paid what (girl's trip), notes on what we'd done each day to go with the photos I'd taken, a list of books to look up when I got home, and random thoughts that popped up as we traveled. I didn't fill it, and so it remains in my purse. I think I'll be an addict to its power for quite some time.

I've loved notebooks all my life. Something powerful about the blank pages, ya know?

nobrainerdeals said...

I honestly thought that no one else really bought these but me. I love how the Moleskines have a pocket in the back. It helps me business cards and receipts organized.

For better organization though I would recommend the OQO. It is so much better than a palm pilot since you are able to do so much more.

Bree said...

My daughter and I are both notebook freaks as well. I prefer the smaller size with lines, while she likes any. It's usually the cover that gets us to buy them. We like different types of covers.

Serendipity said...

Dude, Moleskins sound like stationery crack. I love notebooks, but have stuck with the plain spiral bound cheapos. Is there some gateway pad I should be aware of, lest I get sucked into the Moleskin habit? I have a feeling I'd be a fast convert...

no more spending said...

I LOVE Moleskines too! When the city guides came out, my need to get the New York one was bordering on demonic.

Anonymous said...

I just bought my first Moleskine & love it - plan to use it to replace my too fat and too bulky Dayrunner. For those who think they're the only "addicts," check out Flicker, there are pages of photos of fans' Moleskines!

Alli said...

Reading through the comments I wasn't at all surprised to see Jessica's response. Without her Moleskin our trip finances would have been a disaster!

I too am a notebook addict. I have a variety of sizes and bindings and all for various reasons. It wouldn't be surprising to find 2 in a purse or briefcase at one time and 3 or 4 within view.

One thing I will not buy is Journal with lines. I have a few Moleskin- classic covered- ones for regular journals. A medium paper cover for a travel journal. And a smaller paper covered one for writing down my favorite things and what I want to do in life.

My journals have to go through a rigorous test before purchasing. I don't think I would ever order a new product on line. They must have the right texture, and have the right cover, and open just so. Unfortunately it doesn't stop there. My addiction to pens and pencils- thankfully not really pricey ones- complements the notebook issue. Anyone else have this addiction as well?

Jessica said...

(I've been with alli when shopping for journals and notebooks.....it can be a lengthy process). :)

opera gal said...

hello. found your blog tonight when searching for a blog about dinks and money matters.

thrilled to see the post about notebooks and moleskins. i really felt i was the last person on earth that enjoyed putting pen to paper.

last year i bought a set of three moleskins - skinny ones in a package and found that very useful because of the soft cover and size (quite portable).

last year i also found the moleskin calendar and it's fabulous. this year i was given a smythson as a gift (which i love, too) or i would be using moleskin's calendar once again.

finally a note on journals. again, i thought i was the last one to do this! good to see i have company. i have a box of blank books just waiting my the right mood or day for me to select one.

alli, shopping with me for paper items like this also agitates MY friends ;-)

for travel, i love the spiral bound jobbie with the rainbow colored page edges and perf pages for tearing out. the cover is plastic and flexible so it packs with ease. it's $6 at borders etc. sorry, i can't recall the name!

for journaling, i like VARIETY. i don't use moleskin because picking the book is so personal to how i feel, what is happening in my life, etc.

for example, the one i'm writing in now is a colorful cover and think smooth blank pages. i got from moma shop in nyc in early '06 and its "right moment" for use was last week. why? it looks happy and spring like to me, with all those colors. i like having variety.

great post. thanks for the good first read!

Anonymous said...

I am loyal to the Moleskine now because I had a variety of note books but now I use one kind, the Moleskine 80 Page sketchbook becasue of its thick pages that dont leak with my pen. I fill one up about every 3-4 weeks (each month a new chapeter) and have about 7 completed. I will continue to get this brand for the rest of my life so I have a collection of about a couple hundred of them to create a nice library. My shelf is already looking pretty big.

Write anything you want, from ideas, stories, inventions, drawings, jokes, a number you had to jot down, anything. Its your life log.

I recommend you stick to one type, you'll appreciate it down the road.

Marty from Holland said...

Hi there,

I found this article through Moleskinerie.com, and i like it!

I'm becoming more of a notebook fan each day. I mostly use my notebook as a diary but also a drawing once in a while.
My current notebook is a rather cheap one from a Dutch shop, and i like it.
I think my next one is going to be a Moleskine because of all the great stories about them.

One question keeps me busy. What is it, that makes Moleskine so interesting? Does anyone knows the answer to that question.

Greetz from Holland!

miss milki said...

I also came here from Molskinerie. I'm definately a moleskine addict. i'm usually fairly good with money but with notebooks sense just goes out the door! I'm from Ireland and a standard size (medium hardback) moleskine costs nearly €18 which is around $28! I asked my Dad to pick one up for me recently and the lecture I got about wasting money!!!

Thing is I'm just a bit of a staionary nut, and no other notebook ever lives up to the Moleskine. When I have one I feel inspired to use it, to write, to sketch...and I never waste a page!

motormouth said...

I like the idea of Moleskines but find them too small. I adore the Swathmore recycled-paper green-cover spiral notebooks; beautiful paper, somewhat recycled, no lines, and rigid-backed for handy writing.

Michelle said...

I recently bought into the Moleskine Revolution by purchasing a Moleskin pocket travel book, and replaced the 5 tabs with my own labels (To Do, Miscellaneous, and 3 projects I'm working on). I was in love. I then quickly ordered a Moleskine pocket movie cell sketchbook for my hubby's birthday (he makes movies). I found both of them at http://textbookx.com where I paid $8.47 with free shipping (search for a discount code to the site on Google - they always have one). Can't beat that! I'm wondering what my next Moleskine purchase will be....