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: