My First Genuine Moleskine Notebook (Soft Cover vs Hard)

» Ever since publishing an article last year on the "legendary" Moleskine notebook (.. "of Hemingway, Picasso & van Gogh") I've demo'ed an assortment of knock-offs. Yet increasingly I've become curious (.. if not a little envious) .. regarding what it would be like to own/use the real deal. A genuine Moleskine.

Moleskine notebooksSo after getting out of jail, one of the first things I did (.. cuz I had lots of residual ideas bouncing around my brain) .. was to order one each » hard cover and soft cover (.. thanks to your generous donations).

Might seem like a trivial thing, but I was surprisingly stoked when they arrived. =)

To be clear, I use the 5x8 version, which Moleskine calls its "Large" notebook .. tho 5x8 is not exactly what I would call large. More like Medium if you ask me. This is their most popular size.

I prefer their Ruled notebook, which comes with LINED pages. But other versions contain blank pages (called PLAIN) and SQUARED (.. like graph paper).

So there's a little terminology you must become familiar with .. if you want to order the right notebook. It is not uncommon for people to complain that they received the wrong size.

Actually, Moleskine offers no version named 'Medium'. They call, for example, their smaller 4x6 version (3x5) » Pocket. And there are many others to choose from.

Moleskine color-codes their notebooks with a distinctive wrapper. Plain = green. Ruled = orange. Squared = yellow. So if you want LINES (like moi), you want » ORANGE.

Some of the knock-offs have followed suit and imitated Moleskine's color-coding. (Some online photos look brown, but they're really orange.)

I have considered trying a PLAIN (blank) notebook. I know some tree-hugger types who see LINES as providing too much structure. Uh, okay. Free spirits. [ I should get them a SQUARED notebook for Xmas. That would really freak 'em out, huh? ]

Picasso paintingGenuine Moleskine Worth the Cost?

While ripping open the box that arrived from Amazon, the biggest question bouncing around my cabeza » are these bona fide genuine "legendary" Moleskines worth the extra cost? ("Sure hope so.")

They retail for a remarkable $18. You can get them from Amazon for $12. But still. Come on. We're talking about a blank book, with no writing. No words. No author royalties to pay.

The answer (.. I've found) is » it depends (.. my default answer) .. on how you view the notebook. From a purely 'construction' standpoint » no, they're not worth it.

Yes, the genuine Moleskine is made better than the knock-offs. Yes, they are very nice. But no, they're not twice as nice. Not hardly. (Yet they cost twice as much.)

••• today's entry continues here below •••

Now if you figure that the average Moleskine notebook (240 pages) might last you .. say, 3-to-6 months .. you're basically paying an extra buck or two each month .. for the privilege of using the real deal. I fill one every 4 to 5 months (.. uh, when I'm not in jail, that is.)

Viewed that way, it seems a small price to pay (.. pennies per day). Cuz like I said, they are definitely nicer than the knock-offs .. tho only marginally. Not orders of magnitude. And one good idea is all it takes (.. to make your fortune).

Moleskine Notebooks Soft CoverHard Cover vs Soft Cover

My next question » hard cover vs soft cover? I have never used a soft-cover notebook before. (Another first.)

This is not the easy decision I thought it would be. It depends on how you use your Moleskine. (Obviously.) But I've come to prefer (drumroll, please) » the SOFT cover. Surprisingly enough.

The biggest AD-vantage of the SOFT cover » it's considerably LIGHTER. On our digital kitchen scale, the SOFT weighs 9.1 ounces, while the HARD weighs 11.8. So the HARD is ~30% heavier (.. tho it seems more).

I would have no problem calling the SOFT cover 'light'. Not so for the HARD cover. Cuz it's not really 'light'.

The biggest DIS-advantage of the soft cover » you sacrifice neat writing .. when away from a desk .. because the soft cover offers little firm support, which you need in order to control your pen.

TWSBIPens » Pilot Precise v7 Fine Point

Speaking of pens, let me interject briefly .. by saying that the best (el cheapo) pen I've found is the » Pilot Precise v7 fine point.

Tho obviously, this decision is personal preference. They offer nice control, tho the ink flow is slightly more than I like. The extra-fine is too fine for me.

I've also tried their VBall Grip, but they flow even more ink than the Precise v7. Sometimes, the retractable mechanism (RT model) seems to stick. As if it got sticky. (Hey, whaddaya expect for a couple bucks?)

But you simply need to run the bottom half under hot water .. to clean out the ink that can accumulate in the tube there .. while the pen is retracted.

If your order exceeds $25, Amazon ships for FREE (.. normally $4). So I thru in a 2-pack. (Refills are even cheaper.)

More Thoughts on Hard vs Soft Covers

The more you CARRY your Moleskine, the more you are going to prefer the SOFT cover. Cuz they are definitely lighter. I normally stick mine in the over-sized pocket of my pants .. the one over my right thigh. The pocket is the perfect size. Many short pants these days come with a large pocket over the thigh. (Great for diapers, too. Dads of toddlers can never have too many pockets, ya know.)

van Gogh's room at ArlesHere is where the difference between the HARD and SOFT cover is most dramatic. The HARD cover is noticeable in your pocket when you WALK, while the SOFT is not.

So the SOFT cover basically provides you with » transparent portability .. which is very nice. I cannot emphasize too strongly how cool this feature is.

And for this advantage, you will lose some neatness with your penmanship .. if you cannot find a desk, or something firm on which to write. Seems like an attractive trade. More than worth it.

I do try to craft my entries so they are reasonably neat. Even artistic at times (.. when the spirit moves me).

Also, when I'm wearing jeans or pants which have no large thigh-pocket, I often stick the notebook in the small-of-my-back .. on a short-term basis .. wedged into the top of my pants. Here the SOFT cover is much more comfortable than the HARD, as it will easily conform to you body.

The HARD cover notebooks (I've found .. with the knock-offs, anyway) will become sweaty (.. you know, running for the bus), which will cause the hard cover to break down and become more flexible .. depending on how much you carry it there, and how much you sweat .. which depends upon the climate where you live. (I tend to beat up my notebooks pretty good.)

I even had a lady tell me last week (.. while shopping in Trader Joe's) that I was a walking fashion statement .. carrying my notebook in the small-of-my-back like that. (Yeah, she scared me a little.)

The HARD cover Moleskine is stiff. Very stiff .. compared to the knock-offs. If you threw a HARD cover Moleskine at someone, it would do serious damage .. being both weighty and hard.

Moleskine Notebook Flexible Soft CoverThe Real Reason Soft Covers Rule

But the #1 reason I prefer the SOFT cover .. is that .. I feel (perhaps wrongly) that it somehow » influences your thinking.

When writing in a Moleskine, you are thinking, exploring your thoughts, chasing unexpected ideas, seeing where they lead, trying to capture illusive insights. This is not something that you want to be 'rigid' (.. like a HARD cover).

I admit that I totally did not expect to come to this opinion. Call me crazy, but the SOFT cover seems to 'flow' with me better .. with my ideas, with the searching of my thoughts. It lends a certain freedom.

Before closing, I should probably mention Moleskine's "Classic" Red Notebook. I am not really a 'red' kind of guy. But hey, ya never know. Maybe I'll give one a whirl and take it for a spin around the block. The official Moleskine page for 'Notebooks' is » here.

Oh, one more thing (.. uno mas cosa). The SOFT notebook comes with LESS pages » 192 .. vs the 240 for the HARD cover. Not sure why. Since both cost the same.

So you get 50 pages less with the SOFT cover. (Yeah, less weight to carry around.)

I doubt however, that .. if you happen to be basing your purchase decision on VALUE considerations (.. such as page-count) you would be buying a genuine Moleskine in the first place.

My biggest question now » will these genuine Moleskines hold up to the wear & tear I normally see? Could be wrong, but my initial impresson is that they are made to high standards of quality .. especally the hard-cover (.. aka » The Weapon).

Matisse painting La DanseCaution: Reinforce Bottom of Envelope

On the inside of the back cover (.. right there on the Moleskine's famously expandable pocket) .. I have fixed a photo of the Bug .. big one (5x8).

Great shot. My favorite. (Many of you have seen it.) So good it seems like the photo was DESIGNED for the inside cover of my Moleskine.

Used ultra-clear packing-tape.. So part of him is glossy, and part is not.

[ He is very photogenic .. especially when he smiles. (Still had all his baby teeth, then.) His eyes literally sparkle. Sorry .. cant help myself. =) ]

One word of CAUTION .. on ALL Moleskines, both genuine & knock-offs .. you need to TAPE the bottom-edge of the envelope. They easily come apart .. and you can lose all your contents.

But do not let the tape wrap over to the front of the oil-skin cover. The term 'oil-skin' should suggest why not. (I keep important stuff in mine.)

All manufacturers need to reinforce the bottom of the expandable pocket-envelope. Cuz it seems they're all using the same pocket.

I figured, "If I'm gonna tape that thing, I'm gonna make it worth my while."

UPDATE - November 4, 2011

Okay, I've been using this Soft-cover Moleskine for a few weeks now .. and already the expandable pocket has separated and the contents fell out .. even after I tried to reinforce it with tape. (There's not much exposed material where you can secure the tape.)

Moreover, and even worse, the binding is coming apart. In other words, at one point, you can open the notebook and there is a gap between the left and right pages of about the width of a pencil. You can see the back of the binding. But only in ONE part of the notebook.

Now I readily admit that I am hard on a notebook. I carry it here & there, and I use it often. So I kind of expect it to show signs of wear & tear. Tho I didnt expect it to fall apart so soon. Not the real deal. Not a real $18 Moleskine.

But what's weird .. is that I love the LIGHTNESS of this thing so much .. that I'm actually ready to overlook how badly it's falling apart.

The LIGHTNESS of this thing is very nice. Makes a big difference (.. to me).

I have now about one quarter of it filled in. If pages start falling out, then I cannot tolerate that. But short of that .. I am going to try to make this work. Because of the lightness.

I wrote to Moleskine and asked them to send me a new notebook, and sent them photos. I have received an auto-response reply but nothing else. Nothing from a real human.

They said it takes a couple of weeks to get a new copy. We'll see. I'll follow up here if there are any additional problems.

Also, these Shapie Pens are worth checking out. I found one and am digging it. ■■

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » moleskine notebook hard cover vs soft cover

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on October 18, 2011 10:18 AM.

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