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April 3, 2013 4:52 AM   Subscribe

The Italian producer of the restarted Moleskine notebooks has taken the company public. The IPO is being managed by Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, and UBS.
posted by rhombus (89 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is certainly interesting, but if you're a paper/journal nerd (like me) there are much better options out there than moleskine.

If you want really nice paper, go with any of the brands that Clairfontaine provides the paper for - themselves, Rhodia, Quo Vadis.

Leuchtturm also makes very nice, higher-quality-than-moleskine notebooks. (and I really like the look of their Master notebook, in the dotted ruling).

The MiquelRius flexible journals are also highly-reputed.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [74 favorites]


Short selling are we, namewithoutwords?
posted by R. Schlock at 5:21 AM on April 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I bought a Leuchtturm last month. It was beautifully made but paper-wise, there's still enough shadowing for my fountain pens, to the extent that I don't notice with my Clairfontaine stuff. I do recommend both though, if you're not a fountain pen user. To be honest, if you're not a fp user, a Moleskine is perfectly fine. But it is true they've practically carpetbombed themselves in every brick-and-mortar stationery store I see, as a shorthand for quality, but they're honestly not that worth the price they demand.

I think a lot of domestic paper producers who supply most of the stationery in those stores turn out comparable Moleskine clones of better quality even, but they just don't have the brandname cachet.
posted by cendawanita at 5:24 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered what the big deal is with Moleskine, and I say that as someone with a smallish collection of neat-looking journals or journals with nice/interesting/handmade paper, many of which cost less than a Moleskine.

Honestly, my favorite journal is a zippered organizer with the guts ripped out and replaced with a Mead Fat Little Notebook, which was the perfect size for it. It's rugged and useful and I love it.

I do have a nice Miquelrius journal whose cover has been artsified with silver pen, but I am hesitant to just throw it in a bag.
posted by Foosnark at 5:26 AM on April 3, 2013


I'm still trying to figure out how Moleskine is superior to the 99 cent steno pads that I've been using for decades now.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:28 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'll admit it, I'm guilty of buying a fancy notebook hoping that it will make my writing better. It never did, and I've finally just switched to cheapo legal pads, but I still like to look at notebooks.
posted by Think_Long at 5:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The good paper notebooks are essential for fountain pen dorks (of which I count myself a fringe member, let me tell you about my $5 Chinese pens which kick ass) or those who need a particular tooth for sketching. Other than that, yeah, dollar store spiral pocket pads kick it real good.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:33 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I fear something terrible has happened.
posted by jsavimbi at 5:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do recommend both though, if you're not a fountain pen user.

Montblanc blue-black ink is what you need - it does not bleed through moleskine paper, you can use both sides of each page. Private Reserve ebony-blue is reported to work well, too, if you prefer a little more color. Medium or fine nibs, tho - broad nibs are going to bleed no matter what you use.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm still trying to figure out how Moleskine is superior to the 99 cent steno pads that I've been using for decades now.

Because you end up with something that looks nicer? I don't think it has to be much more complicated than that.
posted by smackfu at 5:39 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Medium or fine nibs, tho

True enough, when I use my Pilot XF nibs, but even with my Lamy's it would still ghost or bleed. Otoh, Moleskines are notoriously inconsistent in paper quality.

I haven't tried yet PR's or Montblanc's. The last 'fancy' (ie non-Quink) inks I used were J. Herbin's, which were lovely, but at the end of the day the water-resistance/proof-ness is what I missed most in my switch to FPs, so I'm practically wedded to Noodler's these days (which can be tough here in the UK, but I get my Black and there's a UK-only Prime of the Commons, so it's all good)
posted by cendawanita at 5:42 AM on April 3, 2013


Aren't your ideas worth Moleskine?
posted by Flashman at 5:46 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


yeah like I'm going to muse 'ponst the vicissitudes of Parisian street life in a 99 cent steno pad
posted by theodolite at 5:48 AM on April 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


Metafilter: Your ideas are worth Moleskine.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:50 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


If history has shown us anything, it has shown us that public stock ownership and high-quality commodity products do not often go together.

I see this as a classic pump-and-dump. The company will be worth nothing inside of ten years.
posted by gauche at 5:50 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


HIPSTER #1: "Did you hear? Moleskines just went mainstream."
HIPSTER #2: "Fuck. I guess it's back to writing on artisan pizza box lids..."
posted by Fizz at 5:53 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I like having a pocket notebook like a Moleskine, but I find that they tend to fall apart in my pocket after a while. Is there anything that's the same size and thickness but more durable? Esp. with grid ruling?
posted by tss at 5:53 AM on April 3, 2013


Now, extra fine point pens are something I just don't get. It feels like they are scratching at the paper instead of gliding, and I really don't enjoy writing with them. I bought a whole box of Pilot G2 0.38 pens, and they somehow got mixed in with my other pens, and every time I accidentally pick one up instead of the 0.7, I get annoyed.
posted by smackfu at 5:58 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm still trying to figure out how Moleskine is superior to the 99 cent steno pads that I've been using for decades now.

On my shelves I have a stack of journals going back twenty-five years. The first fifteen years are in crumbling school notebooks, steno pads, etc. The last ten are in Moleskines. If nothing else, the stiff bindings and standard size of the Moleskines makes them easier to shelve and the standard appearance makes them look nicer on the shelf. That's about it. Given this news, though, maybe I should stock up for the next fifteen.

(Also, I totally confess that I learned about Moleskines from reading Bruce Chatwin and that I started buying them partly in imitation of him.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:03 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there anything that's the same size and thickness but more durable? Esp. with grid ruling?

I wanted to recommended Quo Vadis Habana journals, but they don't yet come in grid ruling, though they share the same look.

I personally like using the Whitelines products, but they look more utilitarian, but the white-on-light grey paper really is calming to my eyes.

As for the extra-fine points, I think, as with anything, it's in combination with other things. In my case my small handwriting and my grip makes xf points my favourite kind.
posted by cendawanita at 6:11 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a yellow legal pad was good enough for Kurt Vonnegut, it's good enough for me.

Except those things never tear along the perforations, and then you have all those little bits of paper poking out of the binding at the top, & whenever you pick one up, you have to tear at those trying to neaten the thing up and what was it you needed to write down anyway, never mind.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:12 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now, extra fine point pens are something I just don't get. It feels like they are scratching at the paper instead of gliding, and I really don't enjoy writing with them.

This is one of the reasons why fountain pens are still popular - you can tinker with the nibs to improve smoothness.

(The author of the article, John Mottishaw, is a professional fountain pen hot-rodder - he customizes nibs for various customers. Musical composers, mathematicians who work out ideas with pen and paper and calligraphers are particularly keen on his work. Kind of a neat profession.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:13 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


(let me tell you about my $5 Chinese pens which kick ass)

please do.
posted by ecourbanist at 6:15 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The only moleskines I own is a small Elsevier-branded one I got free at a trade show. Needless to say, I am a bit conflicted, feeling both pretentious and evil when I look at it....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:20 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This may mark me as a Philistine, but my preferred writing instrument, after trying them all, is the classic clear plastic Bic Stic. 10 for a buck, and they really take a beating.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:21 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ecourbanist: "(let me tell you about my $5 Chinese pens which kick ass)"

I'm assuming that seanmpuckett is referring to the Jinhao X250, which is often recommended over at Fountain Pen Network as a good cheap chinese writer.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:22 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This kind of breaks my heart a little. I've been a loyal Moleskine user for nearly 10 years now, and I've always found them perfect for what I need. Their size (I use the orange label lined version), their wonderful black covers that I either paint, or collage, or slather in stickers.

I really love them. But I'm also just political enough to ditch them for something similar because a journal maker shouldn't "go public." Journals shouldn't be sold as shares.

One of the many reasons I love Metafilter is that I'm not alone in my journal maker geekery - this thread is fantastic for introducing me to other makers and more importantly, why they're better or comparable to Moleskine products.

I think I'll have a Moleskine Viking Funeral down by the beach sometime today.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:24 AM on April 3, 2013


I wish Moleskine or some other high end journal maker would think of the people who prefer wirebound notebooks and make something for us. I hate notebooks that aren't wirebound because I can't lay them flat to write in or read them. All I want in life is a wirebound notebook with high quality paper and a hard cover. Why is that so hard to find?
posted by triggerfinger at 6:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've owned many Moleskines but it never stuck. Field Notes all the way!
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:32 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everything You Need To Know Aabout Moleskine Ahead Of Its IPO

I use Rite in the Rain - its a work thing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:33 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish Moleskine or some other high end journal maker would think of the people who prefer wirebound notebooks and make something for us. I hate notebooks that aren't wirebound because I can't lay them flat to write in or read them. All I want in life is a wirebound notebook with high quality paper and a hard cover. Why is that so hard to find?

I've used a couple of these over the years and they're pretty decent! Maybe too big, though.
posted by sonmi at 6:56 AM on April 3, 2013


I love this Moleskine weekly calendar, with one week per page (with several lines per day) and a blank list on the side which fits easily in my purse. I have never found another calendar with this lay out.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:59 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's amazing.

A stationery supply company is getting a big time Goldman Sachs IPO.
posted by notyou at 7:00 AM on April 3, 2013


> If you want really nice paper, go with any of the brands that Clairfontaine provides the paper for - themselves, Rhodia, Quo Vadis.

As another fountain pen user (because that’s how handwriting is still taught in elementary school where I live, and I simply never switched to anything else) and wire binding lover, I’ve also always found Moleskine to be pretty useless. But hell yes, Clairefontaine. I’m usually a tight-arse who buys no-name everything, but only Clairefontaine pads are allowed to absorb the Pelikan 4001 ink from my Lamy Studio fountain pen.
posted by wachhundfisch at 7:02 AM on April 3, 2013


I just want to voice my support for all the fountain pen nerdery that is dominating the thread. Please keep it up!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:09 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


For journaling I know there are better options, but for drawing and the amount of pens/inks I use, there hasn't been a viable alternative to Moleskines. I've used them for years, despite them being overpriced.

Ugh. Fuck capitalism.
posted by hellojed at 7:25 AM on April 3, 2013


Guys, the people who put their lives into making moleskines are cashing out. That's totally reasonable.

As long as the product continues to exist, who cares? It's not like you have a deep personal connection with the factory in China that produces them. Buy your own paper and make your own journals.
posted by pmv at 7:47 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Won't someone think about all of those poor flayed moles?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:49 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Buy your own paper and make your own journals.

I actually sort of want to do this. Not because of any moral issues with Moleskine going public (I have none such issues and am a customer) but because it sounds neat. Yet unmoored paper makes me feel sort of crazy so I don't know.
posted by sweetkid at 7:53 AM on April 3, 2013


Won't someone think about all of those poor flayed moles?

Well, with all the underperforming students in Tennessee, maybe the IPO is to finance the new line of 'Childskins'?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:00 AM on April 3, 2013


I love Moleskines so much (and wish to downplay my steal-me electronics), I have a Moleskine-look smartphone case. Leather, polypro clip-on inner armor case, room for my stylus, elastic to keep it shut. Only downside is no camera hole, I ised a leather punch to make one. Hex brand, I think.
If someone would make a calendar app that reproduces the Moleskine or Lett's page-a-week-with-notes look, I'd be in legacy nerd heaven.
posted by Dreidl at 8:02 AM on April 3, 2013


Just FYI, you can now buy a special Hobbit Moleskine notebook (to complement their PacMan, Mickey Mouse, and Star Wars notebooks). But this one's got a hobbit theme, so there's that.

And for more (not-necessarily-Moleskine) notebook goodness, check out notebookstories.com.
posted by math at 8:25 AM on April 3, 2013


For those interested in making their own journals, the Hedgehogs Forever Yahoo group may be of interest.

I'm quite fond of my pocket-sized Moleskines - I know they're not the best possible quality journal, and I know they're a little overpriced, but they're ubiquitous and I really love the plain black form factor. It will be interesting to see whether quality goes down the toilet in the interest of maximizing short-term shareholder profit.
posted by usonian at 8:27 AM on April 3, 2013


I like my Moleskines but I do more writing in something full of Doane Paper than anything else. Grid + lines, and works great with my '47 Parker 51, accountant's nib, full of Noodler's ink.
posted by mrbill at 8:30 AM on April 3, 2013


Their app is HORRIBLE. Like, only imports images into the spine of the book (not the page you are actually on) horrible.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:38 AM on April 3, 2013


I buy Moleskines for the little literary history lesson each one has tucked inside.
posted by chavenet at 8:40 AM on April 3, 2013


PSA: As a journalist often working on multiple stories at once, I swear by Mead Cambridge spiral-bound ruled notebooks, 9.5in X 7.25in, stiff back.

Always found standard stenos awkward, and the heavy backing board of these notebooks is great for taking notes while standing, walking, seated in table-less auditoriums or at press conferences etc. The pages are perforated, so you can remove them and file them by subject/story. This also serves as a kind of backup/storage function, preventing a disaster that's occurred several times in my career where I've lost a notebook with weeks worth of notes in it. (I once dissolved into blustering broken-German gibberish at the Leipzig train station, trying to figure out whether the station officials fixing me with wary confused stares could somehow track the train I'd left my notebook on. Thankfully I only lost a couple days' notes, because most of my perforated Mead Cambridge pages were safely in file folders at my hotel in Berlin.)

The Mead Cambridge stiffbacks are usually about $5-6 at Staples. Excellent value.
posted by gompa at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I own dozens of them. Right around the time they moved production full-scale to China, the quality temporarily went to shit, but it pretty much recovered. After a decade, there are finally acceptable clones of the basic design on the market, and some of them are even made well enough to use. The Leuchtterms mentioned upthread are really nice. I've had one or two other brands work pretty well. (I would suggest avoiding the Piccadilly ones at all costs; you'd be better off writing on a pile of gas-station napkins.)

I get that a lot of people don't really get having strong preferences about an expensive notebook. That's cool and all, but it's worth saying that people aren't just invested in writing materials like these out of some weird object fetishism or snobbery or whatever. I could go on at painfully boring length on the properties of the Moleskine-like notebook, but the short version is that it's pretty much the thing I want for a bunch of tasks that are pretty important to me. It works really well with my brain the way the keyboard on my ThinkPad or the UI in Vim does. I got one for Christmas a decade or so ago, and I used it, and I went to get another one and I felt shitty about spending a whole ten bucks on a notebook. After all this time, I kind of think well, I spend $20 on an evening's worth of beer or whatever with regularity, I can probably burn that much on an object I'm going to carry for a couple of months and keep for years with a bunch of my memory in it.

I will probably be buying a case or two later today, and scrounging about in local stores for good individual variations, because I assume this is the beginning of the end. Fortunately, the black notebook with the elastic strap and pocket in back seems well enough established as a cultural category that it won't be disappearing any time soon.

I buy Moleskines for the little literary history lesson each one has tucked inside.

Which I'm pretty sure is more-or-less bullshit, but I've got to hand it to them on the marketing.
posted by brennen at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2013


I should have browsed the Hedgehogs group page before linking to it, it appears to be mostly dead these days and some of the file links no longer work.

But a quick Google search for "make your own Moleskine" returns numerous promising links, particularly this one.

A few years ago I made a few single-signature Cahier-like notebooks, it's pretty easy to do.
posted by usonian at 8:53 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I must be an all-American contrarian, because as cute as those li'l moleskines are, if I should die having finally managed to get published and built an audience, anyone hoping to find more of my history will be faced with boxes of good old fashioned no-brand cachet-free speckly-cover composition books going back to 1978 or so. There's something about the way the page in those creates a perfect unit of me-scaled thought that's sabotaged my every attempt at belonging to the tribe of black book toters. In the end, moleskines live in my vehicles, instead, where they document their mechanical history and every fuel-up, oil change, and new tie rod end under my care.
posted by sonascope at 8:55 AM on April 3, 2013


I assume this is the beginning of the end.

No, that was when they had huge cardboard standup displays next to the check-out line at Barnes and Noble five years ago. It's all marketing, nothing more.
posted by mrbill at 8:56 AM on April 3, 2013


My mom MADE ME a Trapper Keeper in the 80s, when everyone had them, because she thought buying one was a waste of money but I really really REALLY wanted one. I was about five. It was a Woody Woodpecker one and made of cardboard, but she added the Velcro and rings and everything. I wish we had a picture of it or something. It got ruined after a little while, being a cardboard Trapper Keeper made for a five year old and all.
posted by sweetkid at 8:59 AM on April 3, 2013


I'm assuming that seanmpuckett is referring to the Jinhao X250, which is often recommended over at Fountain Pen Network as a good cheap chinese writer.

The problem with those (IMO, just looking at the pix) is that they have the typical big burly "I'm a fountain pen and manly and don't you forget it" barrel aesthetic. Where's a cheap fountain pen for those who, like me, favor a slimmer barrel? My one non-cheap (also it was a gift and I just looked up the price and wtf?) has a pretty slim, straight barrel. I had a cheap cartridge fountain pen for a while that I got in Berlin, where the stores were full of such things, but I lost it. Alas!
posted by kenko at 9:04 AM on April 3, 2013


For my daily Shit-I-Gotta-Do (SIGD) list, I bulk bought a ten pack of Mnemosyne (Greek goddess of memory) model 198 wire-o bound pocket to-do pads. Matte finish plastic covers last a long time even in a hip pocket, slightly longer than a Moleskine pokes up out of a shirt pocket for easy access, micro-perf tear outs, decent paper (no feathering, slight bleed with a Namiki Vanishing Fine-point and Noodler's Zhivago).

For reference notes that need to last and that I keep going back to, it's Rite-In-The-Rain and a Fisher Space Pen.
posted by Standeck at 9:04 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which I'm pretty sure is more-or-less bullshit

Bruce Chatwin really did love his Moleskines. I can't vouch for any of the other alleged famous users.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:07 AM on April 3, 2013


GenjiandProust: You just better make double sure Elsevier doesn't own your notes now!
posted by activitystory at 9:08 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Triggerfinger: I'm about 4 months in to one of these Delfonics Rollbahn notebooks, and I like it pretty well. The front cover could be stiffer, but the spiral holds a cheap sharpie pen nicely.
posted by activitystory at 9:11 AM on April 3, 2013


Actually, I take that back. More thought and googling reminds me that Chatwin's notebooks were not Moleskine® notebooks, but a kind of notebook that he called "moleskines."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:12 AM on April 3, 2013


Where's a cheap fountain pen for those who, like me, favor a slimmer barrel?

For $3-4 most decent stationery stores carry the disposable Pilot Varsity which are very good for the price. (And can in fact be refilled.) They have a medium-ish nib.

For a little bit more you can get a Hero 329 (fills from a bottle, no cartridges), with a finer, hooded nib. I really love mine, which I bought from his nibs - they can probably be had for less elsewhere, but he inspects and fine-tunes every pen he ships out. I think that's well worth a few extra bucks; I've bought a couple of cheapo Chinese pens directly from Ebay and quality is all over the place.
posted by usonian at 9:21 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


brennen: I would suggest avoiding the Piccadilly ones at all costs; you'd be better off writing on a pile of gas-station napkins.

piccadilly 4 lyfe

seriously I've been a satisfied user of their essential notebooks for some time
posted by mediated self at 9:22 AM on April 3, 2013


I love Leuchtterms (Master Slim Plain 4-eva!), but they're hard to find. I don't always like the surface of the Moleskine paper, but their ubiquity has made it so much easier to find reasonably sized notebooks with unlined paper. Plain paper is genuinely hard to find, and a lot of times all you can find are sketchbooks (which are great for drawing, but not for writing). So, thanks, pretentious notebooks!
posted by heurtebise at 9:26 AM on April 3, 2013


fwiw for those interested in assembling your own notebooks: if you have a favourite brand of laserjet paper or whatever paper stock, free photo editing software like Photoscape has a function for printing out line/grid/dot-ruled paper.
posted by cendawanita at 9:35 AM on April 3, 2013


I use Field Notes. Moleskines' hard covers make them awkward to carry in my pocket. For a while, though, when I lived in Spain, I carried Moleskine knockoffs and wrote long diary entries that I never reread.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2013


For those looking to roll their own journal, this site is indispensible for generating all sorts of different standard and custom lined rulings/graphs/calendar pages, etc - as printable pdfs.
Calendar generator
Graph and Ruled paper generator
posted by namewithoutwords at 9:46 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pmv, it's reasonable and it still sucks. It's a shitty thing in the long run for the customers, time and again. So let them vote with their mouths and dollars and go back to reading about six sigma or wtf.
posted by lordaych at 9:52 AM on April 3, 2013


Thank goodness for fellow fountain pen nerds! I too gave up on Moleskines a while back, and living in France, well, I'm pretty well spoiled as far as other fountain-pen-worthy paper choices go. It's interesting to see input on other journals and that there's a consensus on Clairefontaine. FWIW, I tried Muji journals and unfortunately their paper just isn't cut out for fountain pens; very rough, lots of detritus clogging up the nib. (Sorry for any gauche terminology on my part, I've used fountain pens only while in France so have no idea what the proper English would be.)

Where's a cheap fountain pen for those who, like me, favor a slimmer barrel?

I have a Parker that I found in a papeterie (stationery shop) here, one of those that has glass displays with a hundred-odd fountain pens to choose from. That way I was able to try out different ones. Parkers had the best feel in-hand, smooth writing, and price; had I been able to afford better I might say differently. Still cost me 40 euros, but I've had it for three years now and it writes beautifully. Used to be that Waterman made great, cheap fountain pens, but they seem to be aiming for either the schoolkids or a more connoisseur market nowadays, nothing in between.

I had this great metal Waterman that I picked up for 70 francs back in 1997, in the Decitre shop south of the square in Lyon. God it was wonderful. It just wrote, and wrote, and wrote; it was heavy but balanced so that it sat just right in-hand, and slim. They don't make similar any more. On the cheap end, just noticeably lighter metal ones that scratch, and somewhat-decent plastic ones that come in fun colors and designs.

If anyone does ever come to France, hie thee to a supermarket and browse their school supply aisles. You can pick up some pretty decent fountain pens and inks for cheap. I have a purple see-through Waterman that I got just for the heck of it when I was doing my Masters. Nicer ones can be found in Galeries Lafayette, or honest-to-goodness librairies and papeteries. As well as your heart's delight of alternative journal choices made to be used with fountain pens. Hee.
posted by fraula at 9:54 AM on April 3, 2013


"so long as the product exists" depends on what you mean by "product" and "exists." Things like this have a tendency to be gutted into cheaper and shitter iterations once public ownership is in play. /not a moleskine user
posted by lordaych at 9:55 AM on April 3, 2013


I'm about 4 months in to one of these Delfonics Rollbahn notebooks, and I like it pretty well. The front cover could be stiffer, but the spiral holds a cheap sharpie pen nicely.

Oooh! Thank you! Bonus: I live near the Walker so I can go check them out in person!

I like the hard, book-like covers because it can stand up to being knocked around in my bag for months on end without the pages ripping or bending.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:57 AM on April 3, 2013


I have a Parker that I found in a papeterie (stationery shop) here, one of those that has glass displays with a hundred-odd fountain pens to choose from. That way I was able to try out different ones. Parkers had the best feel in-hand, smooth writing, and price; had I been able to afford better I might say differently. Still cost me 40 euros, but I've had it for three years now and it writes beautifully. Used to be that Waterman made great, cheap fountain pens, but they seem to be aiming for either the schoolkids or a more connoisseur market nowadays, nothing in between.

I had this great metal Waterman that I picked up for 70 francs back in 1997, in the Decitre shop south of the square in Lyon. God it was wonderful. It just wrote, and wrote, and wrote; it was heavy but balanced so that it sat just right in-hand, and slim. They don't make similar any more. On the cheap end, just noticeably lighter metal ones that scratch, and somewhat-decent plastic ones that come in fun colors and designs.

If anyone does ever come to France, hie thee to a supermarket and browse their school supply aisles. You can pick up some pretty decent fountain pens and inks for cheap. I have a purple see-through Waterman that I got just for the heck of it when I was doing my Masters. Nicer ones can be found in Galeries Lafayette, or honest-to-goodness librairies and papeteries. As well as your heart's delight of alternative journal choices made to be used with fountain pens. Hee.


God, I have to get my stationary fix by walking around Staples. This is like watching a scotch tasting while standing outside in the dark, sucking Sterno from an oily rag.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:23 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Okay so those $5 Chinese fountain pens; I got them from DX.com. Just search for "fountain pen". All of the ones I've bought have not needed any tweaking or adjustment and write like a dream with Noodler's. Very nice in the hand, too. Your mileage might vary. But damn, $5.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I bought an extensive collection of vintage bar matchbooks at an estate that I use for all my writing. I was using cheapo white matchbooks I got for free when buying a pack of smokes, but my "buy 1% mlk" notes and scrawled cell phone numbers deserve a beautifully designed and printed 1959 Lenox Lounge matchbook.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:41 AM on April 3, 2013


Elementary Penguin: you can't get a stationary fix by walking around.

Sorry.
posted by pont at 10:49 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does anyone else find that the elastic band on Moleskines goes bad after a while? Notebooks I've had for a few years, if I open them again the band has lost its springiness, and no longer holds the book closed tight.
posted by dnash at 10:52 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry.

That'll teach me to spell "stationery" right next time, though.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2013


OK, so Moleskine makes things other than notebooks and journals. They also make sketchbooks too, at a nice, convenient size, and the creamy paper is lovely for painting and drawing. (I also like the elastic band, and the folder in back for scraps.) It's pretty much the perfect travel sketchbook, and I used to use Moleskine sketchbooks religiously when I travelled a lot. Since I don't travel as much as I used to (and they are awfully expensive), I've moved on to other things, like the Aquabee Super Deluxe wirebound line. The paper is in fact superior to Moleskine, though the one I have is really too large for me to cart around conveniently.

So, any thoughts on a good alternative to the hardbound Moleskine sketchbook?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:06 PM on April 3, 2013


I discovered Moleskines via the internet a decade ago and got my first few online. They were excellent, and I stocked up on the varieties I liked (plain paper, large and small) because I was certain they were going to go away. Instead, they exploded in popularity and the paper went to shit. I haven't bought one recently, though, so the paper quality might have improved, as mentioned upthread. If so, I can't imagine this IPO is going to do it any good.

I keep a Vanishing Point filled with Noodler's Bulletproof Black to use in the Moleskines because the ink doesn't bleed or feather. It just takes ages to dry and smears if you look at it. But it's a lovely ink on lovely paper (in my older ones), and I find the act of using this pen in this notebook is rewarding enough to get me writing when I wouldn't otherwise.

Now I'm in the market for a replacement notebook I can use with the Iroshizuku line of inks from Pilot. I may give Rhodia a try if I can find any locally that aren't spiral- or staple-bound.

I've also made a few of my own notebooks using this guide.
posted by malthusan at 12:25 PM on April 3, 2013


No, that was when they had huge cardboard standup displays next to the check-out line at Barnes and Noble five years ago. It's all marketing, nothing more.

Their first real market exposure (in the US, at least) came from Barnes & Noble. It was pretty much the only place you could find them for years. For any material good like this, the beginning is the beginning of the end, if you want to look at it that way. What I'm talking about is that I expect quality to suffer and/or stupid decisions to be made about whether they keep selling the ones I like.

Of course it's "all marketing". But sometimes a physical object has useful qualities despite being tied to a successful marketing machine. I'll give up on this observation right around the time all the nerds with lots of money stop buying Apple products in favor of bottom-line ASUS hardware running outdated versions of Windows. (Fill in your temporally appropriate parallel as the tech changes, but you get what I'm saying.)
posted by brennen at 12:25 PM on April 3, 2013


For this semester, I ended up rolling my own notebooks. I used Incompetech to generate a custom dot grid to accommodate my wretched, overly-big, handwriting and then imported the resulting file into InDesign where I added page numbers, additional pages with reference items, and my own custom headers/footers. Set up color front and back covers and then sent the final PDF off to LuLu which printed them in a week and cost around $16 per 160 page notebook.

The paper quality is nothing compared to a Moleskin, being slightly thicker and about the same texture as regular office paper, but it is much nicer, for me, than normal notebook paper. And the notebooks have been rather durable. The thick stock cover and the very tight spiral has kept the books together through slightly abusive use. I'd highly recommend it for anyone who has off-the-norm handwriting like me or who just wants to use their extensive collection of etchings to make an interesting design.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:29 PM on April 3, 2013


If this is the thread where we talk about our favorite pens, I have to say that the classic PaperMate Flair is my all-time favorite pen. Unfortunately, the quality took a noticeable nose-dive with their recent redesign. My supply of the old model is dwindling, and I'm currently flirting with the Pentel Sign Pen — I have a pigment-ink Sign Pen that I really like, though the tip is just slightly wider than my preference. I want to like fountain pens but I find them too fiddly. And fiddly means I spend too much time thinking about the pen instead of writing.
posted by stopgap at 2:54 PM on April 3, 2013


I discovered Moleskines via the internet a decade ago and got my first few online. They were excellent, and I stocked up on the varieties I liked (plain paper, large and small) because I was certain they were going to go away. Instead, they exploded in popularity and the paper went to shit.
I had the opposite experience. Over a decade ago, I bought a medium Rotring 600 and a moleskine. As the steel nib of the Rotring wore down to more of a broad, the ink would easily soak all the way through the page. After trying out a number of different pens, I ultimately settled on the Pelikan 800 (expensive for a pen, but it has lasted longer than several comparably-priced smartphones). The other day, I left my Pelikan at home, and happened to have the Rotring inked up as a backup pen. No noticeable bleed through.

The only other difference is that I'm using Lamy Blue in the Rotring now rather than the Lamy Black I used a decade ago. Lamy Blue-Black, alleged to be the same stuff as Montblanc Blue-black, goes in the Pelikan.

In addition to the satisfactory paper, I like the simplicity and functionality of the Moleskine. No external stitching or other decorative design details. Solid binding that easily stands up to a year of regular use. The elastic band and pocket. The price is a bit high, but I tend to average about two notebooks a year, so they don't break the bank.

I hope Moleskine doesn't steer too sharply in the direction of Montblanc and Leica.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2013


I use Moleskines obsessively, and love them. I'd trade up to a better paper, but the form factor, binding, pocket, and understated appearance all suit me well. What's a competitor that matches the size? (Oh, I'm also a FP geek, so I need solid paper.)
posted by uberchet at 4:13 PM on April 3, 2013


On cheap Chinese pens, go with the Hero 329 (as mentioned above). It looks just like Parker 51, which was the best-selling pen ever back in the day, and is slim an unostentatious to boot. I used to buy them by the dozen box (maybe $50-60) and give them as gifts.
posted by 23 at 6:49 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, looking around the 329 might have been discontinued, but Hero has a "Hero Doctor" line which looks basically the same.
posted by 23 at 6:52 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: Hero, that's amazing. Ordering one right now. I have a couple of Parker 51s inherited from older relatives, and in contrast to modern Parkers, which I keep trying and failing to like, they're a really wonderful design and write beautifully. It'd be great if these are reasonable copies.
posted by brennen at 9:04 PM on April 3, 2013


Composition books aren't bad in a pinch. One college store I used to go to carried some nice ones with blue covers and in a smaller format than usual. Those were especially nice and matched well with a Varsity.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:39 AM on April 4, 2013


I see there are still some Hero 329s floating around Ebay, but the 'Doctor', AKA Hero 616, does look like a closer clone of the Parker 51 - arrow-shaped pocket clip and all.
posted by usonian at 5:17 AM on April 4, 2013


As much as I like the Moleskine notebooks (and I've also bought a few of the Fieldnotes), I still end up actually using a mini 5x7 yellow legal pad most of the time for actual desktop note taking. The pages are bigger, it's MUCH cheaper, and it stays open to the current page without needing a bookmark (at least until you get near the end).
posted by smackfu at 6:25 AM on April 4, 2013


I dug out my box of college notebooks. It turns out what I thought were just smaller, better comp books with heavier covers and tape bindings were in fact "lab notebooks" or "chemistry notebooks."

I used to buy are National Brand 43-571, but it looks like they've been changed. This version from TOPS seems closer to what I'm looking at. They also make one with even heavier pressboard covers. Those are green-tinted, but there are white ones.

For actual comp books, these heavy covered alternatives from Blueline might be a bit nicer. I'm also now curious about their Miraclebind notebooks and punch for self printed materials.

Fountain pen users, is there any reasonably priced boxed stationary (pref. available from big box office stores) that you feel works well for self printing notebook pages? Or anything in particular to look for on the box? I use a Varsity most of the time. (I'm a lefty and tend to do bad things to nibs so they're ideal for me. That also makes a notebook that allows me to remove and return a page useful.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:59 AM on April 4, 2013


Slap*Happy: "The author of the article, John Mottishaw, is a professional fountain pen hot-rodder"

Why did my lexicon not include this phrase before now
posted by scrump at 1:43 PM on April 5, 2013


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