(An Embarrassment of Riches is a new series exploring select consumer goods that, for one reason or another, annoy the crap out of me.)
OK, I have to know: can someone tell me what’s so freaking fantastic about Moleskine notebooks? I first noticed their mention on Everett Bogue’s now infamous Far Beyond the Stars blog; my first thought was that it was hilarious that a self-proclaimed “epic” minimalist cared so much about his notebook brand. (My second thought was that E. Bogue sounded like a windbag/asshat with a huge ego and possibly a personality disorder, but that’s a discussion we don’t need to have here, as it’s been had elsewhere several times over.)
Anyway, I first noticed the Minimalist Moleskine Obsession (MMO?) in earlyish 2010, when I was greedily sucking up as much internet minimalism as I could. And – you know how these things go – once I’d noticed the MMO in a couple of places, it started popping up everywhere. Tammy Strobel‘s Rowdy Kittens. Nina Yau‘s Castles in the Air. Even the uber-minimal Leo Babauta of Zen Habits went on and on about how great Moleskines are. It was as if Moleskine notebooks were the only acceptable tools that Serious Minimalists could use to pare down their possessions to less than 76 items, lose 20 pounds, pay off their debts in one year or less, start an A-list blog, and find inner peace!
On some blogs, I noticed that the word Moleskine was even being used in place of the generic term for notebook. Example: “I take my Moleskine everywhere.” (In my mind, this is like calling all tissue Kleenex or all acetaminophine Tylenol…creepy and insidious.) I guess I should give credit to Moleskine for effectively engineering such strong brand loyalty and recognition.
So. What do Moleskines have that other notebooks do not? Are they made of magic?
From the Moleskine website:
“Moleskine® was created as a brand in 1997, bringing back to life the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin. A trusted and handy travel companion, “the nameless black notebook” held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.
Today, the name Moleskine encompasses a family of nomadic objects: notebooks, diaries, journals, bags, writing instruments and reading accessories, dedicated to our mobile identity. Indispensable companions to the creative professions and the imagination of our times: they are intimately tied to the digital world.”
Wait. A “reading accessory” is a nomadic object? What is a nomadic object? I speculate that Moleskine (®) doesn’t want you to think too deeply about that. I think you’re supposed to equate these so-called nomadic objects with being a more creative, free, artistic, unconventional, dominant paradigm-rejecting person.
Here’s what I think about Moleskine notebooks: I think they are pretty, nicely designed, and very, very overpriced. And like many other expensive, chic consumer goods, the Moleskine appeals to its buyer solely on the basis of its cool factor. It’s a notebook, folks. It’s got a cover, with paper inside. Actually, it’s not even made of recycled paper – a big strike in my book (no pun intended).
As Public Enemy says: don’t believe the hype.
PS: While we’re on the topic of notebooks, I’d like to plug the Ecosystem. Attractive, Moleskine-like in weight and heft, good variety of styles for writing and drawing, manufactured in the US from 100% post-consumer recycled paper. What’s not to love?