On luxury notebooks


in Daily updates, Economics, Writing

Encouraged by the approval of friends like Emily and Tarun, as well as the endorsement on Tony’s blog, I bought a Moleskine notebook today. I am quite ambivalent with regards to the symbolism of the things: they try to cultivate artistic chic, but through their absurd price, coupled with ready availability, they can easily be seen as absurdly pompous. This might be called ‘Powerbook syndrome:’ only very marginally better than iBooks, yet nearly twice the price.

I was able to justify spending eight quid on a 120-page notebook only because it is an eighteen month weekly calendar. As such, it is worth spending more for something that will not fall apart or lead to you cursing it daily for a year and a half. It is a better alternative to telling people: “Yes, Thursday might be good. Just email me and I will check in Outlook that I don’t already have something sorted out.”

The choice was between developing a memory for appointment-type details and getting some kind of day-planner. The redeeming qualities of spending money on something long-lived should be a useful antidote to accusations of notebook snobbery. As for the question of whether Moleskine notebooks are really all they’re cracked up to be, I will get back to you.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

B June 1, 2006 at 6:03 pm

You’re certainly posting a lot. What are you avoiding?

On Moleskines: They are every bit as bad as paying more for shoes with a huge Nike swoosh on them. It is a bit more justifiable in the case of something you plan to carry around for a year and 1/2, but it’s still pompous.

Anonymous June 1, 2006 at 6:16 pm

Amazon.co.uk seems to sell the notebook you’re describing for eighteen quid. Where did you get it for eight? Or is yours the pocket version?

Milan June 1, 2006 at 6:33 pm

“You’re certainly posting a lot. What are you avoiding?”

Core seminar paper, core seminar presentation, three papers for Dr. Hurrell, job applications, fixing my bike tire, and writing a foundational document for an Afternoon Tea Society being established by my friend Elise in Wisconsin.

“Where did you get it for eight?”

Waterstone’s. They were pulling off stickers saying £7.99 and attaching ones saying £10.50. I never would have paid £18.

“Is yours the pocket version?

Nope. That one seemed a bit too large. This one is a big too big. Something intermediate would have been ideal. Given that I carry a backpack more than 90% of the time, going for the bigger option was probably smart.

Milan June 1, 2006 at 8:09 pm

They may be impressed briefly, before discovering that I just don’t have the artistic chic to sustain the image and justify the brand positioning.

R.K. June 1, 2006 at 7:38 pm

One day, you’ll pull out that Moleskine notebook to make a date, and the young woman will be impressed. I bet you Rosalind would have been.

tony June 3, 2006 at 6:08 pm

The thing is, I’ve always been a notebook addict, and not likely to change, or even interested in changing, now. I also think of myself as a fairly early adopter of Moleskines – at least in their present vogue – since buying my first one in Amsterdam in July 2001. I’m not sure when this revival began, but that was definitely the first time I saw them – and it’s the kind of thing I would notice.

Milan June 3, 2006 at 6:46 pm


According to the blurb that comes in the back pockets (in six languages), the original Moleskine notebooks are no more. These ones are a re-creation, based on descriptions from Bruce Chatwin. The old versions were available until 1986. The new ones have been available since 1998, when an Italian company began making them again.

esther June 5, 2006 at 9:08 am

i like my little sketchbook one. the quality of the paper is pretty good, and they can go in a bag for months without looking nasty and torn/ scratched etc.
i’m a notebook addict too. love the little shop on that road with austin reed on the corner, by the nosebag????, opposite the three somethings (goats heads????)
it’s been too long since i was last in oxford.
anyway, that sells cool notebooks- can be a bit girly though.

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