The Moleskine Report, Part IV

Here’s another bit of Moleskinerie, this time from Merlin Mann, who was also kind enough to answer my questions about the notebook phenomenon. His answers took the form of a short essay, which I offer in its entirety:

There’s still a desire and a market out there for PDAs–particularly when they’re well integrated with your mobile phone, like on the Treos. The problem is that there’s a practical limit to how many little boxes you can lug around everywhere. Since the iPod has caught on, I think digital music players have displaced a lot of folks’ PDAs from that coveted number two spot (right after mobile phones, of course). Carrying more than two or three digital devices requires either a bag or a relaxed disposition about looking like a bit of a dork.

I think people are often attracted to notebooks and index cards because they’re cheap, immediate, and endlessly configurable. They never run out of batteries, won’t break when you drop them in a bar, plus they just _feel good_ to write on. There’s a sense that you’re committing to something more mindfully if you take the time to write it down in a beautiful notebook with your favorite pen.

Moleskines, for example, each come with a cool little accordion pocket in the back. I use mine to hold an extra public transit card, a mini-copy of my Amazon wishlist, and an emergency $20 bill. So, for people like me, the notebook starts to function like an analog hub for whatever you might foreseeably need on the go.

The Hipster PDA addressed a real-world problem for me. I share lots of information with people wherever I go–records to buy, sites to visit, and so on. And I don’t always want to drag a big notebook or a Palm around when a modest stack of cards will do. Add a Fisher Space pen, and you’re ready to go anywhere.

People are sometimes surprised at how quickly they adapt to the habit of carrying a notebook–they really start relying on it and very much notice (and curse) the times when there’s no paper around to capture an idea or a reminder. I think that, after a week or two, your mind sort of loosens up since you know there’s always something there to catch thoughts while they’re fresh.

Thanks, Merlin. You can find a lot of cool tricks and productivity tips at Merlin’s website, 43 Folders.

14. January 2005 by jeremy
Categories: Interfaces | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. You know I was asking the same question, “What is this Moleskine Phenomenon?” After reading this entry over at 43F, I think I too have figured it out – it’s just another way to organize your life; it’s also 10X easier than a palm, cheaper and again it doesn’t break or need batteries. A guy posted a comment on 43F saying that a moleskine is like the G5 of computers, it’s sleek, impecable design and seems to work better than the competition. Of course, you pay more, but if you want the look, you’ll pay.

  2. Aloha, and wow.
    I’ve never had – or seen, for that matter, a moleskine, but it sure has the ability to evoke a lot of passion. I’m reading about them on so many blogs lately: clicked into yours from K.Todd Storch’s.

    If the company doesn’t have a blog of it’s own, they certainly should consider hiring one of you to write it for them.

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  4. To add to the great debate, Moleskin versus Miquelrius.

    My qualifications, in brief, included 14 years in journalism, consulting, peacekeeping and roaming the world for other NGOs and international organizations. As a shorthand writer as well as one time foreign correspondent and official diplomatic notetaker, I think the old fashioned paper notebook is more reliable, in the long run, and less intimidating. It can transition gracefully from presidential palace to remote village. It doesn’t get crushed, run out of batteries or attract attention. Wrap it in a Zip Loc bag and its waterproof.

    While I like the Moleskine’s “high end” features such as the strap, pagemarker and back pocket useful, it has drawbacks. The Moleksin has less volume, therefore I use one every three months as compared to a Miquelrius every eight months, even with extensive notetaking. This means the Moleskin is less useful as a portable archive.

    Size does matter, but the Miqquelrius is still small enough to fit in a trouser pocket.

    The Moleskine is also more expensive, so using them more frequently adds to the cost.

    It is narrower more difficult to do good shorthand. The width also limits your ability to sketch and draw, everything from organigrams to the scenery.

    My solution? Improvise with the Miquelrius to get something just right. Add a small envelope to the back. I use left over wedding RSVP envelopes. I generally use two green elastic bands for section dividers. I picked those up wrapped around my vegetables from Trader Joes. The elastic bands the postman leaves behind also work. Pages can also be marked with Post-It Flags, paper clips and regular Post-It Notes folded back into the page you last used. My pictured notebook has been around the world a few times, including to a few remote African and Indonesian village. It looks a bit tattered by the time you get it back to Washington, but I reckon there is nothing better for your “street cred” as a guy who knows what’s going on in the field than walking into a meeting with a weathered notebook.