This is going to be a really fun article to write, because I’m writing about not only a product I think it beautiful but also one I use every day, sometimes several times a day. In fact there are 10 million of these products sold every year.
To be specific: classic black hardcover pocket Moleskine notebooks. These have become an essential travel tool for me, yet in rural Texas, finding retailers is not so easy. Of course Amazon is a solution, as it is to almost any product need. But wouldn’t it be nice to know where to go to get one and support a local economy?
I’ll be looking at where to buy one, and also a bit about the notebook itself.
Most of us learning for the first time about Moleskine notebooks aren’t familiar with their history or even how to pronounce the name.
The product dates back to the 19th century but actually disappared from stores and the public during the latter half of the 20th century. Before that, famous writers such as novelist Ernest Hemingway and playwright Oscar Wilde made them famous, kind of like Michael Jordan did with Nikes. (I don’t sense that Nike is going the way of the Moleskine.)
As for pronunciation, the company that relaunched the product was French, so before then it was called MOLE-skeen, and when it moved to France they added a syllable and called them MOL-ey-skeen. To us anglos to stomach that pronunciation, we’d need it spelled “Mollyskiing.”
If you want to know more about why it’s even called “Moleskine,” click here.
Today, the Italian company that manages the brand — after buying it from another Italian company that had it publicly traded on the Italian stock market after they bought it from the French company — delisted it from the stock exchange. They have 500 employees.
It seems a bit unusual to consider its quixotic market appearances. One wonders how a brand stays alive. But between its pedigree as a tool used by famous artists and its durability and simply beauty, it finds a market among discriminating writers and poets, sketchers/artists, architects, musicians, even CEOs, and others.
The importance of its cover and its paper
Durability and beauty, shaped in simplicity, are why Moleskines enjoy such loyalty from its users. Moleskines in particular are also somewhat of a rebellion against a world gone digital. They provide solace in focus, retreat from sound and movement…just the pen or brush or pencil moving across a cream surface.
People who use Moleskines — writers and artists and so forth — often throw them into backpacks or shove them in their back pockets, and they sit on them, lay them down on wet surfaces, place them on rocks by cliffs overlooking raging ocean surf, or any number of things that would ruin a lesser journal.
And if you Google “Are Moleskine covers real leather?” the nearly 800,000 results will convince you that it looks and feels enough like a lower grade leather that it doesn’t really matter if it is or isn’t. It’s simply beautiful.
This next fact will anger some, especially given the events of recent days (March – June 2020).
Moleskine is quite proud of the fact that they produce the notebooks in China (source: bachelorsdegreeonline.com). Yup. You heard right. The reason lies with China’s (true) historical expertise in paper manufacturing. The Chinese invented paper, after all.
The paper is indeed one reason I use Moleskine. I’ve tried Shinola notebooks, made in Detroit and which has admittedly a very cool store in SoHo, but its paper is inferior in my opinion. At least it is for writing with a fountain pen.
I also tried a Daler/Rowney, which is a good art company and the notebook wasn’t bad all in all — good paper to hold the ink, and durable cover. But it was so close to a Moleskine but not a Moleskine, that I said, “Why? Why would I want an imitation?”
Answer: I don’t.
The inspirational power of Moleskines
In this section, I’m simply going to show a few of my favorite Moleskine-borne creations.
Why do I like these?
I put the writers’ journals first, because that’s the way I use them, and that’s what made them famous and, I believe, kept the brand alive (used by Hemingway, Wilde, etc.). A Moleskine wouldn’t be complete without crossing out and corrections. I included Tina Bu’s time planner, because so many people I know of use an analogue device for tracking time and projects, and I really admire that. I’ve never been able to do that; I’m digital for tracking my activity.
Then there’s the art, which I could stare at for hours. Nowadays, the creations have to jump to the opposite page, even play off there being a gutter, and often bleed off the edge in some thematic way. Some have made creations that are truly 3-D.
Where to buy Moleskine notebooks in Texas
- Living in Kerrville, the easy way is to order through Amazon. I absolutely will not go to Walmart to buy a knock-off. Google Maps says they have Moleskines; they don’t. Entertainmart (the former Hastings) on Main Street might.
- But an hour south, in La Cantera Mall near San Antonio, there’s a Barnes & Noble, and they have a fairly good selection.
- Austin has six different retailers.
- The Dallas area, in Carrolton, apparently only has one.
- There are four in Houston.
- Lubbock: Barnes & Noble.
- Same with El Paso — Barnes & Noble.
- Moleskine’s own global store locator here appears to be useless, so don’t bother.
I get my coffee, sit down in my leather armchair — kind of the only time I do — and get out this reef blue notebook (until I get another color; a canary yellow is on deck) and my Parker Sonnet brushed black metal fountain pen, and I write. Whatever is on my mind.
Sometimes there’s not much.
But that’s not often.