Since reading about my love for journals, many Sahar’s Blog readers have reached out to me to ask me about the ones I use. Others reached out to share thoughts about the journals they prefer to read. While I listed three types that readers and I love, many readers wanted more information about each option—so I figured that I might as well dedicate a whole product review to the journal I use the most, i.e. Moleskine’s hard cover ruled notebook.
I have to admit that, over the last few years, I have focused on just one type of journal, so this a pretty biased review of a product I have been using almost exclusively for at least the last 8-9 years. I have started branching out lately for the sake of being open-minded, as well as because I have received a couple of gorgeous notebooks as gifts (including a beautiful pink on white number from Èccolo). So you can expect, in a couple of months, a review of at least one other type of journal.
But for now, Moleskine rules.
Some Moleskine History
There is quite an interesting history to the Moleskine line available on Wikipedia, so I won’t tarry too much about it here. Suffice to say that I know many people who were enticed to start using the brand because of this history—they were seduced by the imagery of using these journals more than anything else. So there is a definite danger when it comes to Moleskine that we being taken in by the story of the brand rather than the quality of the product.
And as you can imagine, this isn’t easy for me to acknowledge!
More about the Company
I have to admit that before preparing for this post, I never researched Moleskine’s ethics and effects on the environment. I was a little apprehensive about embarking on this research—what if I found out some pretty terrible things about my favorite notebook? Then again, it would be rather hypocritical of me to claim that I am trying to “constantly and consistently better [myself] spiritually and materially” if I choose not to embark on this journey, no?
Moleskine’s website includes quite the extensive code of ethics. This includes a set of fundamental values under which we can find “social and environmental responsibility”. There is also a statement about engaging in “fair competition” which explains that the company’s intention is to “outdo the competition in performance terms, with fairness and honesty”. Under its “principles of conduct in relations with stakeholders”, Moleskine states that “The environment is a primary good that the Group is committed to protecting and, for this reason, when planning its activities it seeks a balance between economic initiative and environmental protection, developing its business with the utmost respect of current environmental regulations, and always bearing in mind the rights of future generations. Following an initial environmental analysis aimed at identifying critical environmental situations, Moleskine has implemented an improvement programme, the purpose of which is to pursue the following environmental goals: Decrease in the usage of raw materials, in particular paper -Increase in heat and energy efficiency of buildings; Utilisation of certified ecological, biological and ethical products; Decrease in/separation of waste produced; Worker awareness and participation.”
It all seems well and good, until I noticed, written on the paper band all Moleskine notebooks come wrapped in, that the notebook is manufactured in China. I don’t know enough about the situation in China nor about the specifics of how Moleskine produces its notebooks in said country, but because of what I have read so far about this matter, this raises a big red flag for me. Then again, in the context of trying to be as ethical as possible, a quick look at notebooks available at Chapters indicates that they are all made in Chine as well. So one question that I have is: does the overall code of ethics of the company balance out the fact that its products are manufactured in China? And does the company, despite the fact that it manufactures its products in China, still adhere to high environmental and human rights standards?
I usually go for the hard cover, 13 centimeters by 21 centimeters “notebook” in whatever colour or special edition that catches my fancy. While there are smaller journals available, I find that this size fits well in most of my purses and is easy to carry around during meetings. They also allow me to cram most of the information in a 2-hour meeting on two facing pages, which makes referring back to my notes a lot easier.
The paper is very smooth—most pens and pencils I have used on Moleskine notebooks glide smoothly on the paper’s surface, which means less wrist and finger pain after spending a long time writing. Sharpies, even the extra fine point ones, tend to bleed through, but normal pens (ball point, ink, or felt tip) don’t. The paper also works well with washi tape—while some people pre-divide theirs, I use my notebooks one page at a time, then line each page with a different colored washi tape to make specific themes/topics stand out. For example, as part of the regional community building process I am a part of at the moment, there are three major things in my service notebook: studying what community building is, notes from meetings with my other team members, and my to-do list. I choose to washi tape in blue all pages on which I jot down my to-do list, making it a lot easier to flip open to that page when in the middle of the action.
I prefer the hard cover version as they make for a much more comfortable writing experience pretty much anywhere, something that is important to me—I pretty much whip open my journal anywhere and everywhere. When opened on a hard surface, it opens easily at a 180-degree angle without any strain on the spine and any paper tears.
The elastic closure is really practical and long-lasting—I can stuff my journal with random bit of paper that will not fly away without the elastic stretching. It does become a little loose after 5-6 months, but it still remains usable. The ribbon bookmark is really practical for obvious reasons. It does tend to fray at the bottom but not so much; also, a regularly applied dab of clear nail polish takes care of that problem easily.
On top of its regular line of hard cover ruled notebooks, Moleskine regularly releases special editions journal collections, including Alice in Wonderland, the Audio Cassette, Lego, Coca-Cola, Le Petit Prince, The Simpsons, Minnie Mouse, Peanuts, Hello Kitty, Batman, and the seemingly ever-expanding Star Wars collection. All the ones I have purchased come with stickers, which makes the child in me quie happy. I’m currently intrigued by the new Blend collection, which seems to be journals that come with a fabric-based cover.
As you can tell, I love Moleskine, but enough questions have been raised during the writing of this post that I can only recommend them temporarily, until the second part of this review at least when I try to find the answers to the questions in this post.
Important diclaimer: I am not an expert when it comes to the environmental effects of products on the environment; I am just a concerned consumer trying to have the least negative impact on the global community.
Image courtesy of Moleskine’s official website.