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The Softcover Moleskine: We don’t hate you, Moleskine!

May 7th, 2008 · 23 Comments · black book


[Update! Several readers have written in to say the durability of these notebooks is pretty shoddy - see below]

Let’s get one thing straight: we don’t hate the Moleskine. Yes, this website is dedicated to finding alternatives to what is widely considered the end-all, be-all of little black notebooks. But that has less to do with actual problems with Moleskine products, and more to do with the accepted belief that there is just one way to do a little black notebook, and Moleskine owns the patent. And to prove our lack of animosity, here’s our quite positive review of their very impressive softcover Moleskine.

Sometime last year, a page appeared on Amazon advertising a then-forthcoming Moleskine product: a softcover lined notebook. We received numerous emails about this, but other than a mention on the Moleskine website, no other information was available.

Many were excited about Moleskine’s first venture into the flexible world, but we here at BC were skeptical – because this, in fact, wasn’t Moleskine’s first softcover. In 2006, Moleskine put out a 2007 softcover weekly planner that was very disappointing. Badly planned, the rear pocket folder was so thick that it fully prevented the softcover from bending at all. Take a look:

That’s seriously as far as it would bend without basically folding it in half. Luckily, Moleskine clearly worked hard to correct the problem, as this is the current flexibility with the new softcover notebook:

It seems like we’ve reviewed far more softcover black notebooks than hardcover, which is too bad because I prefer something a little more durable. That said, Moleskine has come up with a good firmness to their softcover. While I like the popular Miquelrius, I’ve found it too be too flexibile – there’s no weight to it at all, and it’s good to have some amount of resistance. I was recently impressed by the Alwych notebook, which is more rigid than the Moleskine softcover – but in that case, the Alwych’s flexibility is appropriate to its smaller size.

Besides being flexible, the cover is made of the standard Moleskine oil skin cloth (without being backed by a thick piece of cardboard). I was a little surprised to find some nicks and a scratch in the cover when I took it out of its shipping box – time will tell how durable it is to wear and tear. But for the moment, I’ll chalk that up to the postal service.

Size wise, this notebook is ever so slightly smaller than the standard Moleskine, clocking in at about 5.5″ x 3.5″.

I still maintain this about a quarter of an inch too large, but with the softcover, the dimensions are a lot more manageable. I put this in my back pocket as I drove home from work today, and completely forgot it was there.

This first page has the standard Moleskine reward info – nice and simple, as it should be:

The pages are of the creamy, off-white variety, of which I’m a fan (not too harsh on the eyes). The lines go right to the top of the page, without the annoying margins that some notebooks choose to include. The line spacing is nice and tight, but I do have a complaint: they’re crooked!

I don’t know if it’s clear in this picture, but the lines do not run parallel to the top and bottom of the page! You can see it most clearly at in the top of the left page in the above picture – that difference in spacing is not due to the way the notebook is bending. In fact, it’s lying flat on the table (something this notebook does very well for a softcover). Very strange…perhaps one of the drawbacks of mass-manufacturing your products in China?

Finally, the notebook is rounded out with the back cover folder and ribbon bookmark.

All in all, I was very impressed with the Moleskine softcover. It’s firm enough to be durable, yet flexible enough to carry in pretty much any pocket. It comes with all the perks of the standard hard cover Moleskine, and besides the crooked lines, is a very strong little black notebook. To date, I haven’t seen these sold in stores, but you can order them easily enough online.

See? We don’t the Moleskine after all! Special thanks to Stacy for letting us know these were finally available to buy.

Update: Apparently, readers haven’t found the durability of these notebooks to be pretty bad:

I just started my first softcover pocket Moleskine two days ago. You will not do well carrying this in your back pocket. The paper block is already splitting from the binding. The only thing I have found that works in the back pocket over time is the pocket reporter notebook, always slipped into the pocket with the spine at the top. Sitting flexes the spine and breaks regular casebound books – a standard Moleskine in a few weeks, a softcover in a couple of days.

And:

OKAY, I have been using a softcover molie for 6 weeks, i keep it in my back pocket. and let me tell you there are some big drawbacks, first is the paper block coming away from the binding, it is only attached at each end of the block and not along the whole of it, basically meaning i had to sticky tape the first and last pages to the card pieces on the inner cover. Also the skin does come away from the inner card as it is not rolled, this can be easily fixed with some superglue though. also my ribbon fell out when the paper block came loose! Although the paper in mine is straight so 1 good point. i have noticed that the paper in some cahiers is often wonky yet not always.

Not very promising. At some point in the near future, I’ll be doing an update on how the various notebooks we’ve reviewed have held up over the past year.

BUY: Amazon.com ($12)

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23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Billy // May 8, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I too have only just discovered the soft-cover has been issued beyond the planner.

    I sent you an email some days ago, but am now wondering if you ever recieved it as I have had no reply. I wrote to you asking if you’d reviewed the Ciak yet. The Ciak is a leather-bound, soft-cover notebook available in different colours (including black) It also comes in at your desired ‘smaller than Moleskine’ (I believe about 1/4 inch smaller, but I could be wrong – certainly smaller, that’s for sure). It also ‘soft yet rigid’ which I believe is another of your wishes.

    Is the search over?

    Ciak Link:
    http://www.writeonme.com/products/detail.php?cat=7&pid=13

  • 2 Vramin // May 9, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I just started my first softcover pocket Moleskine two days ago. You will not do well carrying this in your back pocket. The paper block is already splitting from the binding. The only thing I have found that works in the back pocket over time is the pocket reporter notebook, always slipped into the pocket with the spine at the top. Sitting flexes the spine and breaks regular casebound books – a standard Moleskine in a few weeks, a softcover in a couple of days.

    Perhaps they will release the softcover in reporter style. That might be the best answer.

  • 3 Jen sans blog // May 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Strandbooks.com doesn’t carry the flexible one yet, but, when it does, I’m sure it’ll be the most inexpensive source for them.

    They sell the regular lined pocket notebook for only $8.95.

  • 4 MaSquared // May 9, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I like the Ciak too! They sell them at Barnes & Noble and I adore the paper, which is thick and comes in different colors. Fun to draw on–I really can’t stand how thin the Moleskine paper is.

  • 5 Bret // May 10, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Can you post a close-up of the cover on edge? I’ve been trying to figure out if the softcover is like the old Volant where the oilskin is just glued to the cover and doesn’t “fold over” at the edges. On some of my Volants the oilskin would start peeling off.

    I’m hoping the softcover rolls the oilskin over the backing at the edges.

  • 6 ANDY. // May 12, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    OKAY, I have been using a softcover molie for 6 weeks, i keep it in my back pocket. and let me tell you there are some big drawbacks, first is the paper block coming away from the binding, it is only attached at each end of the block and not along the whole of it, basically meaning i had to sticky tape the first and last pages to the card pieces on the inner cover. Also the skin does come away from the inner card as it is not rolled, this can be easily fixed with some superglue though. also my ribbon fell out when the paper block came loose! Although the paper in mine is straight so 1 good point. i have noticed that the paper in some cahiers is often wonky yet not always.

    so all in all i am going to stick with cahier’s and volants for my back pocket and keep standard molies in my bag.

  • 7 Christian Tietze // May 18, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I uploaded a few Photo Booth images to flickr showing the state of my 7 months old softcover Moleskine®. The last page came apart after a few days or a week or so. It’s looking like this for a few months now. After I taped the bookmark and got rid of the already taped last page, the cover seems to be flexible enough for sitting in the leg pocket of my uniform all day.

    I don’t know about any good alternative to the Moleskine. The softcover Moleskine is thin enough to fit into any pocket I know and the paper is fun to write on. I can’t really complain about the experience I had when writing in it. Its outer appearance is customized due to my taping efforts and looking at it makes me feel like I look at a old ill friend.

    http://flickr.com/photos/divinedominion/2501227915/
    http://flickr.com/photos/divinedominion/2502056020/
    http://flickr.com/photos/divinedominion/2502056114

  • 8 KH // May 19, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Why do you people keep buying this stuff if it is Made in China junk? Obsessed with a name-brand much?

  • 9 bud // May 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Hm, can’t understand these problems. I have a 18month weekly planer + notebook and I’ve used it since august last year. It’s still in perfect condition, even though I tend to malhandle my notebooks.

  • 10 Speedmaster // Jun 8, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    On the updates … very interesting, and disappointing. ;-(

  • 11 daniel // Jun 16, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Could you please review the Moleskine Van Goh series? I think they are lovely with the cover but of course, I’d hate for the tearing of spine to appear.

    Moleskine’s wide opening spine profile is extremely attractive and if somehow something as beautiful as the van gogh series can hold up to the tearing, it’d be fantastic!

    Just reading your review on the different alternatives makes me excited already, pity we have a smaller range here in Singapore, or at least, I’m having trouble locating the likes of Xonex Ru. Excellent site!

  • 12 daniel // Jun 16, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    *van gogh lol

  • 13 Mollie // Jun 28, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    “Very strange…perhaps one of the drawbacks of mass-manufacturing your products in China?”

    Moleskines have always been mass-manufactured in China.

  • 14 The Cartesio: A Notebook From Florence // Jul 10, 2008 at 9:58 am

    [...] it’s the firmest we’ve reviewed – definitely not as much flexibility as the soft cover Moleskine or the Miqeulrius, but this is a good thing. It’ll fit in a pocket, but it’ll also [...]

  • 15 Travels and Old Notebooks Revisited // Sep 8, 2008 at 11:54 am

    [...] looking forward to using the Alwych Notebook. My softcover Moleskine is currently being used as a recipe book, which means its constantly being subjected to foreign [...]

  • 16 Bill Webb // Oct 22, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    My softcover stayed in my back pocket for the length of a football game, and had already begun to separate. To their credit, Moleskine are sending me a new hardcover to replace it (without receiving the damaged one back, as it had personal info in it already) but it will be a while before I try the softcover again.

  • 17 Conrad // Nov 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I’ve experienced the same situations with my softcover Mole as reported by others. And, I was disappointed initially, but now I’m quite taken by the “beatup” look of it. I seem to get the best ideas and inspirations when using the SC over my HCs. I keep my SC Mole in the side pocket of my cargo pants, it’s easier on the wear and tear.

  • 18 John Benton // Mar 19, 2009 at 4:11 am

    After two unsuccessful iterations with the softcover Moleskine I switched to Alwych, which I was able to buy through Amazon at a good price. Very satisfied with the Alwych… the real deal.

  • 19 Bill Webb // Jan 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    My reporter style softcover separated the first hour it was in my pocket. I fixed it, but won’t carry it any more. To their credit, when I emailed Moleskine about it — just as info, not asking for replacement — they sent me a hardcover reporter by return mail.

  • 20 Anonymous Investigator // Mar 3, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I recently purchased a soft-cover (erroneously) as replacement for my previous notebook. Because my original notebook (reporter) had seen some heavy-duty wear and had become quite pliant, I assumed it must have been a soft-cover.

    Alas, no!

    Anyway, no longer carrying new notebook in rear pocket. Thanks for the tip.

  • 21 John Bonne // May 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Check out “Jack’s Pocket Notebook” on http://www.ebay.com

    You will see a line of unique thin (thinner than a Bicycle Playing Card) aluminum covered pocket notebooks designed to solve the problems you have mentioned.

    If you want a thin very flexible pocket notebook, this is it with durable thin aluminum covers and loose leaf binder rings.

    I recently developed this product to address the problems that I had for years with spiral and fixed binding pocket notebooks.

    This product was designed to fit in your hip pocket. The thin aluminum can be bent almost in half and will snap back to its original flat shape.

    There are also calendar, pen and business card holders and other options.

    Please check it out……many big Ebay customers have favorably rated this product and it has a 100% user satisfaction rating.

  • 22 sarah // Jul 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I honestly don’t understand why ‘being made in China’ is inherently a bad thing. The quality of a product depends on the standards of the company that is overseeing the production of the notebook, not the country it happens to be produced in. I myself have had no problem with my softcovers and I use them most days. Funny how some people have a negative experience with a product and blame an entire country on it.

  • 23 Bex // Jun 6, 2012 at 10:02 am

    It’s not so much that the paper is being sourced from China, but that nowadays Moleskine paper is sourced from various different paper merchants in China, with varying levels of quality. The result is a lack in consistency, generally poorer quality due to the manufacturer trying to get the pages as cheaply as possible and an overall inability to have any confidence in the product.

    If you are the type to go with the most identifiable, cool, hip carnet de jour and you are happy to use a cheap biro or pencil to write in it, you’ll probably have no problem with the varying paper quality. But if like a lot of stationery fetishists/notebook aficionados you prefer to accompany your paper with a decent pen and ink, you should steer clear of Moleskine altogether.

    The two greatest alternatives I’ve found to the Moleskine are the Rhodia Webnotebook (which has the most beautiful creamy ivory pages that take my heavily saturating fountain pen inks) and the Leuchtturm 1917 which is another example of quality German design and manufacture, all wrapped up in some stunningly coloured covers and accompanied by a very useful table of contents, page numbers and archiving labels.

    These can both be found at Bureau Direct, so if you live in the UK and want to check them out/purchase them, go check out their website as they offer free P&P for orders over £5!

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