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The Moleskine Knock-Off: The Markings Notebook

October 29th, 2008 · 28 Comments · black book


Hello there.

Today’s R.L. Gibson Markings Notebook bookends a set of three moleskine-style notebook reviews we’ve done, following some fierce competition from the Piccadilly and the Guildhall. Both the Piccaddilly and the Guildhall are inexpensive little black notebooks that I initially feared were nothing more than Moleskine knock-offs, and was suprised to find that both had impressive features that made them each distinguishable in their own right (and in the case of the Piccadilly, with prices that should put Moleskine to shame).

Now for today’s review: Is the Markings Notebook a generic Moleskine knock-off, or something more?

The Markings Notebook is manufactured by C. R. Gibson, a company that makes infinite numbers of stationery products, and is sold at discount prices at massive retailers like Staples and Target everywhere. I picked mine up for $6.99 in the Staples journal section.

Size-wise, it comes in at the standard pocket Moleskine dimensions: 3.5″x5.5″.

The first strike: the notebook has a massive cover lip, something I dislike. There’s really no reason not to have the pages go all the way to the edges.

The cover is not oilcloth – it’s “genunine bonded leather,” according to the packaging, which consists of “80% genuine cowhide leather fibers and 20% non-leather materials.”

Personally, I’m not a fan – we’ve reviewed plenty of leather/synthetic leather cover notebooks, and this one seems the most plastic/vinyl-like to the touch – in other words, it feels cheap. There’s a thread sewn around the edges for aesthetic value.

There’s extremely little bend in this notebook, though again, the pocket Moleskine continues to dominate as the rock hard champion in terms of rigid notebooks.

First page, and you get a “This journal belongs to:” and three lines.

Then, the pages:

Strike 2: The Markings journal not only earns our distaste by having a massive, two-line header, but also a two-line footer! We’ve seen page space wasted on headers before, but never on footers, and it’s pretty disappointing. Most people are quite happy to write over lines if they want a header, and to assume we’d want one on every page means that 10-15% percent is wasted. The line spacing is slightly thinner than the Moleskine, something that would normally be a positive if not for the header/footer issue.

The color of the pages is a creamy yellowish white, akin to the Moleskine. The thickness seems to be about the same as well (I swear those fountain pen trials are coming soon!).

The notebook opens basically flat, but you have to really push it, and even then, there’s often a page curve that prevents you from using the whole page.

Finally, you get the standards: a rear pocket folder, a black satin bookmark, and a somewhat loose elastic band.

As you can probably tell, we were pretty disappointed by the Markings journal. It takes the Moleskine concept and, besides a different (and not so great) cover material, does absolutely nothing new with it (and actually takes it back a few steps with the cover overhang, the header/footer problem, etc.). It’d be one thing if this were the cheapest thing on the market, but $6.99 (Strike 3!) is without question about $3-$4 too much. And now, with such low-priced options on the market as the Piccadilly, a fantastic notebook you don’t have to make excuses for, there’s no place for this type of sloppy imitation. The Markings Notebook looks and feels uncreative and cheap, a second-rate knock off.

You can buy this at Staples and (I’m told) Target stores everywhere for $6.99 or so. I can’t find a vendor online, so give me a heads up if you happen across one.

Coming next week: Away with the black!

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