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The Poor Man’s Moleskine: The Colored Edge Notebook

May 18th, 2007 · 7 Comments · alternative to moleskine, black, black book, black notebook, blank book, cahier, hardcover, journal, Mazzuoli, mini journal, miquelrius, moleskine, moleskine notebook, molskine notebook, notebook, perfect notebook

Hello there.

In the past few entries, we’ve covered several Moleskine-esque soft covers, and one thing that has become clear: a key component of the archetypal “little black notebook” is a sturdy cover. As much as I like a soft cover that can be kept comfortably in your pocket, there is something about a durable hard cover that makes this sort of notebook special. Mazzuoli found a brilliant middleground in their perfect Stifflexibles line, but until that rises from the grave, we’re stuck looking for alternatives.

Ever heard of Leather, Etc.? Neither had I, but today, we’re reviewing their Moleskine alternative – the Colored Edge book. While you read this review, try to keep in mind that this thing only costs $3.08. That’s right – you could buy three for less than the price of one Moleskine.

Let’s start with the notebook itself. It’s black, with an imitation leather/cardboard cover. It seems as sturdy as the Moleskine cover, though is less oily.

I’m a big fan of colored page edges, as it’s the one area for character in an otherwise straight-forward notebook. To my knowledge, Leather, Etc. offers red, yellow, blue, green, purple, and black (the version we’re reviewing is black). Big points for this in my book.

One of the highlights of this notebook is in how the pages are attached to the spine. With the Moleskine, the pages are not directly attached to the spine of the notebook, meaning the spine juts outward when you try to open it flat. With the Colored Edge book, the cover always creases at a perfect angle no matter what page you open at. For all that talk about the Moleskine being able to sit flat on a table, the Colored Edge notebook does a better job.

The notebook has the standard elastic band to hold it shut (whoever manufactures those things must be making a mint on all these little black books). And for the first time, we have a small fabric loop to hold a pen with.

Though it looks big, it actually can only hold fairly thin pens. It’s an interesting addition, though one I don’t really need.

Now let’s get to the bad. First off, this is yet another in the line of notebooks that seem to think bigger is better.

At 4″ x 5 3/4″, it’s both wider and taller than the Moleskine, and is pretty much impossible to carry around in your pocket. Rather than go for the portability all little black notebooks should have, this feels more like a diary.

The second downside comes in the pages, which are more or less identical to the white lined notebook pages in a standard composition notebook.

Look, I don’t NEED quality pages, as I’m not one of those nuts that writes with an ink-heavy quill pen (I’m just one of those nuts who obsesses over finding the perfect notebook). But despite being “70lb ruled paper,” these pages feel just like any Staples-bought notebook I’ve ever used. To make matters worse, each page has that annoying 2-3 line header at the top, which I maintain is wasted space (don’t worry – the BC guide to making the perfect notebook will be coming soon).

Overall, this is basically a cheap alternative to the Moleskine. For me, the notebook is too big, and I don’t really need the pen holder. However, if you were to shrink it down an inch, add a pocket folder in the back and throw in a bookmark, I’d consider this some heavy competition. I love the way the spine works, the notebook feels sturdy enough, and the colored page edges are the cherry on top.

The Colored Edge notebooks lack one other thing the Moleskine has: pretentiousness. And for that, they can’t be praised highly enough. If you’re at all interested, $3.08 really won’t dent your wallet, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Company website: Leather, Etc. (Click to see the many variations in color, size, and design).
Where to buy: Mister Art ($3.08 – make sure to buy the 4″x5 3/4″ … We will be reviewing the smaller version in the near future, which is actually a reporter’s notebook)