Sometimes something good comes out of an unpleasant surprise.
Yesterday I filled a Moleskine large squared notebook, and opened up the spare I’d been carrying. I opened the book and realized something was wrong. The grid lines were really thick and dark. Not the unobtrusive light gray they used to be, but a very dark gray that will compete with most of the pens I use, and would overwhelm a pencil. See the picture below (the new style is on top, old style is on the bottom):
I filled out a quality control form at Moleskine and have requested a replacement. We’ll see what happens. Ever since Moleskine moved their production to China [Actually, they didn't. See below.] every book is a little different than the previous one. The cover feels different, or the binding is tight, or it smells funny, or something. That they added QC stickers to the books so they can track them suggests they know they have quality control issues.
I remember the first time I saw a Moleskine notebook. It was in 2001 in the Atlanta airport, and there was a little store in the middle that sold pens and paper. I bought a few of the pocket size and was so impressed with them I almost couldn’t write in them. The design, the placeholder, band, pocket and the rest that we now all take for granted were not very common then and it seemed so incredibly high quality. With this change in the ruling I decided to try something new and ordered the Leuchtturm1917.
I have the same feeling about the Leuchtturm1917 that I had with my first Moleskine. It’s everything a Moleskine is and more. It has a nicer ribbon, is available in dot ruling (in the same 5mm spacing as the Moleskine grid) as well as normal and grid ruling. It has page numbers, and even a table of contents. I’m not crazy about the eight detachable sheets in the back, but they may come in handy. The book is slightly larger – 15mm wider. Another nice touch is that it DOESN’T assume you will offer a reward for the book. It even comes with stickers to label the book with.
The Moleskine has 240 pages, where the Leuchtturm has 249 numbered pages. The perforations start on page 235, so 234 pages are not perforated and that’s not counting the table of contents. The Leuchtturm has 38 writing lines per page, versus 40 on the Moleskine. The Leuchtturm is about 15mm wider on each page than the Moleskine, which means the Leuchtturm has about 1,289 meters of writing lines on non-perfed pages, the Moleskine has 1,248. The Leuchtturm has an extra un-numbered page at each end of the book, that joins the cover to the body of the book. In the Moleskine these are counted in the 240, but they are hard to write on because they’re glued to the cover pages. So the Leuchtturm not only has more space but it’s all normal pages.
The registration of the ruling on the page is very consistent on the one I have, which is another area where Moleskine is now falling short – see the comparison of old and new Moleskine grid below. On the new Moleskine on top you can see the ruling jumps all over, where the old style on the bottom has nice consistent lines.
Last but not least the Leuchtturm1917 is about the same price on Amazon – about forty cents more. The Leuchtturm1917 is better in every way, with negligible additional cost.
So I discovered Moleskine’s quality had taken another slip downward, and in the process found a replacement that is better than the original. Hello Leuchtturm1917, goodbye Moleskine!
[Update 10/11/2011 - I received a great email from the folks at Kikkerland Design, who brought Moleskines into the US back in 1999. It turns out the Moleskines were always made in China, so they never moved their production there. I know I'm not the only person to think they had, and I'm not sure how it got started, but I felt it important to correct it. I do know their quality/consistency has slipped over the years.
The Leuchtturm1917 is made in Taiwan, which is arguably a better environment than China. However, I'd be willing to pay a few dollars more for one made here. Crane's paper, 100% cotton, in about 18lb grade, with the Leuchtturm design...maybe a joint venture...]