How feature creep ruined the moleskine city notebook

moleskine_sf.jpgWhen I heard of Moleskin City Notebooks, I thought it was a brilliant idea. Your regular moleskine with maps! After leaving behind my moleskine on a plane, I bought the Moleskine San Francisco notebook (as we were going to the move to the city soon). The first disappointment was that the city notebook was not available in square paper, and I had to buy the plain paper. But everything since has been a disappointment as well.

My previous Moleskin notebook was standard pocket size. Almost all of its 192 pages are for writing. There is an accordion pocket and a plastic band to hold it together. Simple, unipurpose – for writing down thoughts and notes.

With the city notebooks, seems like the designers got much more ambitious:

Its 228 pages (a fair bit thicker and much harder to fit into my purse! I often have to choose between the moleskine and the sunglasses)
There are 36 pages of maps! Why should you need 36 pages? Ah! It includes an alphabetical list of streets. This is just badly thought design – the Moleskin maps are not a replacement for a detailed street map. It should simply be a quick guide – 8-10 pages would suffice.
There are only 76 blank pages – which are the real reason I bought the Moleskins. From 192, I now have only 76! Moreover, since city notebooks are note available in square paper and I tend to write fewer lines in plain paper. So I am running out of space in only 3 months.
And, what happened to the rest of the pages? Good question. There are 32 removable sheets – Their website says its “for loose notes and exchanging messages“. Why on earth would I use the Moleskin for messages? I have stickies for that. Or I can tear part of a page if I am desperate. But to devote 32 pages to that. (And lets not forget the 12 translucent sticky sheets, just in case I want to “draw over routes“).
Yes, there are still 96 pages to do. There is a “96 page archive with tabs, and adhesive labels to personalize the tabs“. What were they smoking? Why should I need a personal, labeled archive. Moleskins are about the chronologically organized notes and thoughts. Its power is that you can open up and begin writing. If I had to begin searching through my labels to decide where to put it in, it takes away from the beauty of the experience.

If you were considering the city notebook, then consider yourself warned. I am going back to the regular old moleskine (in square paper of course!)

8 responses to “How feature creep ruined the moleskine city notebook

  1. Exactly–it’s the whipped cream blueberry frappachino of Moleskins.

  2. Maybe the concept of the Moleskine City Notebook doesn’t fit with the use you give to your moleskines, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad concept. Some people will have use for them, some won’t. I wouldn’t have use for the moleskine with pockets, that doesn’t make it a bad design, tho.

    I like the City Notebooks cause they have quick reference maps, that, btw, don’t cover the whole city, only what they consider most important to tourists, and sometimes that is annoying, but you can solve that with a small map, they have tabs where I can list my favourite places, and I can find them without having to flip through endless pages of notes. If you’re in a foreign city, the detachable pages are nice, to give out your e-mail address to people you meet on the road, for instance (I don’t usually keep sticky notes on a plain notebook, cause it bulges up), etc etc.

    Don’t say the concept is bad just because it doesn’t appeal to you, or doesn’t fit your needs.

  3. Thanks for this review. a friend and I are meeting up in New York City next month and I had been thinking about buying a couple of these – one for me, one for him as a gift… I had no idea there was so little actual writable space in the city notebooks!

    I may opt for the ‘traveler’s notebook’ instead, which has just five tabs: “bed, food, people, sights and facilities”.

    Or, perhaps just a regular old moleskine pocket notebook, which can be organized however one sees fit. : P

  4. I actually wouldn’t be without my London City Notebook – I’m a huge Moleskine fan anyway, but the City Notebook is indispensable for me. I don’t use it as a ‘writing’ notebook (I have plenty of Moleskines for that) but it is steadily filling with the addresses, reviews, and map co-ordinates of the places I visit. I think the maps are great, however, I’d love more street names even though I know that might clutter the design a bit.

    The Moleskine City Notebooks are clearly not what you wanted, but it is everything I want and more. I use other Moleskines for writing and sketching, but the London notebook is the one thing I can’t be without when I go into the city.

  5. If these were meant to replace the regular Moleskines I could see your complaints as being valid but this is meant as a Moleskine specifically designed for tourism. If one of these had been available when I went to London I would have bought it in a heartbeat. Would I use one of these to replace my regular Moleskine? Defenitely not, even if it was available in the larger size.

  6. i had my Boston City Notebook for a couple of months and couldn’t find a practical use for it. So i gave it away. it had too much stuff and not enough potential.

  7. It seems cool idea which could work…

  8. The street index is the best feature. I have the Washington, D.C. Citybook. It contains the most portable, pocketable street index I’ve found yet for D.C. (alas we don’t have A-Z’s, like London).

    The Citybook generally seems to be like a travel guide you create yourself — thus all those features you think are expendable and cumbersome, like the tab stickies. I don’t think it was ever intended to be a journal or diary like other Moleskine products. If that’s your goal, then of course you won’t be satisfied. But if you want to navigate a city, and keep an index or record of where you’ve been and what you thought of those places, the Citybook is perfect. Why do you need lots of writing space in a book designed for touring a specific city?