I've long been a fan of Moleskine notebooks, which I use in a variety of sizes for various purposes, so when I saw a display of their new City Notebooks at Brookline Booksmith, I was intrigued. I emailed Moleskine to inquire when the Boston notebook would be available and they very kindly sent me a London notebook and a Boston notebook, along with information about their new website, Moleskine City.
So what is a City Notebook?
The concept is that users will create their own guidebook to a city. Moleskine initially released twelve European cities, with several North American cities, including Boston, having recently become available. Far Eastern cities are due in 2008.
How does it work?
Those familiar with Moleskine notebooks will find the usual prefatory pages for information about who to return the book to if found and the "Personal Data" section, as well pages for Measures and Conversions and International Sizes. The City Notebook maps are provided by Lonely Planet, whose London Condensed guidebook is my favorite easily portable guide to London. I would have liked to have seen slightly more extensive maps in the London and Boston books--Hampstead Heath and Canary Wharf don't make it onto the London maps, for example, but the parts of London which would be most interesting to a visitor are covered and the map scale changes for greater detail in central London although certain favorite places, like Neals Yard Dairy on Shorts Gardens won't be found because the street isn't labelled. Boston proper has good coverage, but one doesn't get Jamaica Plain or Dorchester, although Brookline Village and Harvard Square are included. Subway maps are also included for both Boston and London.
Perhaps the most inspired idea in the notebook is the inclusion of reusable plastic sheets which can be layed over the maps. I'm a habitual notetaker on maps, marking off where I've been or wish to go, so the sheets help keep the maps from becoming unusable. If one uses a slightly waxy pencil, the marks one makes on the plastic sheets can be wiped off or a regular pencil with a good eraser works as well.
The notebooks also have blank pages, followed by a series of tabbed sections, each with a theme, including "Food" "Drinks" "Sleep" "People" Places" "Books" and blank tabs which can be customized using the included stickers including"To Avoid" and "Musts" or you can write your own. I've started keeping information about my favorite restaurants, books about Boston I want to read, historic sites to visit, and a variety of other information in the Boston book. At the back of the notebook is an accordion pocket for storing receipts, ticket stubs, and other ephemera.
The City Notebooks attempt and succeed in bringing some of the aspects of blogging and Web 2.0 into a carry along book. The DIY aspect will work well, especially for those who do a lot of initial research before embarking on a vacation. For those who live in cities which have their own notebooks, I see it as a useful tool, a vade mecum if you will. I can also see loaning a City Notebook to a friend for them to take along on a trip and having them add to it as well.
One wonders if a cottage industry will develop to create content for City Notebooks. One feature I would like to see added to Moleskine City: the ability
to print out blog posts and other information in a City Notebook
format. For instance, if I were to create a tour of architectural
sites in Boston with appropriate references to points on the City
Notebook maps, it would be great to have other users be able to
download and print that information in a format conducive to being
stored in the City Notebook. Other have already begun to hack their notebooks, to customize them further for certain purposes. I give points to Moleskine for understanding that Moleskine users are a
community and the Moleskine City promises to be a useful adjunct to the
If you want to know more about all things Moleskine, visit Moleskinerie a blog devoted to the cult of Moleskine.
Visit Boston's Victorian treasure, the Gibson House Museum. Stop by and say hello to me!