Why did the expensive notebook company need to go digital?

The Expensive Notebook Company (via New Yorker)

I almost balked when I saw a calendar app from Moleskine on the App Store. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore Moleskine and collect hordes of them. I have the LEGO edition, the Lord of the Rings edition, the Star Wars edition, the wine journal and the traveller’s journal. And I use none of them because I feel they are so special that they are meant to be treasured and not to be used. There is a sense of pride in using a product that accounts for Hemningway, Picasso and van Gogh as part of its lineage. Unlike the note-writing apps, there is something very intuitive about Moleskine, perhaps as it does not involve learning where to click or where to go and what to do. It is immediate.

The idea that non-digital products and ideas have become more valuable may just seem to work against the narrative of disruption-worshipping techno-utopianism coming out of Silicon Valley but, in fact, it simply shows that the evolution of technology is not linear. We may eagerly adopt new solutions, but, in the long run, these endure only if they truly provide us with a better experience—if they can compete with digital technology on a cold, rational level.

And therein lies the rub. I find the transformation of Moleskine to its digital avatar at complete odds. Moleskine’s ascent is symptomatic of a shift that I call the revenge of analog, in which certain technologies and processes that have been rendered “obsolete” suddenly show new life and growth, even as the world becomes increasingly driven by digital technology. This goes beyond the well-documented return of vinyl records, encompassing everything from a business-card renaissance sparked by  MOO.

Interestingly, Evernote, the digital app which competes with Moleskine has opened a marketplace for physical products, including notebooks, special Post-it notes, desk accessories, and even bags with the bestseller product being the Evernote Moleskine. Evernote might have set out to eliminate unorganized stashes of paper notes, but the future is not paperless.

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