Meet the Moleskine: a supremely analog notebook that's redefining the term "little black book"—and is fast developing a cachet even among techies.
At first glance, a Moleskine couldn't be simpler: a plain black cover encasing plain or ruled pages, available in a variety of sizes. But a closer look reveals several doodad-y details—a built-in bookmark, an elastic strap, an expandable inner pocket—that combine to create the feel of a gadget. Perhaps more important, Moleskines, which cost around $10 for pocket versions, are being marketed as the "legendary notebook of European artists and intellectuals," originally manufactured by "small French bookbinders" and favored by the likes of Hemingway, Matisse, and Picasso—all of which imbues the booklets with an air of romantic sophistication and creativity.
Or at least that's the pitch. Whether Picasso and his ilk ever actually jotted notes or doodled sketches in Moleskines (or in something like them, because the current version of the books, produced by the Italian company Modo & Modo, has been available only since 1998) is debatable. But it's an appealing story, which is just what you need when selling a product as simple as this one. In any case, whether it's thanks to mythmaking or simple functionality, Moleskines have become a phenomenon: Modo & Modo reports annual worldwide sales of 4 million units. Moleskines have even inspired a number of blogs, as well as fan-produced T-shirts featuring a Moleskine and the words Therefore I am. When's the last time your PDA inspired that kind of devotion?
A version of this article appeared in the October 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.