Why I Ditched My Moleskine Journal

I have used a paper journal for years to take meeting notes and jot down random thoughts. (I detailed my system here.) Yes, I tried the first generation iPad for this, but I ended up passing it on to a colleague. I just couldn’t quite fit it into my workflow—especially after I got a MacBook Air.

For years, my journal of choice has been the Moleskine. In fact, I have an entire shelf in my office set aside for storing my old copies. I have loved the simplicity, usability, and low profile of this notebook.

However, as I became more and more addicted to Evernote, I tried to figure out a way to get these notes into Evernote. Yes, you can take a photo, using the Evernote app for iPhone. But this is not as simple as it sounds. It is difficult to get the pages in focus and in the right orientation (landscape vs. portrait). If it works for you, great. It didn’t work for me.

What I really wanted to do was tear the pages out, scan them in my ScanSnap scanner, and then throw them away. The problem is that the Moleskine notebook only has 16 perforated pages at the end of the journal. That sent me on a search. What I really wanted was a journal where every page was perforated.

Google didn’t let me down. I almost instantly found the Ecosystem line of personal journals. I also discovered that they were available at my local Barnes & Noble store. Gail and I made a quick trip to the store near our home, found the Ecosystem spinner rack, and began exploring our options.

Ecosystem Author Journal

We discovered that the Ecosystem journals look almost identical to the Moleskine ones. It has a ribbon bookmark, elastic closure, and expandable inner pocket. However,

  • Every page is perforated
  • The paper is 100% post-consumer recycled and acid-free
  • Each journal has a unique ID number. If you register it, and it is found, whoever found it can return it to you.
  • It is made entirely in the U.S.A.
  • It comes in four styles:
    1. Advisor (calendar formats)
    2. Architect (grid paper)
    3. Author (ruled paper)
    4. Artist (blank paper)
  • It comes in six vibrant colors (see photo above)
  • It comes in three bindings:
    1. Hardcover
    2. Flexicover
    3. Paper
  • It also comes in three sizes:
    1. Large (7-3/8″ x 9-7/8″ inches)
    2. Medium (5-1/4″ x 8-1/4″ inches)
    3. Small (3-5/8″ x 5-5/8″ inches)

Currently, I am using the medium, hardcover Author style in Oynx black. If you didn’t know better, you would think it was a standard issue Moleskine notebook. The retail price is $16.95, a dollar cheaper than the Moleskine. However, via Amazon, they are about the same price ($11.53 vs. the Moleskine at $11.67).

If you are a Moleskine user, I would encourage you to try the Ecosystem’s Journal—especially if you are using Evernote. It is worth the added features.

Also, you can follow Ecosystem on their Tumblr blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Thanks to the generosity of Ecosystems, I gave away 50 free copies of the Author style journal. You can find the list of winners here.
Question: What is your current system for taking notes? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • David Manning

    Hi Michael:  I entered when you posted this before.  Just FYI:  I tried to find these in Barnes & Nobel in the Portland area.  Two B&N in PDX stores do not carry them.   Customer Services could not (did not) pinpoint a PDX store that did have them.  EcoSystem website indicated Whole Foods had them.  Went there only to find a small sample of styles.  So I left a note on the Ecosystem website providing feedback.  In the mean time, I learned that amazon.com has an offering at good prices, although not the full line (it seems).  Too bad, it seems that they’re a good journal.  I’m planning to use the weekly format with weekly on the left, lined on the right for a prayer & scripture insights journal.  djm

  • Jgschaef

    I had been using a Moleskine for years, buy recently switched to Notesplus w/ a stylus on my iPad 2. I can organize my folders & password protect the folders I need to keep private. it’s quite an intuitive app and it’s received great reviews.

  • Ted

    Michael,

    I have been using Levenger but was disappointed when they discontinued the grid style from their Notabilia system. I am considering switching to an option such as ecosystem or moleskine. Good point on the integration with Evernote.

  • Josh Roberts

    been using moleskines.
    just recently switched to penultimate ipad app.

  • http://twitter.com/jrbonline josh baker

    I’m in seminary and honestly my current system sucks. I’ve tried evernote and want to start using it more. but I’m still using the old school yellow paper pads. my broke college budget has never allowed me to get  a moleskin or any other type of journal and I would like to keep a good journal for my quit time and sermon prep.

  • http://twitter.com/lastnight Crystal Cottrill

    I use a basic spiral bound notebook for most notes, but lately I’ve been using a “hipster PDA” (bulldog clipped index cards). I also have a small lined Picadilly book for my purse. The magnetic closure is more protective for the pages than the Moleskine elastic.

  • Joshua Taylor

    Currently I use Evernote & my Moleskine but I’ve been having the same problem that you’ve been having. Moleskine just doesn’t allow for easy transfer of notes to any other place. 

  • Joshua

    I currently carry a tiny reporters notepad around in my laptop bag to take notes on the go and am a dedicated Evernote user (premium membership) to organize note-taking for research projects, editorials, and to transfer note-taking to. I’m very intrigued with the Ecosstem notebooks and jar held off buying a Moleskin or another reporters pad with the thought that I might try one. Thanks for great recommendation and for sharing tye video – particularly because I share a similar systematic way of taking notes!

  • Barry

    Good day Mike. I have used a wide array of journal/notebooks/etc. including Moleskines

  • Jeff

    Is it to late to enter?

  • Anonymous

    Michael, this post is very helpful. I’m a huge fan of Evernote and I use a Moleskine for note taking. I am interested in how you organize your pages one you’ve scanned them in. Do you keep them in separate notes by date, or is there a way to keep adding to a note as you scan more pages in? I think the biggest limitation of the Moleskine is that it’s difficult to get back to your thoughts, especially if, like me, you bounce around in your note taking and end up coming back a page or two later to finish a thought. 

  • Preston Woods

    Like!

  • http://twitter.com/Caleb_Phelps Caleb Phelps

    I have this constant internal conflict between taking notes on my iPad and in my moleskin notebook. Using Evernote allows me to keep track of my notes easily. Yet, there is still something about putting pen to paper that does not allow me to go completely digital. The one reason I have almost gone completely digital is because moleskin notebooks can get expensive after constant use. However, this post has opened my eyes to a new, wonderful, and eco-friendly solution. It is a good day for pen and paper!

  • Anonymous

    I currently use two things, an iPad and a Moleskine Medium Softcover Lined Notebook. Like you, I the iPad isn’t working out. I downloaded a few different paid apps, including NoteTaker HD and Penultimate, but neither of them proved to be worth it, even with a stylus.

    I like my Moleskine notebook but I really like the idea of perforated pages. It would be a great added feature that Ecosystem has that Moleskine doesn’t. 

    Great post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/victorious.soldier Greg Wiley

    I know that I am a little late to the party here: Mr. Hyatt, I use a combination to Notes Plus on the iPad, (which is a great note-taking app) and a legal pad. All of my notes make it Evernote, via a PDF file through e-mail.

    I am not looking to win a journal, but I wanted to let you know that I use my iPad on an everyday basis and it works as more than just a novelty for me. It improves my workflow in many ways.

    Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I was in need of a new journal so I picked one up instead of a moleskin. It’s a very nice product. I have not used the perforated pages yet, but I will get my first chance tomorrow when I meet with a client. 

    The only downside is that B&N did not have the “Advisor” available. I wanted to check one out to see if maybe I would switch to their calendar for 2012… has anyone used their calendar? Drawbacks? 

  • Leigh

    To add to the mix here: I’m an inveterate note taker and my bookshelf is full of notebooks of all types – Circa, Moleskin, spiral bound school notebooks – none of it digitized – until I started using a Livescribe  Echo digital pen. Now as I write my notes, they are automatically captured in the digital pen (with audio if I choose to record a meeting) and then I can upload into Evernote, which uses handwriting recognition to make the notes searchable – so this replaces the tear page out and scan step. Notebook remains intact, digital notes are uploaded, and notebook gets archived when it’s full. So far, loving it …

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have a Livescribe myself. Personally, I didn’t like it. I found it to big, and it felt awkward in meetings. If they ever get a normal size pen, I will take another look. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I discovered today that multipage PDF documents that have handwriting do not get recognized by Evernote’s handwriting recognition. When you scan your notes, do you save them as JPG’s? How do you handle multipages or does your ScanSnap take care of that for you?

    • Leigh

      A quick note here – although the Livescribe pen I use (mentioned in post just before this) is clunky, the advantage is that you can drag and drop your notes pages directly to Evernote as a PNG image, which Evernote’s handwritten recognition software can handle. So the text in PNG images is recognized and made searchable. There’s a few steps involved, but it’s worth it to have all the notes content searchable. No tearing out of pages and scanning them as PDF – it’s digital from the get go and then searchable via Evernote -

  • Nanzucar_641

    Just catching up on my e-mail! Great Article on note taking/journaling…I’ve read it before and kind of slipped my mind. I always take notes at a meeting, but recently starting keeping “notes” for myself to motivate me to keep on keeping on! Thanks.

  • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

    Wow. This is like the Google+ of journals. 

  • Jim Hammer

    Spent a lot of time looking at your materials on leadership over the weekend.  Also went to purchase an EcoSystems Advisor this weekend and was a little disappointed.  I kept getting referred to Barnes and Noble’s Out of Print section, and told to come back later to order.  After contacting Customer Service I found out they won’t be making the Advisor for 2012…  Well heck, take it off your website then so I can’t order it, or give the consumer a heads up on your website.  I’ll try one of their ruled Author ones to give it a shot, but had to share my frustration in case anyone else did.   I’d expect these guys to be up front and tell their prospects about their product availability.

  • Rwylie

    How often do you scan your notes into Evernote? Bought the medium flex cover now trying to come to a level of comfort with it over an 81/2×11 pad in meetings..

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      For me, whenever I have notes I want to keep permanently. Usually a couple of times a week. But now that I am out of CorporateWorld, I attend far fewer meetings.

  • Hagranger

    Thank you for making my search for exactly this type of note/journal book!

  • http://www.showmeaction.org/ Chris-macy

    Nice. Glad to find a replacement I can actually buy locally. However, I was disappointed the ecosystem website opens automatically to a playing video..especially on a conference call.

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  • a.Paulie.a

    I’m on a mission to get a gift for a friend. He is a talented lyricist, and as a songwriter myself   I know it’s important to have pen and paper handy AT ALL TIMES just in case you think of the perfect hook! I’m looking for a fancier version of these perforated notebooks (it is a GIFT I’m after!). Has anyone had any luck?

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  • Yousuckmee

    I wouldn’t change my Moleskine just because some dumbass like you says so

  • David Helton

    I use a mini moleskine to carry around and take notes with, but not because I like it. The only full-sized notebooks I write in are the standard composition books you see in every Walgreens. They’re ugly, but they’ll last a heck of a lot longer than a moleskine and they cost a third as much. 
    If they made mini versions of them I would much prefer it over a moleskine for carrying around with me. I know they do technically have “mini composition books” but they’re not bound the same way as the full-sized ones. You see, the humble composition book is not great because it has great paper or great craftsmanship. In fact, they’re as cheap as cheap gets. They’re simply bound differently than every other notebook out there. All of the pages are stacked on top of each other and sewn right down the middle, instead of having multiple groups of folded pages (called “signatures”) lined up next to each other and sewn individually to the back. This way, if I tear out the front-most page the only consequence is that I loose the back-most page, leaving every other page still firmly attached. Since I write from front to back like a normal person, this is preferable to tearing out the front-most page and having the second, third, and fourth pages come loose. Having only a single stitching also allows them to use thicker thread, and avoid using any glue entirely. Also, it fully exposes the entire page for writing on. I really don’t understand why more notebooks aren’t bound this way, or why I can’t find a smaller, pocket-sized version of this. Makes me want to scream at someone. 

  • Fakeemail

    Most moleskine journals are bound by a string. Cut and unravel the binding and the papers will come straight out…

  • Abieyoshi

    Omg! I want one! Always wanted a moleskine notebook but I found a sort copy that felt exactly the same, had curved edges, cream pages and a pocket in the back for £2.75. Copies can be just as good as the famous moleskine brand.

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  • ARda152

    The Volant notebooks have all pages detachable, also, why don’t you try Evernote’s smart notebook if you want to scan pages?

  • Dave

    I bought this at the supermarket and I got 4 for the price of I moleskin
    http://piccadillyinc.com/products/notebooks

  • Ashley Strachey

    Oh finally, thank you so much. I’ve been trying so hard to find a decent notebook for writing to my distant friends.

    I’ve seen this brand at my office supply stores, but they only came in Artist or Advisor, so I moved on. I had no idea they also came in this perfect perforated ruled paper – just ordered one from Amazon!

  • http://ibmarketer.com/ R.G. Riles

    Is anyone else having a really difficult time getting their “handwriting” app (I’m using Moleskine and Penultimate plus the Jot Pro stylus) to actually record all of your pen strokes? I’m especially having difficulty with Moleskine, but I love the wrist guard so I’d love to be able to utilize this app if at all possible. Obviously, someone is making it work so I’d love to get some advice! Thanks!

  • http://www.brianjones.ca joshaidan

    Moleskine has an Evernote version of their notebooks that align the pages automatically when you take a picture with the app. Have you tried it?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I have not. I have one, but I haven’t used it.

  • Tracy

    Oops! I’m not sure what happened to my post… here it is again, hopefully fixed! Sorry about that!
    —–
    Thanks for your post! I was searching for discounted Moleskines and came across this. I ended up purchasing the ecosystem medium hardcover architect; it was ~$3 cheaper than the Moleskine version. I’m especially excited about all the pages being perforated! I hate tearing out a sheet from my Moleskine only to have the formerly connected page come loose at the binding. Having ALL perforated pages is the perfect solution, I just hope the paper quality is similar! Thanks again for this post!

    -Tracy (http://brokelifeblog.blogspot.com)

  • hhh

    i use a moleskine for sketching, and my main issue with it is that you cant tear out pages :( i will look into getting an ecosystem book next time i need more paper uvu

  • Nick Edelstein

    When Ecosystems and all the other impostors produce a music journal (staves on the pages) then I will consider switching. Also, upon recent visit to my Barnes & Noble, I did not spy any Ecosystems branded books. There was a company called Piccadilly, on clearance. I bought one of their blank journals. They don’t make a music version either.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This post was written two-and-a-half years ago, so I don’t if Barnes & Noble still carries them. Sorry.

  • Matt Beeman

    You should check out a startup from North Carolina “Bound Custom Journals”, originally founded by a high school friend of mine, you actually get to pick all the individual pages that you want and they will put it together for you (yes, it is more expensive).

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I looked it up and that’s very cool, Matt! $35 seems reasonable for the product. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kris Welborn-Virus

    You may want to check out the Whitelines Link notebook as well. You can set it up so that when you take a picture of it, it lines up the image and will send a copy simultaneously to email, and Evernote, and Dropbox. The paper is quality like moleskine too.

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  • Thomas Tonkin

    I understand this use and I agree with the premise, however, that is why I use Levenger’s system. You can take it our and scan (using ScanSnap — very awesome tool), but then out it back into the notebook (or shred it). Kind of the best of both worlds. Thank you for all you do Michael.

  • wheillebhertt-jan montalbeu

    the most important thing is made purely in USA :p

  • Nadia

    I’ve been eschewing spiral notebooks because I’m a left-hander, and writing on top of the binding is both uncomfortable and unhelpful to the way I write. I use a Moleskine weekly notebook planner for appointments, and cahier journals as travel journals. I love writing quotes both on the covers and on the inside of the planner, and it makes the experience much more personal.

  • http://www.vegetarianzen.com/ Vickie

    Wow! Will definitely need to try this! Thanks for the tip!