Moleskine v. Habana

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Speaking of procrastination, here’s a topic I’ve been meaning to blog about for months: the new Habana notebooks, which aren’t yet available in the U.S. (the Euro’s insane right now we’re working on it) but have already made quite a splash in Europe and on the Internet.

Back in October, Patrick Ng posted photos of the Habana on Flickr, dismissing them as Moleskine knock-offs. More recently, others have praised the superior quality of Habana paper as well as its durable binding.

The way we see it, diary-style notebooks are a natural extension of our product lineup; we care deeply about the physical pleasures of writing, and that passion extends to both date- and notebooks. Also, no company has a monopoly on attractive, portable notebooks! Moleskine has wonderful products, and their marketing should be taught in business schools (read more about the company’s history herecontrary to popular belief, modern Moleskine notebooks were first made in 1998 and are only similar to the notebooks used by Picasso, Hemingway, and Chatwin).

When Moleskine moved their production to China, however, we feel that the quality of their paper fell. Our paper, which is made in France by Clairefontaine, is much better, especially for fountain pens.

Personally, I love the little orange Habana that Karen sent me earlier this year. Surely there’s room for both

11 thoughts on “Moleskine v. Habana

  1. Well, I’ve got some good news, Heather: we just shipped a bunch of Habanas (with white, 80g paper) to various retailers. Both the Daily Planner and Art Brown should have them… Incidentally, they’re not listed online yet, but I’m sure you could call the companies and order them over the phone.

    Habanas with Ivory paper won’t be ready till fall…

  2. I am a customer who will spend hours looking for the right journal and I am not as concerned with the look of a journal as with the feel of a journal. This said, I can adamantly say that the Quo Vadis Habana is NOT a mere knock-off of the Moleskine notebooks the popularity of which I have never grasped. The Habana can be said to be marketed according to a similar visual aesthetic, yes, but every line of journals will have its little black dress equivalent. Picking up the Habana ends the comparison; it is a far more satisfying product. On a recent trip to Paris my bags were ripped off and before replacing my satchel or jacket, I went in search of a new journal and was discouraged by my options, the Moleskines being a prominent offering at most retailers. After picking up a the full line of moleskines at least thirty times -ask my friend – I was about to concede it might be the best offering and would get me through the end of my travels. Then I found the Habana squirreled away on a separate kiosk. That was that. The Habana dimensions are ideal (moleskines feel a little off)! Additionally, the paper weight, the quality of the leather cover, and the binding dimensions make it a very satisfying journal to handle. Then once you pull out your pen,the paper tone, the ruling, the open flat feature as well as the back pocket make this notebook a perfect ten! I was elated when I found it and, in retrospect, I wish that I had stockpiled enough to last me a decade. I have been under a grim journal star this year in that I lost my Habana on another trip. I have been trying to order one here in the states and am desperate to find a retailer which is the reason I am on this website reminiscing.

  3. I’m glad you liked the UK version, Sophie… I’m still baffled by the discrepancy. Perhaps the first notebook you purchased in Canada was simply defective, in which case, please accept our apologies!

  4. Leah, I again appreciate the time you’ve taken to look into this! In theory then, the Habana I got *should* be similar to the European ones, since I’m in Canada. However, you could be right that I am accustomed to a particular feel from using the Clairefontaine notebooks, which hasn’t really matched up with the feel of the Habana I got. The difference between 90 gr and 60 gr could account for it.

    I did recently order a Habana from QV in the UK, which will be an interesting comparison. Looking forward to it.

  5. Here’s some further clarification about Habana paper: the notebooks that are produced at the Quo Vadis plant in Carquefou, France are made with Clairefontaine PEFC ivory 60gr paper. These notebooks are sold in Canada, Europe and Asia. The Habana notebooks that will be sold in the U.S. are made at the Quo Vadis plant in Hamburg, NY with Clairefontaine PEFC white 90gr paper.

    So there is indeed some difference between the European and U.S. notebooks. The paper is of the same quality, but its weight is slightly different. Nonetheless, we’d be surprised if that impacts the quality of the writing experience.

    I’m sorry I can’t offer further insight into your particular experience, Sophie. The only other thing I can think of is that there may be a difference between the Clairefontaine paper we use in Habana and the kind you’re used to from Clairefontaine notebooks, perhaps in the way that they’re finished… I’ll try to find out.

  6. I appreciate your reply, Leah, and look forward to any further information that may arise. I appreciate that there may be differences among countries, though, and wonder if that may be part of what I experienced.

  7. In answer to your question, Sophie… here in the U.S., Habana notebooks are definitely made with the same high quality Clairefontaine paper. With so many different offices and operations, however, it’s often difficult for us to keep track of what’s going on in other countries. We put an inquiry out to our Canadian office to try to figure things out, and we’ll let you know as soon as they respond.

    As far as the product marketing is concerned, of course it would be disingenuous to say that nobody thought of the comparison to Moleskine. On the other hand, we didn’t actively set out to copy their products. Elastic-bound black notebooks are a very traditional European format, and it’s only due to Moleskine’s own marketing strategies that people associate that exclusively with them. And nowadays, everyone tries to brand their products with icons and logos to stick out in the customer’s mind…

  8. Hi Hoffmann, I like Clairefontaine paper a lot. The whole thing about Habana I didn’t like was just the way it was marketed. The sleeve, icon, etc, I mean with such superb quality, QV/Clairefontaine didn’t need to follow the crowd mimicking Moleskine’s packaging. BTW, Habana is not available in our market and I haven’t touched/used the finished product, so my comment about great quality is only valid for Clairefontaine/QV products in general. Again, I like the QuoVadis orange too. Hope the PU cover is smoother than when I played with the protype.

  9. I noticed you linked to FPN for a review of the Quo Vadis Habana notebooks. I posted a review to the same forum also; I sincerely hoped for a notebook with the paper quality I was familiar with from using Clairefontaine notebooks and Quo Vadis planners, however the particular Habana notebook I picked up did not meet my expectations. I welcome any insight you might have to offer:

    http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=62640&hl=habana

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