Despite the rise of digital notetaking tools, apps and tablets, millions still prefer low-tech ink and paper. Many of those who write and sketch by hand are die-hard Moleskine fans. With its rounded corners, elastic closure and thick pages, the signature Moleskine design hasn't changed since its first notebook.
That is, until now. Moleskine just released its Smart Writing Set. The full kit includes a tablet-style notebook, a smart pen and an app for $179.
The new product maintains the same timeless design of a classic Moleskine notebook. It's still a real notebook, and it still has real pages. You still put ink to paper. The difference is the tech magic that happens once you start writing. Your notes and doodles are instantly transferred to your phone or tablet. You can even convert your handwritten notes to editable text, then sync them Google Drive or Evernote.
How does this magical analog-to-digital technology work? The Pen+ has an infrared camera that traces and records every pen stroke, then transmits your work via Bluetooth to your phone or tablet. Instead of snapping a photo of a page or scanning it, the new Moleskine notebook and pen can re-create a digital version of your entire page in-real time.
How well does Moleskine's smart notebook and pen work?
Davey Alba gave Moleskine's Smart Writing Set a try and reviewed her experience for Wired. "It's every bit a pleasure to write in as the company's other journals," she reported. "There's still something oddly hypnotizing about watching your pen strokes appear instantly on your mobile device, as if by magic."
She did have a few beefs with the product though. Alba found the set relied too heavily on your phone or tablet to do the heavy lifting. "For $200, there isn't a lot of tech on the pen itself," she said. The pen is supposed to turn itself on when you start writing, but Alba found this not always to be the case. She reported that the pen's battery life was about five hours.
The future of Moleskine in the digital era
This isn't Moleskine's first foray into products that bridge the analog and digital gap. In the past, the company has launched co-branded notebooks with Livescribe, Evernote and Adobe. All offer similar functionality to digitize notes and sketches through some combination of smart pen, app and Moleskine notebook.
Moleskine is known for notebooks, not technology. So those past collaborations made a lot of sense. With the launch of the Smart Writing Set, it's clear Moleskine wants to be more than a notebook company. I'm excited that Moleskine is turning a new page into the digital era. That said, there are hundreds of similar products out there. Will this one come out on top?
What's perhaps the biggest challenge to success is the bullet-proof reputation the company has built for itself. Moleskine cannot fail on the notebook front. They're simply the best in the business, as evidenced by millions of loyal customers who won't use any other notebook (myself included.) To live up to their own name in design and excellence, Moleskine's Smart Writing Set must do everything it promises to.
That said, I think I'll hold off on dropping $200 on a new notebook until the early adopted have spoken. For now, I'll stick to my traditional Moleskine and the clunky, now outdated process of typing up my notes.