Mod Notebook Review

by Patrick Rhone

Mod Notebook

Let’s get the basic facts as they stand today out of the way first: The Mod Notebook is a paper notebook that, for the price of purchase, comes with a pre-paid envelope and special code in back that allows one to send it in, have it scanned and made available “in the cloud” — with the option to either have the notebook itself sent back to you or recycled (i.e. not sent back to you).

The reason it is important to start there is that there is a lot of mis-information, confusion, and misconceptions surrounding this product. Most of it of the company’s own making. I won’t go into great detail here. It is an interesting story though — one worth reading. It’s an example of how a good idea can be so poorly thought through, launched, and communicated that — even though you address and fix nearly every mistake — it may just be too late. Most people go on believing what they heard the first time — that you subscribe to get this notebook, fill it up with weeks/months/years of stuff, send it off for scanning to get it “in the cloud”, and never see it again.

The company goes to great lengths to shed a good light on where they were and where they are now (while kind of glossing over what a complete mess they made of a product launch) in these two posts:

So, with that out of the way, I really want to get to the heart of what truly matters to me and the only thing I can evaluate right now: How does it work as a notebook?

Mod Notebook 2

Basically, it’s OK. It’s not great. It’s not terrible either. What I’m about to say below might make it seem terrible, but I have used worse. I’ve also have had (and still have) lots of way better notebooks too. This is on the high end of the low end.

If one were to ask me how it feels I would say it feels like a better than average knock-off of a Moleskine (with my personal benchmark of Moleskine being a “good enough” notebook). This is not something that screams quality or even does a great job of faking it. I had to press in the center of the pages to get it to lie open flat. Though it is stitched bound it felt glued. The cover feels like the stuff three ring binders were made from when I was a kid. Even the bookmark ribbon feels like average dime-store ribbon. The elastic closure will probably wear out, break down, and lose elasticity as fast as all elastic generally does — if not faster.

The paper is OK, if a little scratchy. I drafted this using a Lamy Studio with an EF nib that writes perfectly smooth on really good paper. It was not as smooth on this paper. But, hey, some might like a bit of tooth. No bleed through though (I bought the blank/unlined version). So, that’s a plus.

The size is OK. They claim it is the same dimensions as the iPad. It’s close but not quite. Close enough I guess…

Overall, I feel just so very “meh” about it. And, maybe that is OK for some. I mean, who would want to take a really nice notebook that they have poured their life into and stick it in the mail to people they don’t even know with the promise they will have it scanned and returned safely? Maybe you want a “meh” notebook for that. But, here’s the rub…

It’s $25.00 (!).

OK, I get that they are doing a fair bit with that $25.00. You get the (meh) notebook. You get the prepaid shipping. You get the scanning and cloud app that syncs with Evernote, OneNote, and Dropbox. You even get it returned if you want it. But, at the end of the day, I’ve spent $25.00 and received a notebook that feels like a $5.00 (and I’m being generous) notebook.

Now, I’ve only just started it so I have no idea how well the other aspects of this product work. The digitization, app, and all of the rest may be worth the remaining $20.00 to some folks out there.

In fact, I would likely be all in on the idea if they offered just the service/app part for any notebook you already owned or preferred to use. Say, for instance, if for that price you could print off a pre-paid shipping label, send them any notebook up to a certain size, they scanned it and made it available in their app, and then sent it back to you. That, I might buy.

In all, I would only recommend this to a very specific person. Someone who cares less about the quality of the notebook and more about the service, app, and the possibilities that might provide. Because, that is what you are really paying for here. If you are looking for a great notebook that also has the rest of that stuff attached to it, well, you’ll have to keep waiting (or hope they read this and adopt the free good idea I just gave them above).