Saturday, April 22, 2006

Moleskine Update II

I've only had my Moleskine for a few months (I blogged about it here), and now this: the bookmaker, Modo and Modo, announces that they're selling the business.

Damn it all. Could it really end so soon? I haven't even consumed a quarter of my first Moleskine. (Technically it's pronounced Mol-uh-skeen-uh, by the way, even though I intend to go on calling mine Mole-skin.)

There's a bright side to this story. From an article that appeared in The Telegraph (UK):
The Moleskine, named for its oilcloth cover, gained cult status after its relaunch in 1998 by Mario Beruzzi.

Last year, his company Modo & Modo sold 4.5m notebooks across the world, half of them in the United States. The company, with a staff of 13, had turnover of €12.7m (£9.1m) last year and profits of more than €2m. In the UK its classic notebook sells for upwards of £7.

Good for Mr. Beruzzi and his staff of thirteen. What a nice way to retire. I wish the man lots of happiness and good cheer in his 70s and beyond. (He's 69.)

But the real bright side for me is seeing in print what I suspected all along: that such a fine and carefully made product did not come from some mass-market notebook mill in China. I am not at all surprised that it's made by a small company. The Moleskine had to be designed, created, and carefully looked after during its production by someone who gave a damn about it.

I appreciate the free market for (at least) two reasons:
primarily because it allows large corporations to operate as efficiently as they know how to in order to provide goods and services to the widest numbers of people possible (mass production), and
secondarily, but just as importantly, because it allows individuals who don't wish to provide goods and services to the widest numbers of people to exist and to flourish, even if only on a staff of thirteen.

As much as some people like to scoff at mass production for its cookie-cutter and cost-reduced products, only in such a productive society could a staff of thirteen ever hope to turn a little notebook and other fine paper products into annual revenue exceeding $10 million. In the Middle Ages, without the benefits of mass production, no one but the tax-funded state or the church would have had the money to buy paper. Mr. Beruzzi would have been a pauper trying to sell his product to masses of people who had no income.

So thank you, Mr. Beruzzi, for what you made. If, by chance, you sell the Moleskine to someone who doesn't love it the way you did, I'll accept that fate. It's just how the wheels of change grind.