Moleskine Goes Digital: The Story Behind Evernote’s Smart Notebook

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whether Evernote and Moleskine have more features in mind for subsequent versions of the notebook, and whether there might be other hybrid digital-physical products in Evernote’s future. His answers were intriguing.

Wade Roush: What made you think that you could use software to improve on the old-fashioned paper notebook?

John Hoye: Many people are at their most creative when they’re putting pen to paper. We wanted to embrace that and add our own technology to make it even better and more useful. Moleskine has a wonderful brand presence in the market, and their users regard their paper notebooks as an invitation to be creative. The idea of bringing the two brands together made a lot of sense for both companies.

WR: What was it like working with a paper-goods company?

JH: This idea has been around Evernote and Moleskine for some time. A lot of people working on both sides brought their ideas to the table about how this would look, in terms of preserving certain aspects of the Moleskine experience. There are some obvious cultural differences—they’re an Italian company, we’re an American company. They sell physical goods, we’re a Web services company. But there was a lot of familiarity with Evernote amongst the team at Moleskine, and if you were to survey the creatives here at Evernote, there were a lot of people already using Moleskine notebooks. So we actually knew a lot about each other.

Photographing a notebook page using the Page Camera feature in Evernote's iOS app.

Photographing a notebook page using the Page Camera feature in Evernote's iOS app.

WR: What were your most important goals for the first version of the product?

JH: The point of it was to bring the notebook alive in a digital sense. We wanted to make sure that we could get things into Evernote where users could take advantage of Evernote’s capabilities in terms of organization, searchability, sharing, and tagging, as well as the anytime-anywhere aspect, while making sure that the image quality was there—that we were doing a good job capturing the page and representing it inside Evernote. So the design goal was to make sure that we had some fidelity to the original [notebook pages] and to get pages into Evernote as quickly as possible.

WR: To me, when Evernote puts its brand on a physical notebook, that’s like saying there are still certain limits on what we can do digitally, and that there’s something about the experience of writing or sketching on paper that hasn’t been captured by apps like Skitch or Penultimate. Do you agree?

JH: I think what we’re saying is that your work style is your own, and if you want to take advantage of digital tools, those tools are out there. And there are some very good ones from Evernote, including Skitch and Penultimate. But if you are going to be most creative in a world where you are putting pencil to paper—whether you are a writer putting words on paper or an artist sketching and drawing—there is still a way for you to take advantage of the whole Evernote experience. We don’t want to draw a line and say “Digital only from this point forward.” We want people to be able to embark on that experience on paper, and then export it into the digital world.

WR: Other companies like Livescribe, the digital smartpen maker, have come up with ways to digitize written notes. Why did you settle on the page-camera approach?

JH: When you think about Moleskine specifically, you have a bound notebook, and there has been no easy way up to now to digitize that unless you lop off the spine and scan it. Most people who use Moleskine don’t want to destroy a notebook in order to make it digital. They want to … Next Page »

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