First up, I need to start with an apology.
I’ve neglected to write about the software updates for the Kindle Scribe since May 2023 (firmware version 5.16.2).
Since that time, Amazon has released 4 major updates, taking it to firmware version 5.16.6 and I haven’t written about any of them. I’ve got no excuse other than I don’t tend to use my Kindle Scribe all that much for writing purposes and I felt there were higher priorities.
So, in this post, I want to rectify this oversight and go over all four of the major updates over the last 8 months in one swoop, as well as a brief overview of the first two updates that I did write about.
Kindle Scribe Software Version 5.16.1
This is the firmware version that the Scribe originally shipped with and the native writing software was really rather basic (a few brushes, an eraser, and undo/redo buttons if I remember correctly).
Three months after the launch of the Kindle Scribe the first minor update was released (version 220.127.116.11). I wrote about this update here but the new features were:
- Additional brushes: Fountain pen, pencil & marker with tilt and pressure sensitivity
- Subfolders: The ability to create a nested sub-folder hierarchy for notebooks
- Go to page: The ability to quickly jump to a page by typing in the page number (at the time, this was the only way to navigate around large notebook because there was no page overview)
- New screensavers
A couple of months later, Amazon released firmware version 18.104.22.168, which I discuss here. This finally gave us a notebook overview, with the ability to add, move and delete pages in a notebook. In addition, there was a two-column layout when using the reader in landscape mode and a contrast slider for PDFs.
Kindle Scribe Software Version 5.16.2
In firmware version 5.16.2 (which I explored here), Amazon added some oft-requested features to the Kindle Scribe:
- Lasso-select: For moving, resizing, cutting and copying handwriting
- Handwriting-to-text conversion: Notebooks can be converted to text and emailed as a TXT attachment. At the time, only the whole notebook could be converted and emailed (not individual pages)
- Improvements to the PDF reader
There was a minor bug-fixing patch (version 22.214.171.124.1).
And this is when I stopped writing about Kindle updates on eWritable.
Kindle Scribe Software Version 5.16.3
From what I can gather, this update was just general bug fixes and patching vulnerabilities (this may be the reason that I stopped getting excited about software updates for the Kindle Scribe).
Kindle Scribe Software Version 5.16.4
In October 2023, version 5.16.4 was released. Although the release notes with this update only really mentioned a more streamlined integration with GoodReads and general bug fixes, many users noticed that the web browser had also been significantly improved.
To put this into context, the web browser that was originally installed on the Kindle Scribe was absolute garbage to the point that it was unusable. It didn’t render fonts properly (so text was unreadable) and webpages were often zoomed too far out – I made the point in my first review that the Kindle Scribe would have been a better tablet if it had no web browser at all rather than the useless shite that was pre-installed.
Having just checked out the web browser on my Kindle Scribe, I can confirm that it is indeed a much better experience (although it really could not have gotten any worse). Webpages are now readable and, yes, it is usable.
However, it should really only be used for simple websites (no web apps) and isn’t something you would want to use regularly because it is very basic and there is a lot of flickering as you scroll up and down. If you need to browse the web on your e-ink tablet, then the Kindle Scribe probably not for you (the best option would probably be a Boox, such as the Note Air 3C).
Kindle Scribe Software Version 5.16.5
In November 2023, Kindle released version 5.16.5, which brought a few desirable enhancements:
- Share current page in notebook: Export a single page rather than the whole notebook via email (this includes sharing a single page using handwriting-to-text conversion)
- Multi-select in page overview: Long press pages in the page overview to perform bulk actions (e.g. delete) rather than having to do one page at a time. You can also select multiple pages here to export (including handwriting-to-text conversion)
- Searchable PDF of your notebook: Notebooks that are converted to text and exported are now emailed with both a TXT attachment and a searchable PDF attachment
- View Collections with list layout
I want to take a quick look at the searchable PDFs of notebooks because this really is a standout feature for me.
Basically, when you export a notebook (or pages of a notebook) with text conversion, you can now use your PDF viewer’s search function to search the handwriting. And, it actually works really well, as you can see by the screenshots below.
I should note that you do need to use a PDF viewer that supports search functionality – I found that the default viewer on my Chromebook did not have this feature, so had to installed an app called ReadEra instead.
I think this is a really neat feature and will be useful for those that have larger notebooks and need to quickly find information without flicking between pages.
Of course, this does mean that you have to export a notebook before searching your handwriting – on Boox and Supernote, you can perform a handwriting search on the tablet itself – but I’m sure that this will fit into some people’s workflows really nicely.
Kindle Scribe Software Version 5.16.6
January 2024 saw the most recent release of the Kindle software (version 5.16.6).
These were fairly minor updates; you can now delete any handwriting that you select with the lasso-select tool, the Settings menu has been reorganised a little, and screenshots are now stored in a dedicated folder in the Kindle filesystem (accessible by connecting it via USB to a computer).
The only thing that piqued my interest here was the screenshot update because I had no idea that you could take screenshots on the Kindle Scribe. After a little research, I found that you can take a screenshot by simultaneously tapping opposite corners of the screen (top-left and bottom-right or top-right and bottom-left).
This update was closely followed by version 126.96.36.199, which was just bug fixes, and the like.
Final Verdict of Kindle Scribe Firmware Updates
There’s no denying that Amazon has made decent progress with software enhancements for the Kindle Scribe since its launch at the back end of 2022 and demonstrated to their user base that they will continue to deliver regular improvements.
From the very basic level of functionality that the native note-taking app had at it’s launch, it has improved a fair bit.
However, it is still behind many of its competitors in terms of what it can do. Both Supernote and Boox provide far more sophisticated note-taking functionalities. And reMarkable does as well (although the gap between reMarkable and Kindle is much smaller than it was this time last year).
One of my gripes about the Kindle Scribe’s software updates is that many of the “enhancements” Amazon have provided are basic functionalities that I would have expected to be there at the start (e.g. page overview, lasso-select, etc.). It feels a bit like Amazon had set the initial bar ridiculously low so that they could add features that I would describe as ‘fundamental‘ over the longer term.
And, to be honest, this seems to have worked for them because they are catering for their existing Kindle userbase, rather than competing with other e-ink tablet manufacturers. This was evident to me when the Kindle Scribe was first released and I was exceedingly underwhelmed by the rudimentary note-taking software, whilst existing Kindle users were like ‘Wow! A Kindle you can write on!‘ unaware that far more capable e-ink tablets had been on the market for several years!
However, whilst the Kindle Scribe is not the e-ink tablet with the most comprehensive note-taking features, I still think it is a really nice device. It’s great for reading (I love the Kindle e-reading software) and the note-taking software is getting better over time. On top of this the hardware is really nice – it has a beautiful high-quality 300ppi screen, a frontlight, and the tactile writing experience is absolutely exquisite.
Another plus point is the price – it’s just £330 here in the UK and can often be purchased at an even lower cost during Amazon promotions (e.g. Black Friday, Prime Day etc.)
About the author
Dan Dutton is passionate about E-ink writing tablets, which bring together the pleasure of writing on paper with the power of digital technology. When he bought his first tablet, he realised that there wasn't a lot of unbiased information available for people that were considering buying an E-ink tablet, and so he built eWritable.