Those that read my original review of the Amazon Kindle Scribe will have surmised that I was very underwhelmed by this product release.
However, after using the device for a week, I’ve somewhat warmed to it, and having spoken to many other users, I think I have a pretty good idea of who this device is designed for and who will get the most from it.
So, this post is a sort of re-review in which I reassess my initial opinions and admit there is a place for the Kindle Scribe in the current market.
Comparisons with other e-ink tablets
One of the shortcomings of my original review is that it was written from the perspective of someone experienced in using e-ink writing devices.
Whilst I maintain that there are several other products that provide a better writing and note-taking experience, I now recognise that Amazon was not marketing the Scribe to existing e-ink writing tablet users – their primary market segment was existing Kindle users.
Because the market for e-ink writing tablets is very niche, I sometimes forget that many people are not even aware of its existence. This was made clear to me after reading several reviews from mainstream tech websites and through discussions in Facebook Groups and on Reddit. I was surprised at the number of people that regarded the ability to take handwritten annotations in PDF documents as new and novel, even though this technology has been available for several years. One user even described the advent of note-taking capabilities on the Kindle Scribe as “game-changing”.
So, taken from the perspective of someone that has used several e-ink writing devices, the Scribe does not really compete with other products on the market (in terms of software features).
However, from the perspective of someone who already owns a Kindle and is very much invested in the Amazon/Kindle ecosystem, having note-taking capabilities on their favourite e-reading device is very exciting.
What I am beginning to appreciate more from using the Kindle Scribe
Over the past week, I decided to get to grips with using the Kindle Scribe by reading a full book on it and using the hand-written notes feature.
I needed something that would be quite complex and academic to justify note-taking, so I went for Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory – this has been lurking in my Kindle library for several months without me plucking up the courage to tackle it! Now I had the perfect excuse to get started…
This book is also relatively (pun intended) short at only 100 pages, so it was also something I thought I could manage within a week.
As I read through the book, I highlighted several sentences and made several handwritten notes (and sketches) to support my understanding of the material. I found this facility really useful, particularly as I could view all my notes in sequence on the summary screen. This made it very easy to review important concepts without returning to the original text.
In addition, the more I used the Kindle Scribe as a reader, the more I appreciated the quality of the screen. The 300dpi Paperwhite display is very crisp and clear, and although I’ve previously said that I couldn’t discern the difference between the Scribe and 227dpi screens, I felt that after using the Scribe for a while and then moving another device, the change in quality was noticeable.
I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what the difference is because when I put them side-by-side, they look virtually the same. It reminds me of when I saw my first digital TV many years ago and felt that it wasn’t all that different to an analogue TV. But if I look at an analogue TV these days, the difference is glaring!
The Kindle Scribe is also very quick and responsive, and I’ve experienced no delays or latency during a week of regular use.
Finally, I wanted to make a point of how easy the Kindle is to use. The minimal set of features on the Kindle Scribe means that everything is simple and intuitive. I’ve bitched about the fact that the only writing tools that are available are a pen, highlighter and eraser. Although this reduces the flexibility of the device, it also means that users are not confronted with an overwhelming number of options. In addition, the notetaking app is seamlessly integrated into the Kindle ecosystem, with notebooks displaying in your Kindle Library and gestures at the top and bottom of the notes page bringing up similar options to those you would see when reading a book.
A couple of annoyances
Although I really like making handwritten sticky notes within Kindle books, it irks me that I cannot access them from other devices using the Kindle app.
I carry my android phone with me everywhere, but I do not always have my Kindle Scribe. So, it would be useful if I could bring up handwritten sticky notes from the Kindle app on my phone. Sadly, the current version of the android app only supports highlights and text annotations – I’m hopeful that Amazon will provide this functionality soon.
Another thing that I’ve touched on previously is the aluminium casing, which I have found to be quite heavy and uncomfortable to hold for long periods. When the tablet is on my desk or my lap, there are no issues, but if I hold it upright at eye level (or over my head when lying down), it can quickly get quite heavy. In addition, the aluminium casing is quite cold to the touch, which I’ve probably noticed more because of the cold weather here in England (perhaps, if it had been released in the Summer, I might not have noticed this so much).
Although the metal casing makes the Scribe feel robust and durable (and also look really nice), I think I would have preferred a plastic casing that is lighter, more flexible and warmer to the touch.
Amazon got it right
My original assessment of the Kindle Scribe was that Amazon had made an inferior product that could not compete in the current market.
And I will maintain that if you are an existing reMarkable, Boox or Supernote user, you still will not want to swap your device for the Kindle Scribe because it is comparatively feature-poor in terms of note-taking software.
But that’s okay with Amazon because they do not intend to penetrate this niche market. Their market has been and always will be Kindle users. For these people, the Scribe gives them exactly what they want: the latest generation of their beloved e-reader, with the added bonus of quick, simple and intuitive note-taking capabilities that are tightly integrated into the Kindle ecosystem.
In summary, the Kindle Scribe is a great-looking e-reader with decent hardware specs and basic but intuitive note-taking functionality.
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.