Amazon Kindle Scribe review

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8.3Expert Score
Amazon Kindle Scribe review: A mighty pen

The first generation of the Kindle Scribe offers a really satisfying pen and paper experience. Some missing features hold it back, but could easily be fixed with a software update.

Design
8.5
Performance
8
Pros
  • Incredible paper-like writing performance
  • Clear, large screen is great for reading
  • Battery life that lasts for weeks
Cons
  • Power button is awkwardly placed
  • No handwriting recognition
  • Collaboration features are lacking

The Kindle Scribe is an interesting proposition. Amazon has taken the Kindle, a device that has been the pinnacle of digital reading for over a decade, and turned it into a notebook.

Not a notebook in the sense of a laptop, though. No, I mean a traditional paper notebook.

You can take notes on the Kindle Scribe. You can add handwritten post-its to your favourite novel. Not only that, but you can use it as a personal calendar or journal.

But in a world full of digital tablets, 2-in-1 laptops and paper journals, does a Kindle with a pen make sense?

Turns out, it does. There’s a lot that could be improved, and it’s missing some key features. But as a first generation product, the Kindle Scribe is an impressively versatile eReader.

Design

The Amazon Kindle Scribe on a concrete table during our review

Amazon’s very first Kindle in Australia had an awkward keyboard that was near impossible to use efficiently. Since Amazon did away with that, though, there hasn’t been a huge amount of revolution in the Kindle’s overall design.

The centrepiece of any Kindle is the e-ink screen. The Kindle Scribe’s screen is huge. It measures in at 10.2-inches, which is significantly larger than the likes of the Kindle Oasis.

There is a thicker bezel on one side of the e-ink screen, which works well for holding the eReader with one hand while you write with the other.

That extra screen real estate certainly comes in handy when reading graphic novels or using the stylus to write on the screen. But it doesn’t get in the way if you are more used to a smaller screen in your eReader.

Looking at the awkwardly placed power button on the Amazon Kindle Scribe

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that it’s better to read on than a smaller Kindle. It may not tuck away as nicely while travelling, but with a larger screen, the act of turning pages happens less. That makes it even easier to read on the Kindle Scribe.

That extra bulk does come at the cost of additional weight. Approaching half a kilo (433 grams without the stylus), the Kindle Scribe is as heavy as you would want for an eReader. It’s certainly usable, and I wouldn’t say it’s too heavy.

There is only a sole physical button on the Kindle Scribe, and is discreetly (and awkwardly) placed on the side of the eReader next to the USB-C charging port. 

This is one of the few design flaws I found with the Scribe. As a right-hander, I want to keep the pen attached to the right-hand side for easy access. I expect the power button to be conveniently located either on the top or top right-hand side of the reader, much like an iPad. 

Dependably, it takes me a few moments to locate the button, which is towards the middle of the left-hand side.

The pen

A closer look at the Amazon Kindle Scribe pen

The Kindle Scribe comes with the standard pen bundled in the box, plus a small box of tip replacements.

Technically, there’s not a lot to the standard pen. It feels comfortable to hold and write with, but doesn’t feature any batteries, or buttons, or even an integrated eraser function.

For those features, you’ll need to spring for the $99 Premium pen, which I didn’t get to test for this review.

The pen itself conveniently attaches magnetically to the side of the Scribe. It’s a reasonably secure connection, though expect it to dislodge if you place the Kindle in a bag without a case to secure the pen.

Journal software

Considering there’s a whole new interactive functionality on the Kindle Scribe, there’s also been a slight update to the Kindle software to accommodate the new writing functionality.

It’s nice and subtle, but easy to navigate. Opening up the main menu shows an option for “Notebooks” alongside “Home”, “Library” and “More” along the bottom of the screen.

Opening up Notebooks lets you create notebooks, folders and sub-folders. You can move any notebook around, and conveniently you can create a passcode to keep your files safe.

Creating a new notebook gives you a choice of 18 different templates, from standard rules to schedules, calendars, and even musical notation.

Performance

Writing a note on the Kindle scribe

Unsurprisingly, the Kindle fulfils its role as an ebook reader admirably. 

From the earliest part of the setup, the Kindle is simplicity to use. Using my phone to log in to Amazon and complete the simplified setup process, I was downloading eBooks within a couple of minutes of taking the Scribe out of the box.

Reading is a joy in any lighting situation. During the day out in the sun, the e-ink screen absorbs the glare and looks just like reading off paper.

Lying in bed at night, the auto-adjusting front-lit display is easy on the eyes, creating the perfect amount of light on the display to make it easy to read in a darker environment. 

An adjustable warm light mode also prevents eye strain in those darker situations.

Like all Kindles since the dawn of time, you can adjust the font size to your liking. 

Text is sharp and clear thanks to the 300ppi screen, and the Scribe is nice and responsive, turning pages at a gentle press on the side of the screen.

Despite the lack of buttons, the Scribe is easy to navigate with your finger, buying Kindle books from the Store.

Battery life will keep on going for a couple of weeks of pretty heavy use as well.

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Pen performance

But after millions of Kindles sold around the world, you expect the Scribe to be good to read on. What is more interesting is what it is like to write on using the standard pen that comes in the box.

The good news is that despite the lack of complex batteries and circuitry in the pen, it is fast, responsive, and comfortable to use.

It’s ultimately just like writing on a paper notebook, and that is a good thing.

Unlike the iPad and Apple Pencil combo, there’s not a huge amount of variety in markers. 

An update that rolled out to my review unit this week added more pen options, including fountain pen, marker, and pencil options of varying weights added a whole heap of additional versatility to the note-taking functions of the device.

Impressively, the pencil option responds to the level of pressure you apply while writing. The harder to press, the darker the line.

Pen drawbacks

It’s not all good news, though. 

The first big disappointment here is that there’s no handwriting recognition software available yet. You could export your notes as PDF and potentially run them through some OCR software on your computer. 

But not being able to search through hundreds of notebooks is going to make it a challenge to find the one you want.

It’s entirely possible Amazon will add the functionality in a software update down the line. But for now, it limits the versatility of the device.

The other drawback is the lack of collaboration features. 

You can send your documents to the Scribe using Amazon’s “send to Kindle” function, and you can then mark up the document with the Scribe’s pen. 

Any DOCX file, for example, adds a sticky note with your handwritten notes on them. When you send the file back to the original sender, it is sent as a PDF.

Opening the PDF with Preview on a Mac, the handwritten note is appended to the last page of the document, making it hard to clearly see which note is from where and what it all means.

Which is to say that the Scribe is not a professional work device just yet. We may see more collaborative functionality added over time, but right now, this feels like a beta version of a document markup functionality.

Verdict

The eReader on a table about to be read.

The biggest question I had heading into this review is what the writing functionality would bring to the Kindle that I couldn’t already get with an iPad and Apple Pencil?

The answer is simplicity.

The note-taking functionality on the Kindle Scribe isn’t really revolutionary. And there are hundreds of apps that you can get that will let you take handwritten notes with the Apple Pencil. More will let you sketch, and others will let you create a daily schedule planner. 

You can even read your Kindle books on your iPad.

What the Kindle Scribe offers is an absence of distraction. 

You can effectively remove paper from your life, using the Scribe to replace books and notebooks. For this reason, the Scribe is a device I wish I had at university. By consolidating all your textbooks into the Kindle’s larger screen and then annotating where required, it’s an ideal companion to study.

But it also works for the notetakers. For the pen and paper enthusiasts who haven’t given up on ink and notebooks. The Scribe offers an impressive technical replacement that gives a reassuringly familiar experience.

Buy the Amazon Kindle Scribe online

AU $549.00
Free delivery
as of 24 May 2024 12:07 am
Amazon.com.au
AU $668.71
+ Delivery *
Kogan.com
* Delivery cost shown at checkout.
Product disclosure

Amazon Supplied the product for this review.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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