Nov 30, 2022 - Technology

Amazon's Scribe is a whole new kind of Kindle

An image of a man next to a Kindle Scribe being used to mark up a PDF document

Image: Amazon

The Kindle e-reader has gotten modest refinements over the years, but the new Scribe is the first Kindle in years to take on a significantly new task.

Catch up quick: Announced in September and going on sale Wednesday, the $330 Scribe is the first Kindle that can also be used for handwritten notes. It's also the first large-screen device since the Kindle DX line, which was discontinued more than a decade ago.

Hands on: I've spent about a week and a half with the Kindle Scribe and have been mostly pleased.

  • Even before you pull out the included pen stylus, the Scribe is a very nice Kindle, with good ergonomics and a large, well-lit display.
  • Using the pen opens up a range of additional uses, from taking handwritten meeting or lecture notes to marking up a PDF or Word document to jotting notes alongside the book you are reading.
  • The Scribe does have a few quirks. For example, it's not immediately clear how to shift between tasks, such as reading books and taking notes. By default, the Scribe also takes notes slightly differently depending on whether one is reading a book or viewing a document, like a PDF.

Between the lines: Kevin Keith, Amazon's VP of devices, tells Axios that Amazon took its time releasing the Scribe because it wanted to produce a device that was equally good for reading and writing.

  • Keith said that recent advances allow for a device that has high pixel density (300 per inch), backlighting and a feel that's much more like writing on paper than using a stylus on a glossy tablet.

At the same time, Keith said Amazon aimed to keep the Scribe from trying to do too much.

  • It's still designed for dedicated tasks, chiefly reading and writing. "We’re not trying to be a tablet," he said.
  • So far, Amazon says it is happy with the response. "Early sales have been very brisk," Keith said.

The big picture: The Scribe isn't the first device to use an e-ink display for writing. Startup ReMarkable is on its second-generation product, and it offers some features the Scribe lacks: It can synchronize with various cloud services and convert handwriting to text.

  • On the flip side, the ReMarkable lacks the pixel density and advanced lighting of the Scribe.
  • Most importantly, it doesn't offer access to the huge book library Scribe provides through Amazon's Kindle catalog. The ReMarkable is much more oriented toward viewing work documents and taking notes.

What's next: Amazon has already promised that Microsoft will add a "save to Kindle" option within Word, and Keith said there is a long list of features that could come to the Scribe, including turning handwritten notes into text.

  • "If that’s really important to customers we’ll bring it out as soon as we can," Keith said.
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