The most unique member of the Kindle family, the Scribe is an excellent digital notepad with enough on offer to make it a valuable addition to your day to day work life.
the good bits
Crisp, front lit screen
Responsive writing and drawing
Extremely strong battery life
Doubles as an e-reader
the not so good bits
Software limitations, particularly when sharing documents
Slightly hollow feeling construction
Elgato Stream Deck Pedal
Kindle has become a brand manager’s dream, it’s gone beyond just a single product and dominated the space to the point that ‘Kindle’ is now just what we all call e-readers, right?
The Kindle Scribe therefore arrived as somewhat of a surprise addition to the line up, this is Amazon’s first Kindle that lets you write back. Tackling the likes of the reMarkable head on, the Scribe is a 10.2” digital notepad and e-reader hybrid that looks to offer a lot on (not) paper.
Sliding the Kindle Scribe out of its incredibly slim packaging reveals an equally incredibly slim device. The first thing that struck me was the immensely premium vibe. It oozes business and won’t look out of place alongside top end iPads and leather bound notebooks around a meeting room table. The matte aluminium back feels great in your hand with four little feet that protect it from scuffs and keep it from sliding around your desk.
While the overall experience is wholly pleasant, if there was one shortcoming of the Kindle Scribe’s build quality, it does feel a little hollow. Unlike the Kindle Paperwhite or other tablets like an iPad Pro that feel like a solid slab – tapping on the back of the Scribe feels noticeably empty and disconnected from the screen. It’s fine and not something that jumps out in general use but every now and then I’d really notice it and found it a little jarring compared with the quality on show everywhere else.
The 10.2” e-ink screen, while slightly smaller than a standard A4 sheet of the real stuff, feels a familiar size when sitting in front of you. The asymmetrical design offers a useful handhold with the display automatically flipping depending on orientation – perfect for the lefties among us. It’s impressively light too, just 433g which is far less than you’d expect for a device of this size. That said, it’s still more than double the weight of a standard Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and this does start to become apparent after a few minutes of reading. It’s not unmanageable, but it’s not a weight you’ll want to be holding up in the air for extended periods.
Like the latest Paperwhite, the Kindle Scribe features a front light to illuminate the screen and I found it did a great job across a range of conditions. The adjustable colour temperature is a nice touch for working at night and while the matte e-ink screen naturally performs well in bright conditions, the front light kept the screen equally as clear even in complete darkness.
My sample unit included the official Scribe Leather Folio Cover which features a soft and slightly flocked interior coupled with a natural leather exterior. For day to day use, a device like this seems happiest living in a cover like this, I’d think twice before tossing it naked into a backpack as the screen does feel rather exposed and like a magnet for scratches and scuffs. The Scribe attaches magnetically to the back panel of the cover and never shifted or threatened to fall out during a couple of weeks of testing.
As part of the Amazon Kindle family, of course the Kindle Scribe functions brilliantly as an ereader. If you’ve ever used a Kindle in the past, the experience is identical here so I’m not going to dwell on that side of things. Let’s be honest, if you’re looking at a Kindle Scribe you’re ultimately looking to write, not read, right?
I have to admit, like a lot of people recently I’m sure, making handwritten notes and actual writing of any sort has taken a back seat in my day to day life. If I’m blocking out a review, taking notes in a meeting or putting together a shopping list it’s my phone or a keyboard I’m turning to. It meant I wasn’t quite sure how well I’d be able to integrate the Kindle Scribe into my workflow and whether a device like this would actually hold value.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Scribbling away on the Amazon Kindle Scribe felt natural and served as a reminder of the benefits of moving away from a screen every now and then. Yes, ok, this is a screen as well – but it doesn’t feel like one.
The smooth surface is glare free and like the rest of the Kindle lineup the e-ink display does a great job at recreating an actual paper page. 300ppi is also enough resolution for even small font sizes to appear perfectly sharp across both ebooks and my own handwritten notes while providing impressive detail in book cover artwork too. The matte texture offers a pleasant resistance against the included pen, though the sensation is more like writing with a Sharpie than a ballpoint pen. The experience felt natural however, the Kindle Scribe’s screen is impressively responsive and no matter how quickly I scribbled I never picked up a discernible latency between the tip of my pen and the brushes on my page.This genuinely is a great digital representation of the real thing.
Unlike an Apple Pencil, there’s nothing electronic going on inside the Scribe’s pen so no battery life to worry about. My unit included the Premium Pen which will set you back £30 more if you buy it with the Scribe or £47.99 to buy it separately (or a replacement if you find it’s gone missing from its magnetic holster on the side of the Scribe). Both the Basic and Premium Pens rock a simple form factor that, shockingly, feels just like any other pen.
I’m not sure I’m sold on the benefits of the extra investment though. The Premium Pen offers a dedicated physical eraser on top and a shortcut button on the side and while the movement of flipping the pen over to use the eraser is a natural one, it just feels wrong. The hard plastic of the ‘eraser’ always felt like it was about to scratch into the screen surface, particularly as you have to apply a bit of force to trigger it. I’d have preferred to see it made out of the same material as the tips or rubbered off in some way.
The shortcut button is great in theory but for me suffers from the same issue as the double-tap of an Apple Pencil. When I wanted to trigger it I struggled and when I didn’t, it triggered. You can bind it to a number of actions in the settings menu but I ended up setting it to off as my natural pen grip saw me constantly accidentally pressing it while writing. This could just be how I hold a pen of course and I can’t complain given Amazon offers the freedom of choice over what the button does.
The Scribe offers 18 sheet styles to write on, ranging from simple lined pages through to storyboards, checklists and day planners. While this range of choice is great to see, you’re limited to defining the markings per workbook rather than on a page by page basis which feels like an unnecessary restriction. If I want a storyboard on page one and a production schedule on page two I should be able to, surely? The same restriction impacts sharing your documents to other devices. While one touch emailing of a PDF is useful, again you’re limited to sending the entire document with no way to send just a single page or range of pages. This is obviously purely a software thing so I’m hopeful this kind of control might show up in a firmware update down the line.
Those looking to use the Amazon Kindle Scribe for notetaking will find another handy feature lurking in the share options, convert to text. I’ll be the first to admit my handwriting is poor and yet the Scribe did a superbly accurate job at converting my scratchings to typed text. It did start to struggle with formatting if I scribbled notes in a side column, but if you keep to a standard layout the results were excellent.
One hallmark of Kindles over the years has been the standout battery life offered by e-ink displays and that trend continues with the Scribe. You know you’re onto a winner when battery life is measured in weeks rather than hours. As ever there’s a load of caveats to how much use you’ll get out of a single charge but Amazon claim up to 12 weeks of reading time – which is an outrageous amount quite frankly.
The Amazon Kindle Scribe may be the most niche device in the range, but for the right user it’s almost certainly the most useful too. A top end build quality coupled with snappy, accurate performance make this a genuine option to replace a traditional notebook and pen. It’s not without its flaws but those shortcomings are almost solely on the software side. So while they do take some of the shine off the experience – there’s scope for Amazon to iron those creases out over time.
Even with those minor frustrations in place, the Kindle Scribe is easy to recommend. Whether you’re a heavy note taker looking to go digital, or a keyboard junky like me hoping to take their eyes off a screen every once in a while if you can handle the investment, the reward is worth it.