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- The Kindle Scribe is Amazon’s first note-taking e-reader.
- With a 10.2-inch screen, the Scribe is Amazon’s largest Kindle ever.
- If you’re not interested in note-taking, you’re better off with a cheaper Kindle.
Amazon’s Kindles are considered the best e-readers in the business, and for good reason — they let users store a huge library of books in one compact device, complete with a paper-like screen and adjustable reading settings. And now, the latest addition to the brand, the Kindle Scribe, takes the lineup one step further.
The new Kindle Scribe expands upon its predecessors by offering writing capabilities using its included pen. Readers can annotate, take notes, make lists, and more right on the screen. It’s not the first device of its kind — the Kobo Elipsa, for example, also has writing capabilities — but it is the first Amazon e-reader to offer such a feature.
After putting the new device to the test, we think it’s a solid addition to the Kindle collection, but its appeal is limited to a specific kind of user. Here’s how the Scribe stacks up, and why we think you may or may not want to buy one.
Kindle Scribe specs at a glance
The biggest Kindle ever, but it may not be ideal for all readers
With a whopping 10.2-inch display, the Scribe is the largest Kindle that Amazon sells, besting the Oasis by about three inches. Like every other Kindle, it also features a premium 300 ppi screen with a glare-free finish.
The huge size gives users a vast amount of space to write on using the included stylus pen. But as impressive as that sounds, the design is also a bit inconvenient.
The device’s super-thin build, combined with its wide form factor, makes for a somewhat delicate user experience. That’s not to say the Scribe comes out of the box flimsy. But it’s not hard to imagine the damage a precarious drop or roughly thrown bookbag could do. A protective case is highly recommended, especially if you plan to travel or commute with your Scribe.
The wide screen doesn’t really add to the reading experience, either. The 10.2-inch display gives ample space for writing, but if you mostly plan to read, it doesn’t really enhance the experience any more than a cheaper model. If anything, it just makes the device awkwardly large for holding. It’s best for use on top of a flat surface.
A reading experience on par with other Kindles, but it’s not waterproof
The Scribe offers very similar reading performance compared to Amazon’s other high-end Kindles, including the closest step down in the lineup, the Kindle Oasis ($250). That said, despite its bigger screen and added writing capabilities, the Scribe is actually missing a couple of features that you’ll find on the Oasis.
In exchange for writing support, the Scribe forces buyers to give up perks like page turn buttons, cellular connectivity, and perhaps most importantly, a waterproof finish. Yep, that means no more reading in the bathtub. If that’s more important to you than note-taking support, you’ll want to consider the Kindle Oasis or Paperwhite instead.
Beautiful, paper-like display and a responsive pen
The Scribe’s real selling point is its writing feature. And thankfully, writing on the Scribe is excellent.
The pen glides, but doesn’t slip, on the paper-like finish of the glare-free display, making for a better stylus experience than that of an Apple Pencil with an iPad. Latency when writing is low, so it almost feels like you’re actually transferring ink to the screen — but we promise, you’re not.
The battery free pen magnetically attaches to the side of the device for easy and secure storage. Buyers also have the option to upgrade to a Premium Pen, which costs $30 extra. The step-up Pen adds a few thoughtful features, like a programmable shortcut button and a functional eraser on the back. After testing, we think it’s worth the extra money.
The Scribe lets you easily take notes and make lists
Note-taking is sure to be a big draw for many buyers considering the Scribe, and the device offers good performance in this regard.
Notebooks get their own section in the Scribe’s browser. There, you can create new notes with different page formats, including lined sheets, dot grid pages, checklists, and more. If you’re a student, or just love writing things down, you can even sort your notes into folders for clearer organization.
The stellar pen design makes note-taking on the Scribe a joy. The writing interface also includes a simple, intuitive toolbar, complete with variable line weights for your pen, along with highlighter, eraser, undo, and redo options. However, the toolbar lacks some basic features like zoom, layers, and ink opacity. These omissions basically mean you can’t use the Scribe like a true digital drawing device.
Annotation takes center stage, but integration leaves something to be desired
Since it combines writing with reading in one device, one of the Scribe’s most marketable aspects is the ability to annotate as you read e-books. By simply tapping the sticky note icon on the collapsible toolbar, users can handwrite or type in notes that then remain attached to the page and can be easily browsed all in one place afterward.
Unfortunately, this feature proves to be lackluster. Annotation is poorly integrated into the reading experience, with sticky notes taking up half of the screen, making the text behind unavailable to read at the same time. Finding the text highlight feature isn’t very intuitive either; using the highlighter tool does nothing to the page, you need to hold and drag your pen or finger over the text in order to select and annotate a specific section.
Ultimately, this sticky notes approach means you can’t just write directly on a book’s page and have the words appear where you put them. You can still annotate in a separate box, but why give readers a pen if they can’t scribble in the margins?
Battery life is just as impressive as other Kindle models
As with the rest of the Kindle lineup, the Scribe delivers incredible battery life. A single charge can last up to 12 weeks when being used solely for reading or up to three weeks with the addition of writing. Actual stats depend on just how much of either you do, combined with your light and Wi-Fi settings.
After using our test Scribe to both read and write for two weeks, we’ve gotten the device’s battery down to 50%, which falls in line with the expected usage.
Should you buy it?
The Kindle Scribe is a good device but it’s best suited for a very specific type of user: people who are both avid readers and notetakers. It’s an especially good fit for students who want an all-in-one device to store their notes and e-books.
You get most of the premium reading features you’d expect from a high-end Kindle, along with the expanded ability to write on the screen. And though pricier than other Kindles, the Scribe costs less than some competing e-readers with writing support, like the Kobo Elipsa.
However, it’s important to remember that the Scribe’s writing feature can’t match what you’d get on a genuine tablet. It’s limited to annotating and note-taking; it can’t replace the capabilities of an iPad when it comes to word processing, drawing, or even just note organizing. And of course, it’s missing all of the other features you’d get with a full-fledged tablet, like web browsing and games.
With its writing capabilities and $339 price tag, the Scribe finds itself in a slightly awkward position in between an e-reader and tablet, which makes it tricky to recommend over just buying a regular e-reader or tablet. For instance, you could get a bunch of extra features with a ninth-gen iPad and Apple Pencil for about $100 more, or forgo writing and save $100 with a Kindle Oasis.
Still, if you’re a student who wants to replace physical books and notepads with one device, the Scribe is definitely a worthwhile option — but if you’re someone on the fence questioning whether you need it, you probably don’t.