The Amazon Kindle Scribe is a brand new digital note taking device that will be released towards the end of November. The Kindle Scribe is available now for preorder for $340 with a standard stylus or $370 with a premium stylus. There is also a 16GB, 32GB or 64GB variants. The hardware was designed to freehand draw, edit documents and books. This is the first time that the company has released something like this and will be competing against the Kobo Elipsa and Remarkable 2. Just how good is the Scribe at taking down notes. Amazon showcased some footage at the private online event they conducted yesterday and we finally have an idea on what the note taking experience will be like.
The Amazon team worked hard on finding the right anti-glare coating on the display and the right kind of tip on the pen to mimic the feeling of writing on paper. “We tested hundreds of combinations to find the delicate balance of creating just the right amount of friction on the display for writing while still delivering crisp text for a world-class reading experience Kindle customers expect,” said Nag Tadepalli, lead display engineer for Kindle Scribe. The team designed the pen tip using a hard felt that, paired with our custom display coating, avoids the slippery feeling produced by styluses with molded plastic tips and actually sounds like writing on paper.
Note taking starts with the stylus. Amazon is going to be selling a basic one that does not have any buttons or an eraser and a premium version, which has a programable side button and an eraser on the top. The basic stylus is only being sold with the 16GB mode and users can choose to pay extra for the premium one. The 32GB and 64GB can only be purchased with the premium stylus and not the basic one. Right now, there is no product pages to buy one or the other at a later date. So you might be stuck with the one that comes with the device for awhile. Both pens have a magnet in them and they can magnetically attach to the side of the Scribe. However, there are some drawbacks, neither of the pens have pressurize sensativity, so you will have to rely on software to control the size of the text or thickness of the lines. The pens don’t appear to have any pressure sensavity.
The big selling point of the Scribe is the note taking experience on a 300 PPI 10.2-inch screen. There is a dedicated note taking app, where you can freehand draw. There are multiple pen/pencil sizes that you can use, in addition to eraser functionality at a click of a button. Amazon is providing a series of about 12 background templates, these include interactable to-do-lists or a calendar. It also supports PDF viewing and editing. PDF documents can be directly written on and saved locally, but also synced on the Amazon Cloud, so it would be viewable on on various Kindle apps for Android or iOS.
Amazon has stated that you will be able to write on Kindle books that you purchase from the Store and also EPUB books that have been converted to AZW by one of the many Send to Kindle solutions. Writing on books is a totally different experience. Rather than writing directly on the book, a little popup window appears and takes up 50% of the screen real state. These popups are the only way you can take notes with the stylus and then are saved not in the book, but as an independent file that is viewable in your library. The saved notes can be saved locally, exported to your PC via the USB-C cable to viewed on any of the Kindle apps. Writing on ebooks, seems to have the most limited functionality. There is no keyboard that appears, you basically write on the popups with the stylus.
The same system for writing on Kindle books, is evident when writing on pictures. The Scribe supports PNG, GIF, JPG, TXT, RTF, HTM, HTML, PNG, GIF, JPG, JPEG and BMP. You can’t freehand draw directly any of the pictures, just draw or scribble on the popup window.
There are a few unknowns that need further clarification. Amazon stated that you will be able to write on Word documents and that Microsoft Word and Office 365 version of Word will get Send to Kindle functionality sometime in 2023. You can also import and create handwritten sticky notes in Microsoft Word documents, web articles, and other document formats with adjustable font sizes and layouts. I think it would be better if Amazon introduced a handwriting to text system for Word documents where you can edit them too, turning the Scribe into a word processor.
How does the Scribe compare against the Remarkable 2? On a hardware level, the Remarkable doesn’t have a lighting system, so you have to ensure you are in a well lit room to get any work done. You can draw directly on PDF files and EPUB books that you sideload onto it. There is a ton of advanced writing functionality, such as layers, and tons of different sizes of writing utensils. Files can be saved to Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. Amazon has not disclosed the Scribes UI for freehand drawing, editing PDF files or Word Docs, so we don’t know if they are going for a more limited, mass market approach, with a dead simple experience or whether they will have advanced features that Remarkable users have come to enjoy. The Scribe on the other hand has a warm and cool lighting on it, and everything is basically saved to the Kindle Cloud and not external services.
Update: Amazon has created a new KFX variant called PDF backed fixed layout. There are no examples of it yet, but likely it has to do with interactive fields in PDF files and not native support for replica PDF files.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.