The graphics tablet keeps getting better

You already knew that the pen was mightier than the sword. Now it’s shooting at the keyboard. Kindle Scribe is Amazon’s first e-reader to include a stylus, one that lets you write directly on the e-ink screen. (In your face, paper!) You can add handwritten digital “sticky notes” to the books you’re reading, mark up PDFs, and create all kinds of full-page documents: lists, journals, sheet music, and so on. It’s a sleek, high-quality device that’s surprisingly pleasant to write on, but it comes with a price to match: The Scribe starts at $340 for the 16GB model with Basic Pen. I tested the $390 model that came with 32GB of storage and the Premium Pen. Would I recommend any of them?


If you want a great e-reader that’s great for basic note-taking, the Scribe is worth considering. And thanks to continuous updates, it keeps getting better. (Pro tip: wait for sale prices.)

$340 on Amazon

This is an updated version of my original review, reflecting a number of software-based improvements Amazon has rolled out in the months since launch (including four that just arrived). Many of them address issues or limitations I mentioned earlier, resulting in a product I can most enthusiastically recommend.

But let’s tackle the flat, rectangular elephant in the room first: Why choose a Kindle Scribe over, say, an iPad 10.2 and an Apple Pencil? Sure, the latter pair would set you back around $439, but an iPad offers far more capabilities than a Kindle, not to mention a color screen. And the pencil allows you not only to take notes, but also to create art. (Seriously, you should see what my daughter can do with the Procreate app.)

On the other hand, the iPad’s handwriting experience isn’t nearly as paper-like, and battery life is a fraction of that of the Scribe (which promises up to three weeks‘ write value, based on half an hour per day). iPads can also be quite distracting, with games and videos and whatnot all clamoring for your attention. Just as a regular Kindle offers a distraction-free reading experience, so Scribe leaves you alone for journaling.

The value side of my brain says an iPad offers more bang for your buck. The creative side loves the Kindle for its elegant simplicity.

Kindle Scribe: How is it as an e-reader?

If you’ve used a Kindle before, there’s nothing too revolutionary here except for the size—it’s a glorious 10.2 inches, letting you see a lot more text at once. There is a downside to this, though: Because the screen is wider and taller than most printed books, I found that I didn’t enjoy reading as much. My eyes had a hard time adjusting to the extra movement. Thankfully, like all Kindles, Scribe offers line spacing and margin adjustments, which allowed me to create a more comfortable layout.

Landscape mode now supports two-column view, a feature I’ve long enjoyed in the Kindle app for iPad. Curiously, you still have to venture into the display settings to switch between portrait and landscape modes; while the screen can automatically rotate 180 degrees, it seems it can’t do 90 degrees without manual intervention.

Whichever orientation you choose, the display offers a sharp resolution of 300 pixels per inch (ppi), resulting in text that is virtually indistinguishable from print. Like most other Kindles, it includes a “warm light” option that softens the LED lighting to a more amber color, ideal for evening reading.

The Scribe lying on a table, with a pen beside him.

The Super Skinny Scribe isn’t even a quarter of an inch thick, even though it weighs nearly a pound. (Photo: Rick Broida/Yahoo)

The Scribe feels incredibly thin and light when you pick it up, even if it tips the scales at just under a pound. The iPad 10.2 just so happens to be just a hair thicker and heavier. An entry-level Kindle, meanwhile, weighs just 5.5 ounces, so it’s much easier to hold for long periods of reading. While the Scribe has a wide bezel on the side that makes for a fairly comfortable grip, I found myself using the device two-handed at times.

Indeed, as a simple e-reader, the Kindle Scribe isn’t ideal; it’s a bit too big, heavy and expensive. The physical buttons for turning pages are also missing, although there is so much real estate on the screen that scrolling is hardly a problem. I’d argue that Amazon’s Oasis and Paperwhite Signature Edition are probably the smarter choices for serious readers, but even the basic Kindle is a great device.

Of course, the Scribe isn’t intended as a simple e-reader; it is also a writing tablet.

Kindle Scribe: What’s It Like to Take Notes?

The Scribe’s plastic stylus requires no batteries, no charging, no pairing; it just works. A strong magnet snaps it to the side of the screen when not in use, but it could easily fall into a purse or backpack. I could already feel concerned about the pen being lost or lost, especially given that replacements cost $30 and $60 (for the Basic and Premium versions, respectively).

As noted, I tested the Premium Pen, which adds a dedicated “eraser” (which I found I couldn’t do without) and a shortcut button. I liked the girth and weight; it made scribbling on the Scribe feel gleefully like paper – and it sounds that way, too. There is no lag between pen strokes and the digital ink that appears beneath them; the overall experience truly emulates putting pencil to papyrus.

A small on-screen toolbar, which you can collapse when not needed, lets you choose between pen, highlighter, and eraser modes, with a choice of five thicknesses for each – plenty for easy note-taking. It also has handy undo and redo buttons. A recent update added pencil, fountain pen, and marker options to the drawing tools list, and I was pleased to find that all of these tools are pressure- and angle-sensitive: lines get thicker the more you press a little harder. hard with the stylus or write at an angle.

However, you still can’t select and move a portion of handwritten notes, and there’s no handwriting recognition to convert your notes into real text.

The tablet offers a large assortment of notebook templates, including numerous versions of lined “paper”, as well as a dot grid, graph paper, sheet music, a checklist, daily and weekly planners, and more. For anyone asking, “Why is this thing better than a pencil and a $3 spiral notebook?” here’s your answer: you can have 18 different types of notebooks on a single device, with enough storage space to hold literally thousands of pages.

The Kindle Scribe next to an Apple iPad.

There’s a reason to choose an iPad and Apple Pencil over the Kindle Scribe, even if it means spending a little more. (Photo: Rick Broida/Yahoo)

Meanwhile, you can send just about any file type (PDF, Word document, image, etc.) to your Kindle via email (it has a dedicated address) and then use your pen to add notes. If you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, you’ll now find a “Send to Kindle” option in Word, with two formats available: one that lets you write directly on the page, one that limits you to adding virtual sticky notes.

One continuing disappointment here is that Scribe can’t sync with, say, a Google Drive or Evernote account. In fact, the only way to get documents on or off the device is via email; the ones you create on Scribe are sent as PDFs. And speaking of syncing, any notations you add to an e-book on Scribe aren’t synced to your other Kindle devices or apps (although at least you can access your notebooks).

This is one area where an iPad, as well as competing writing tablet devices like the Onyx Boox Note Air 2 and Remarkable 2, offer much more flexibility. Scribe makes document creation fun and easy, but it still falls short in document syncing and sharing.

Kindle Scribe: Should You Buy It?

So what we have here is a large e-reader that doubles as a writing tablet. It’s better in the latter than the former, but it also gets better with age. (For example, another recent update lets you adjust contrast levels in imported PDFs.)

If you’re someone who reads a lot and likes to add notes and highlights along the way, Scribe is a great tool. Grab your pen, select some text, and then scribble your thoughts. This is far superior to the traditional Kindle method of finger highlighting and tapping a small on-screen keyboard. But Amazon really needs to (and almost certainly will) update the software so that these annotations sync across devices.

As a basic digital notepad, the Scribe has its merits too; anyone who prefers to take notes by hand rather than typing them on a keyboard will appreciate the smooth, easy feel of the stylus and screen. And even if you can’t sync those notes anywhere, you can easily delete them via email.

I like the Scribe more now than at launch, but I still see room for improvement. At the very least, wait for a sale; Amazon devices are regularly discounted, and Scribe has already dropped below $300 a couple of times. No doubt will do it again for events like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Amazon Prime Day.


If you want a great e-reader that’s great for basic note-taking, the Scribe is worth considering. And thanks to continuous updates, it keeps getting better. (Pro tip: wait for sale prices.)

$340 on Amazon

If you have Amazon Prime, you get free shipping, of course. Not a member yet? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders $25 or more.)

Originally published

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