Amazon Kindle Scribe Review: e-reader PLUS digital notebook

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John Ruiz

amazon kindle scribe with packaging

For the past several years, Amazon has conditioned the market into accepting the $99 USD price tag for a simple e-reader. I’m referring to Amazon’s entry-level Kindle which has a nice 300 ppi screen and 8 GB of storage space. Need something with a backlight? Pay $40 more for the Paperwhite version. What about something waterproof with better ergonomics? Buy the Kindle Oasis for 1.5 times the price. But Amazon has taken Kindle to another level again with the launch of Amazon Kindle Scribe. Much more than a simple e-reader, this tablet (launched at the tail end of 2022) has some extra features including a pen and digital notebook capabilities that are supposed to make it worth a bundle more—almost three times the original Kindle. So what do you get, how do all these advanced features work and is it worth it? I’ll test it out in the review.

Amazon Kindle Scribe
4.8

Summary

The Kindle Scribe is a high-quality product for those wanting a high-quality reader experience. The note-taking capacity is highly customizable and feels like an authentic experience of writing on paper. This is not an all-in-one tool, and if you’re looking for something to navigate the web and do research, you might be better served getting a full tablet.

 

Pros

  • Large screen for workspace
  • Deliberate, high-quality reading experience
  • Highly customizable note-taking capabilities
  • Tactile ‘pen-on-paper’ experience
  • Ergonomic

Cons

  • High cost for an e-reader
  • Slower experience, not for research or websurfing
  • Cannot write directly on books

What you get with Kindle Scribe

Amazon Kindle Scribe is a multipurpose tablet. It’s a larger format e-reader, it’s also a digital notebook with the ability to take handwritten notes and even convert them to text. It will also browse the web for you making it a fairly good multitasker.

Like some of the more expensive kindle e-reader’s, this Kindle allows you to adjust brightness, and use auto brightness as well, and it has adjustable warmth (which you can schedule by day part), as well as dark mode.

What’s in the Box?

amazon kindle scribe with packaging and charger

Open the Kindle Scribe box and you’ll find the product’s first differentiator straightaway – a stylus! As for the Kindle Scribe itself, it’s far larger than your average Kindle with a 10.2-inch display. You also get a smaller box containing some extra pen tips for the stylus along with a USB-A to USB-C charging cable.

Price Variants

$339.99USD is Amazon’s asking price for their most basic variant of the Kindle Scribe. This version nets you 16 GB of storage space and a “Basic Pen” which can attach to the Kindle magnetically. If you go for the 32 GB ($389.99) or 64 GB ($419.99) variants, you’ll get a “Premium Pen” instead. What makes the “Premium Pen” special is its built-in eraser and dedicated shortcut button. With the “Premium Pen” valued at $60 and the Kindle Scribe not supporting third-party styluses, the higher storage models offer better value overall. None of these models have any lock screen ads.

My hands-on video review

Key Specifications

Deciding whether the Kindle Scribe is your next e-reader really boils down to your desire to read books on a larger 10.2-inch display. With a 300 ppi resolution, the text remains sharp and the added screen real estate allows you to see more content per page or zoom in so you can read further away from the screen.

These added benefits come with a weight cost—the Scribe checks in at around 433 grams (0.955 pounds) which is twice as heavy as a Kindle Paperwhite. If you never used a Kindle before, just imagine how it feels to use an iPad Air to read books because it weighs around the same. The difference is the slightly thicker bezel on one side of the e-reader which can come in handy when you want to hold it with just one hand.

Even so, for a tablet this size I can say it actually feels light and easy to grip.

Pen Experience

using the pen with amazon kindle scribe

I’m going to start things off here by talking briefly about the pen, since this is at the core of many of the features of the Kindle scribe that we are going to dig into. The pen is lightweight and easy to hold and a reasonable size. My pen has an eraser feature if I flip it over and press down. Handy! The Pen has one flat edge, which some users may love or hate, and there’s also a multi function button right where you will hold it.

The multifunction button is essentially a shortcut button you can configure to do various things including highlight, erase or switch pen styles.

  1. From the home screen, swipe down to open the Quick Actions menu.
  2. Select All Settings.
  3. Go to Pen Settings.
  4. Open Pen Shortcuts and select one of the options under Shortcut tool.

A checkmark appears to show which tool is active on the button.

To use the shortcut tool, press the button while touching the display with the pen.

Whether you opted for the “Basic Pen” or “Premium Pen”, you get the ability to write your notes, to annotate PDF files or even Microsoft Word documents. Yes, competing tablets have this feature as well but they come with two caveats – 1.) You must buy the pen separately and 2.) You have to charge them regularly as well.

This is where the Kindle Scribe easily beats those gadget categories as the pen doesn’t require charging. The Basic and Premium pens both use electro magnetic resonance (EMR) technology. Amazon says the screen and the pen tip are uniquely developed to feel and sound like writing on real paper.

Features – e-reader

As far as features go, the Kindle Scribe is still a Kindle at heart so expect a lot of parallel when it comes to the overall experience. I highlighted many of the features in my 2022 Amazon Kindle review so you can check that out to learn what it’s like to download, import, and read books.  In short, the matte screen in nice and mimics paper reading well. Pages are turned with a tap or a swipe, and it’s easy enough to navigate around the device. With a greyscale-only screen, there’s no colour option here.

Reading Experience

reading amazon kindle scribe

Thanks to some software updates over the months since launch, the Kindle Scribe finally has an identity of its own with some nice features that better utilize the large display. When browsing documents and PDFs, you can use the e-reader in landscape orientation and enjoy a two-column view.

Annotations and note making in books

One of the great features of these hybrid, E reader notebook devices is the ability to make notes in books and documents. The Kindle scribe also offers this feature, but a little bit differently than something like the Kobo Elipsa 2E.

While you can make simple highlights like other e-readers, Amazon does not allow you to write directly on the page of a book. Instead you use what are called “sticky notes” to add any notes you want. Amazon says this is all about keeping pages clean and uncluttered. It’s an extremely opposite experience to what you get with the Kobo Elipsa 2E: on the Scribe you cannot write notes in the margins. You tap the sticky note shortcut, then tap the pace on the page where it should live. Your sticky notes then open up on a large window and let you write inside. Then you close the note and it leaves a small annotation on the page wherever you tapped the screen.

You can tap the ‘All Notes’ option to review everything you’ve jotted down, then opt to export them to your email.

Depending on the type of thinker you are, you will either love or hate this experience. I can see the benefits to doing this both ways and I don’t think I really have a particular preference. So I’ll leave it at saying that I think the sticky notes feature works incredibly well, and it’s easy enough to share notes off the device.

What types of books can I write in?

You can create handwritten sticky notes in millions of Kindle eBooks. Kindle Scribe does not support handwritten sticky notes on manga, comics, graphic novels, magazines, or newspapers, though they are still available for download and look beautiful on the 10.2” 300 ppi display. Look for supported features, by eBook, under “Product Details” section of the eBook you wish to purchase.

Kindle Scribe also has a few exclusive features that utilize the larger display and included stylus.

New Write-On Content: not books but other content

kindle scribe note-taking

Kindle is rolling out a new selection of books and titles that do support direct on-page writing, but they’re not books, instead, these include things like guided journals and word games like crosswords or sudokus. These new content options are available for purchase on Amazon, and in the Kindle Store on your Kindle Scribe device – just look for “Write-on Books” in the store or “On-page writing” listed as a supported feature under the Product Details section of the eBook you wish to purchase.

Notebook experience

Since the notebook feature is the other big upgrade on this device will focus some time here. Creating and managing your notebooks is easily done from the notebooks tab on the main menu. One of the first things I noticed, and really appreciated is the ability to choose the type of notebook format you want to use; you don’t just get a blank page you can have ruled notes, a checklist, a grid page, or even dots. There’s also a variety of other templates, including DayTimer format, calendar, format, and various checklists. That’s extremely comprehensive and well above what the nearest competition is offering. You can even change the background format of those notes after the fact.

The notebook has a fantastically tactile writing feel; it feels and scratches just like pen on paper, avoiding that ‘nails on chalkboard feel’ that scraping a stylus across a glass screen can sometimes bring.

You can even set a passcode for some notes to keep them private.

Drawing on the Kindle scribe is actually a much more impressive experience than I was anticipating. Having recently tried the Kobo notebook, it struggled with saving larger drawings and doodles. But the Kindle Scribe appears to have no such hang-ups.

Exporting notes: send pages or convert to text

 

You can share your notebooks and pages easily enough using email. Just tap the menu at the top of the screen to view your options which includes a quick send to the same email address that is tied to your Amazon account, or to another email address. You can also have the scribe automatically convert your handwriting to text and send that using email also. If you use the convert option, it will obviously not include drawings, diagrams, or equations, but I can say the conversion feature was extremely accurate, and was able to accurately translate even my imperfect handwriting into text with zero mistakes.

In short, I really liked the notetaking experience on the Kindle scribe. Since it was comfortable, easy to use, there’s a ton of variety in how to take your notes, they’re easy to export, and the text conversion works flawlessly.

Documents & sharing

One of the main annoyances of owning a Kindle in general was sending Word documents to the device if you wanted to work on them away from your computer. Fortunately, Microsoft addressed this in a recent May 2023 Microsoft Word update and you can send the document directly to your Kindle from the MS Word app’s Export menu. I’m sadly behind on my Word updates so I was not able to try this out, but will take Microsoft’s word for it.

What types of documents can I import and write in?

You can write directly on PDF documents that are imported through Send-to-Kindle. Kindle Scribe does not currently support writing directly on the page in PDF documents loaded via USB-C or previously sent to your library before 11/11/2022. Learn more about supported file types and what you can do with your documents.

How do I take notes in my documents?

Securely import files to your Kindle Scribe through Send to Kindle in your desktop web browser, with the “Share” button of the Kindle app for iOS and Android, or directly through Microsoft Word (Microsoft 365 subscription required). Mark up PDF files imported in original layout, or insert sticky notes on imported Microsoft Word documents and other compatible Send to Kindle file formats.

Web browser

The tablet even comes equipped with a simple web browser in case you want to do even more with your device. I can say the experience was far less than ideal. The web browser is incredibly slow, plenty of content simply won’t load, and even basic website functions don’t seem to work very well whether I was trying out my own website or amazon.com. It would often take upwards of 10 to 12 seconds to completely load even one of Amazon’s own pages. While looking something up on the Kindle scribes web browser would be fine in a pinch, it is not ideal for doing any kind of Internet research.

(I will add here since I have made a couple of notes about the Kobo Elipsa 2E that the experience on that tablet is similarly unproductive, with Kobo calling it’s web browser a Beta feature, and making no guarantees it will work.)

Kindle Scribe Speed

One thing I will call out here is that speed is not the Kindle scribes strong suit. Unlike a full-service tablet, like an iPad, the Kindle scribe does struggle a little bit to keep up with the pace of work. It was not uncommon for me to wait several seconds for things like my notes to load. This is not entirely unexpected in a dedicated e-reader, but it may be worth mentioning for those who need to work quickly.

I would say other elements like the page, turn speed, and the flickering effect that also comes with that is extremely similar to other E readers, and you do stop noticing it after a while.

Battery Life

Amazon estimates a fully charged Kindle Scribe will last you about 12 weeks if you read about a half hour a day with the Wi-Fi switched off. Obviously, your mileage will vary depending on your brightness settings but it’s a safe bet that your Kindle Scribe will last just about as long as a typical Kindle reader which is far longer than your average iPad or Galaxy tablet. The e-reader will take about 2.5 hours to charge if you use the included cable with a 9-watt or higher USB-C charger.

I have not had my scribe for much more than about three weeks, so I can’t test out the full battery longevity but I can say it lasts weeks longer than my Apple iPad does.

Notable Omissions

Although the Kindle Scribe is Amazon’s flagship e-reader at the time of writing, it is missing a couple of features that some of the cheaper Kindle devices enjoy. The Kindle Scribe is not waterproof so you might want to consider the Kindle Paperwhite or Oasis for your reading buddy at the beach instead. It also lacks the wireless charging support found exclusively on the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. Finally, the page turn buttons found on the Kindle Oasis are missing on the Kindle Scribe if you would be looking for that more manual clickable experience (personally I’m not).

Overall Review: Kindle Scribe

kindle scribe library

The Kindle Scribe’s high price tag is undoubtedly going to turn off a lot of e-reader fans. But this is only because Amazon is making the whole notetaking experience central to the value proposition. In short, you really won’t be making the most of the purchase if you don’t plan on using the pen or notebook features at all. The good news is, the other Kindle options remain available if you prefer to save while still enjoying an impressive e-ink display.

On the pro side, the large screen gives you a lot more real estate to work with, and means no squinting at a tiny handheld. The reading experience is outstanding. The addition of the notetaking capabilities is extremely well executed, and this version offers a lot more customization than other competitors. The tactile pen on paper feel is probably the best I have tried. The pen works very well, it’s ergonomic and never needs charging.

Of course, you also have access to an entire universe of books through the Amazon Kindle store.

So what are the downsides?

Like most other e-readers, these devices are not speedy and it can take a hot minute to get used to a slightly more deliberate experience. The website browser is clunky and all but useless, but I would venture to say it’s an afterthought on this device. If your primary objective would be Internet, surfing and research, you’d be better off with a full-service tablet, and naturally, you’ll pay for that privilege. Well, some folks may not like the larger footprint of this device, it’s all but essential to the notebook experience, and you could certainly size down to a smaller kindle device, but you would also have to forgo that note taking.

Of course, depending on the type of reader or note, taker, you are, you may also be bothered by the fact you can’t write directly on your books and must use sticky notes, which then become a hidden on the page.

In short, I think the Kindle Scribe adeptly takes the e-reader experience to a new level and makes it more productive. It’s a joy to use, and overall I had a great experience, so I can definitely recommend it to you.

Amazon Kindle Scribe starts at about $339US /$429CAD and you can get it from Amazon.

**A note about Affiliate Links: TechGadgetsCanada & TechGadgetsInternational is supported by our readers. Occasionally I will include affiliate links in my reviews. I do this partly for convenience of the reader (since I’ll almost always include a link to the company website or similar anyway) in case you want to read more or purchase, but I also may get a small commission from the click, which helps me keep the blog running. If you choose to use this link I thank you greatly for supporting the blog. There’s no obligation or cost to you for using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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