Amazon Kindle Scribe: E-Ink tablet for Reading and Writing

The most recent Kindle is the first genuinely new Kindle in years. It’s called the Kindle Scribe, both a reading device and a writing one. It’s available for preorder today.

Amazon swears it’ll be out before the holidays. But, of course, it’s also the device people have been staying for Amazon to make for years.

Kevin Keith, a vice president of product and marketing at Amazon, communicates the display is why the Scribe took so long. “This is the first 300ppi, front-lit display that has an adjustable warm light,” he states over Amazon’s Chime conferencing system, holding the Scribe up to the camera.

With a stylus that binds to the side of the device with a 10.2-inch E Ink screen and a bunch of new software, the $339.99 Scribe is trying to be as much a tablet as an ebook reader.

“And that ensures there is no settlement between the reading and writing experience.” Historically, more extensive E-Ink displays have meant lower resolution. As a result, the Scribe has the Kindle’s typical contrast and clarity, he says, while still adding all the tech necessary to make the whole surface possible to write on.

Ultimately, this device’s most important question is how the Scribe’s writing experience works and feels. You can buy it with one of two stylus options: a “Basic Pen” or a “Premium Pen” for $30 more, including a customizable shortcut button and an eraser sensor on the top. Both use the same Wacom EMR technology and magnetically attach to the side of the Scribe but don’t have batteries or need to be charged.

Amazon built new note-taking capabilities into its reader so you can tap on a passage and scribble a note, similar to how you’d highlight or type a message on the on-screen keyboard. Those handwritten notes are stored in your Kindle collection along with everything else.

The device also supports PDF markup and can display saved webpages and other file formats. Amazon even partnered with Microsoft to put a button into Word that’ll let you export a document to your Kindle.

Amazon’s document-sending features haven’t been handy in the past, but Keith says the team is working on making it easier to get all your stuff on and off the Scribe. Right now, you won’t be able to see your notes in the Kindle app on other devices, but Amazon says that’s coming soon.

The Scribe borrows its asymmetric design from the Kindle Oasis, with that chunky bezel on one side as a hand-hold; one hand on the device and one on your pen seems to be how Amazon imagines most people using the Scribe. It’s 5.8mm thick and weighs 430g, making it a little thinner and lighter than the most recent iPad Air.

The comparison to the iPad Air is a useful one. The iPad is a dramatically more capable device: it has millions of apps, a web browser, and a screen that can show videos and games. It also measures its battery life in hours. Amazon estimates the Scribes in weeks and hopes it can entice users with a distraction-free device for reading and taking notes over one that seems mostly a tool for endless distraction. Amazon could have opted to use this device’s Android-based software that powers the Fire tablets.

About the battery life: it sounds like your experience will depend on how much you write. Amazon says the Scribe will last 12 weeks based on a half-hour of reading a day but just three weeks based on a half-hour of writing every day. The difference is likely due to the Scribe’s screen having to refresh far more often to show your scribbles, and heavy writers may not get the weeks of battery Amazon advertises.

The remarkable 2 is a solid E Ink tablet with plenty of devoted users, and more powerful Android-powered devices from companies like Boox are becoming more popular. Even Kobo beat Amazon to the E Ink writing-and-reading tablet game with the Sage and the Elipsa.