The Kindle Scribe is, by far, the largest eReader Amazon has made to date, but does a bigger screen and a new pen change everything? I had to ask myself that when I first learned about the device weeks before it launched, and testing it out felt very different from previous Kindles.
By its very size, the Scribe is now the high-end option in the lineup previously held by the Kindel Oasis. It’s also the first to include a stylus pen, allowing users to write or draw on the large 10.2-inch E Ink display. So, what you have is a big tablet-sized eReader with a pen to read and write as you please.
Despite how big it is, the Scribe doesn’t have physical page turn buttons like the Oasis does. The power button on the side is the only button, with the right edge also magnetized to hold the pen, a nice move to help keep it close, even if it’s not the sturdiest connection.
eReaders are generally known for being wieldy in that you can comfortably read with one hand. That’s not likely to happen for long stretches with the Scribe because the larger size comes with heftier weight (just under a pound). I found I was using both hands a whole lot more because of it, making me think Amazon should’ve included a folio case that could double as a stand. Amazon makes both fabric and leather folio covers, sold separately, so you do have those options.
The Scribe comes in a few different variants. There are 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, plus Basic or Premium pen versions. The pens are mostly the same, except the premium one has an eraser on the butt end and a shortcut button to switch between the pen, highlighter and sticky note. Otherwise, the features and functions are the same.
There’s plenty of room on the 10.2-inch display, which is very well-lit by the 35 LEDs arrayed all around it. It’s also nice to look at, with the ability to change the colour temperature to a warmer tone, especially in darker places, as well as setting it to dark mode to make it easier on the eyes in very dark conditions.
Amazon claims the device can last for up to three months based on 30 minutes of reading per day with Wi-Fi turned off and reasonable light settings. If you’re writing a lot, it would be three weeks for 30 minutes per day.
Writing on the new Scribe
There are pros and cons to adding the pen on a device like this. For starters, you can’t write any notes on any books you read on the Scribe. That goes for both titles you download from the Kindle store and those you transferred over to the eReader yourself. The only exceptions are PDF files, where your notes and annotations stay where they are.
Instead, Amazon offers sticky notes as an alternative, letting you jot down thoughts or whatever based on a highlighted passage. You can highlight and look things up through X-Ray, essentially replacing your finger as the instrument in doing so. Turn pages as you tap either side, just like you can access the top or bottom menus the same way. It’s simple enough to navigate the interface, something I found pretty convenient myself.
I just had to remember the limits. The pen really stands out more with the notebooks than anything else. The idea, at least from what I can tell, is to help you create your own content rather than supplement someone else’s. Hence, writing or drawing as you please, rather than scribbling notes on a book.
The screen responds really well to every touch, so it feels pretty seamless writing on it. I’m not much of an illustrator, so I can’t fully speak to it as a drawing canvas, but I imagine the responsiveness would suit any artist pretty well. There are 18 templates available, from blank pages to lines, tables, columns, dots, and much more.
Choose from various thicknesses for the pen, while also highlighting or erasing anything you’ve written or drawn. Flip the premium pen upside down and just erase like you would with a real pencil. You don’t really get paint brushes here, as the focus is more on notes than drawings.
Reading on the Scribe
I can see those who prefer larger text liking the Scribe’s overall size. But even if you just like squeezing more text into a page, the space certainly accommodates that. For me, the sweet spot has always been a 6- or 7-inch display, though reading on this almost felt like a larger hardcover.
Everything still centres on the Kindle store, where you’ll find the ebooks you want to sample or purchase to download. Kindle Unlimited is the subscription service offering a lot of ebooks that you can read at your leisure, except it’s only a fraction of what the overall store has. You can add your own content so long as it’s compatible. The Scribe supports ePUB, PDF, DOC, DOCX, TXT, RTF, HTM, HTML, PNG, GIF, JPG, JPEG and BMP files.
While you can write on PDFs, Amazon imposes limits that aren’t immediately obvious. Use the Send to Kindle feature, and you’re fine. You’ll find it by going to Settings>Your Account>Send-to-Kindle Email. Send the files via the USB-C connection and you can’t. Also, there’s a disclaimer saying PDFs sent over prior to November 11, 2022 won’t let you write on them, either.
Moreover, it’s not as simple to send your notes over to another device. There is no third-party integration, like Dropbox, nor even the option to turn handwriting into text. That’s what the Kobo Elipsa has, which is the closest competitor as an eReader.
I’ve seen other reviews note access to audiobooks from Audible when pairing Bluetooth headphones, but I didn’t see that as an option during my testing. Bluetooth works for accessibility, like VoiceView for the vision-impaired, just not specific to Audible content.
To draw or paint, something like the Wacom One is probably the better choice. The Scribe is more about jotting down notes and doodling basic images than it is an artist’s canvas, in my opinion. After all, it’s an eReader with notetaking capabilities, not an artistic tablet you can read on.
That said, the Scribe gives you more screen real estate than any other Kindle eReader will. As a larger size to read ebooks, it has plenty to offer in that regard alone. The pen feels like a bonus feature, provided you have a reason to use it. I can only recommend this device if you feel that applies to you. Maybe you just want a larger screen, and if that’s the case, go for the basic pen rather than the premium one.