The biggest Kindle isn’t just for reading, as Amazon upgrades the notepad for a more digital experience. Does it work, or does it still need work?
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What is the Kindle Scribe?
Amazon’s newest and biggest Kindle, the Scribe is what happens when companies decide bigger is indeed better.
With a front design similar to that of the 7 inch Kindle Oasis but with a much bigger screen, the Kindle Scribe is the 10.2 inch eReader you’re not sure you needed, at least until we started maybe pointing out why.
The 10.2 inch screen inside uses the largest amount of LEDs for a Kindle’s front-lighting system yet, hitting 35 LEDs, 10 higher than the Oasis, and it also features the warm auto-adjusting colour front-lighting system, too.
There’s only support for WiFi in the Scribe, but unlike the rest of the range, there’s support for a pen, with two models available: the basic pen for scribbling on the screen and the premium pen which has a fake eraser on the end for rubbing things out. The Scribe doesn’t need to charge the pen thanks to the magnetic technology it uses, but Amazon suggests weeks of battery life are possible from the Scribe, similar to the way it is with other Kindle models.
What does it do?
As with other Kindles, the point is largely to read. It’s not quite like what Rainier Wolfcastle says in The Simpsons Movie (because folks using a Kindle will be reading, not so much leading), but you can also do other things here, thanks to the include pen.
That’ll include creating notebooks and jotting down comments, notes, feelings, and other things.
You could basically use the Kindle Scribe as a replacement for your “Dear Diary” if you wanted to, as Amazon tries to blend the book and notepad into the one electronic device.
Does it do the job?
If a bigger eReader experience is what you’re after, the 10 inch Kindle certainly delivers, offering much of what the premium Kindle Oasis offers — front-lighting, warm colour to ease the eyes — but in a bigger size.
Interestingly, Amazon’s big Kindle is great for comics, probably because the 10.2 inch size isn’t far from the 10.4 inch height of a comic book. While reading comics on the Kindle Scribe will be limited to just black and white, the bigger experience means reading on the Scribe is more like reading on a standard comic, so you don’t really need to blow the text up or zoom in. Checking out comics on the Scribe is rather like checking out comics in the flesh, only without the colour or paper.
For all other materials, the Kindle Scribe is a 10 inch book replacement with a pen, which means it can be used for notes, for drawings, and even works with the dark mode, inverting the colour so that you’re scribbling in white on black.
What does it need?
But it’s not perfect, and some of the things you might expect the modern equivalent of a pen and paper replacement to do haven’t been created for the new Kindle.
For starters, we can’t convert our handwriting to text yet, and so any chance you have of taking the Kindle Scribe to a lecture for notes will leave you with the regular chicken scratch you normally might have trouble reading. You can send those scrawls to your email, which is great if you want to read it, but it’s not a direct conversion you can copy to notes later. Rather, it’s basically like having a digitised notebook made flat on electronic paper.
It’s been some time since we took out the Livescribe pens we use to bring to briefings, but over a decade on, Kindle’s Scribe feels a little like that, only without the microphone recordings that would commonly be associated. This is handy for doodles and is a modern take on the notebook, but not a huge leap forward for the medium.
You also can’t scribble on books where DRM gets in the way, which basically means this: any book you buy or loan from the Kindle Store can’t be underlined or scribbled in like a real book can. There may well be a pen, and you can leave the digital equivalent of sticky notes on each page, but you can’t draw directly inside them.
The Scribe also lacks the water resistance of its siblings, which feels like a totally missed opportunity.
The cheapest basic Kindle is not waterproof, but both the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis are, and so is another competitor that takes pen input, the Kobo Sage. It is confusing to say the least that Amazon skipped out on a water rating in its most expensive Kindle, and we’re a little confused as to why.
And that brings us to the other critical issue for the Kindle Scribe: the price.
Is it worth your money?
At starting price of $549 for the 16GB Kindle Scribe with the basic pen or $599 for the 16GB model with the premium pen, Amazon’s 10 inch Kindle is not cheap, and it’s playing against some pretty serious competitors.
Apple may well have raised the price of the 9th-gen iPad this year to $549, but it’s still a genuinely compelling device, and one that the Scribe is directly coming up against. They’re not technically the same, sure, but there are similarities, because they’re both 10 inch devices you can read and write on.
Amazon will win in size, weight, and battery life, because there’s no way a colour screen LCD tablet is ever going to compete with a black and white eReader in that last one. But the iPad is so much more versatile in capability, both the older 2021 model and this year’s slightly more expensive 2022 edition of the iPad. And while the Apple Pencil isn’t exactly cheap or comes with the iPad, the Kindle stylus isn’t pressure sensitive, so if you want the same effect with the iPad, you could really just get a basic stylus for writing and drawing on the screen.
Comparatively, the premium stylus of the Kindle gives you a rubber feature at the back, but again, we’re not talking about a drawing tool like what the Apple Pencil offers.
It would be a similar experience with Android tablets, too, particularly those that come with a pen. The TCL Tab 10S wasn’t a great tablet when we reviewed it, but it did come with the pen, and Android is also fairly versatile because of its app ecosystem.
Really, when you boil down our price concerns with the Kindle Scribe, it really comes down to comparative value, because it’s hard to find in this model. It’s a great Kindle, but the value isn’t really there.
Unfortunately, that makes finding the Kindle Scribe’s audience complex. After spending time with the Kindle Scribe, I can honestly that I have no idea who this thing is for.
Yay or nay?
There’s nothing technically wrong with it, and for all intents and purposes, it is a lovely big eReader. If you’re looking for a bigger version of the Kindle to match your love of big trade paper books, a 10 inch Kindle doesn’t go astray. It’s also great for reading comics, and we’re getting a lot of joy out of its big screen for comics, offering what is basically a 1:1 experience with no zoom needed.
But the price makes zero sense for what you get, and it makes the Kindle Scribe that much harder to justify. It just seems too expensive for what amounts to a big eReader with a marginally useful pen. There’s more Amazon could be doing here, and we’re not sure that the Kindle Scribe has quite reached its potential just yet.
For now, it sits firmly in the “nice to have” camp if you have the spare money, or if Amazon drops the price during one of its famous sales. If the Scribe was closer to the $400 mark, things would make a lot more sense. But at $549 minimum in Australia, we’d say the Scribe is only for people who need a bigger Kindle and are prepared to pay for it.