Amazon’s Kindle Scribe in the test: More than just reading

RWorking intensively with books, delving deep into the subject and making sure that as much as possible “sticks”: Anyone who reads this way usually has a pen in their hand, underlines important passages or scribbles their own comments in the margin. With e-books, this deep immersion is more difficult. The e-book doesn’t dog-ear. At best, you can underline with your finger or a pen, but even annotating becomes tricky.

Now Amazon wants to take a fresh approach to the topic and is expanding its range of readers with e-ink technology to include a product with a pen. You get the best of both worlds this way, it seems. On the one hand, there is a reader with a significantly longer battery life than a tablet, and on the other hand, it comes with Amazon’s huge range of books. Sure, you are of course trapped in the Amazon ecosystem, which is a minus point. The new Kindle Scribe starts with a simple pen and 16 gigabytes of memory for 370 euros, the top model with a better pen and 64 gigabytes costs 450 euros.

Diagonal of 10.2 inches, resolution of 1440 × 1920 pixels


Diagonal of 10.2 inches, resolution of 1440 × 1920 pixels
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Image: manufacturer

The Kindle Scribe is one of the larger e-book readers and has a display with a diagonal of 10.2 inches. It has a resolution of 1440 × 1920 pixels, 16 shades of gray, a backlight that adjusts to the ambient brightness and an adjustable color temperature. Every e-display is sluggish, including this one, but it’s one of the better e-ink displays and, like its cousins, it’s easy to read outside in bright sunshine. The Kindle Scribe measures 20 × 23 centimeters and weighs as much as a similarly sized tablet, around 430 grams. It is not water-resistant.

Those who opt for an electronic book usually choose a device with a slightly smaller diagonal and less weight. This means that longer reading and longer holding in the hand is not as tiring as with larger and heavier models, which in turn show more content at a glance. So you have to weigh up.

Cellular phone is not installed

As an e-book reader, the Kindle Scribe is good. As you’d expect, it fits seamlessly into the Amazon ecosystem and can do almost anything its peers can. With one exception, however: mobile communications are not built in, so you need a smartphone nearby as a hotspot for spontaneous book purchases.

But now to the pen. It doesn’t have a battery, docks magnetically on the side of the Kindle like the Apple Pencil 2, and the premium version comes with a function button and an eraser on the top. The pen can be used to underline text passages in books, for which the finger is used on the other Kindles. Furthermore, two types of notes can be created: Text notes are typed using the virtual keyboard. This also works with other Kindles, by the way. Annoyingly, although the device has Bluetooth built-in, a Bluetooth keyboard cannot be paired. Handwritten notes are made with the pen, the field offers space for about 40 percent of the screen area and is sufficient for six to eight lines, depending on how large you write.

The Kindle Scribe measures 20 × 23 centimeters and weighs as much as a similarly sized tablet, around 430 grams.


The Kindle Scribe measures 20 × 23 centimeters and weighs as much as a similarly sized tablet, around 430 grams.
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Image: manufacturer

The text notes are synced to the book. This means: You can also see the comments in Amazon’s web browser, for example, atlesen.amazon.de. The annotation visualizes a small box at the appropriate place. If you click on it, a window with the entered text appears. Curiously, the handwritten notes are not synchronized. But you can have a PDF created that will be emailed to you, showing highlights and notes.

Handwriting recognition is missing

The lack of synchronization of handwritten notes is a nasty limitation that will certainly not please everyone. Meanwhile, the pen still has a part-time job. In the Notebooks menu, such notebooks can be created virtually and sorted into their own folders. There are templates with different lines, and the writing feel is excellent. There are no artefacts when the palm of the hand rests on the display. Only a dark cloud clouds the vain sunshine: There is no handwriting recognition including conversion of the written text. The same is now standard both with the popular writing apps for the iPad and with note tablets such as the Remarkable. It is also irritating that although individual sheets of paper can be sent by email, they do not appear under your own Amazon content.

Individual documents can be sent as PDF or Word files to the Kindle Scribe for editing via the Amazon “Send to Kindle” page. Word files are displayed well, but PDF documents look so puny that reading and annotating are not fun. That being said, the question is how the edited document gets back on the PC. Again, this only works via email. Why make it complicated when it could be easier with a cloud connection? Anyone who wants to edit a large number of documents one after the other is much better served with a tablet, pen and cloud.

The Kindle Scribe also has a built-in web browser, which suffers from the modest operating speed of the hardware as well as from the sluggishness of the display. It is suitable for finding out what is happening where, but it doesn’t do much more than that. Overall, the new Kindle Scribe is an excellent e-book reader with long battery life and razor-sharp images. The pen is an interesting extra, but the accompanying software still has room for improvement. A cloud connection and handwriting recognition should definitely be submitted later.

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