Amazon has recently launched a new, larger Kindle device that allows you to read, write and sketch directly on the screen. Yes, that's right - this is the first Kindle that allows you to use an electronic pen to take notes directly on the screen to annotate books or create notebooks for writing, journaling or sketching.
Of course, I was really curious about this. I have had at least one Amazon Kindle since its very first release, and I always said to friends it is the best electronic gadget I have ever experienced. I say this because it helped me read more and allowed me to take more books when travelling.
Now you can actually write on the device? Yes, count me in.
Out of the box I've noticed it's a bit larger than the current Kindle Paperwhite. That's because of its 10.2 inches digital ink display, which is a good size for holding and taking notes. The 300 pixels-per-inch (PPI) display is still black/white/grey, and it supports the same Kindle gestures to navigate through your on-device books.
Its companion digital pen comes in two versions: Basic or Premium. These pens don't need charging and are ready to use out of the box. They both attach magnetically to the side of your Kindle Scribe, and the difference is a dedicated eraser and a shortcut button on the Premium model.
So what can you do with this setup? A couple of things. To start you are now able to add handwritten notes to your Kindle books. Just like before, select a word or passage, and a menu will show up. You can still select "Note" from the menu, but now you have two options: Text Note or Handwritten Note. The Text Note still shows an on-screen keyboard that allows you to write down your thoughts about the selected text. The Handwritten Note shows a box where you can write down your comments with the pen directly on the screen.
Then there's the new "Notebooks" section added to the bottom menu on the homepage. If you have a Kindle you may remember it currently shows "Home" and "Library", but the new Kindle Scribe shows "Notebooks" and "More" in addition to these options.
The Notebooks section lets you create your library of notes, with an option to create folders, which helps organise your content. In my case I have folders like "Business" and "Personal". You can create notebooks, each with its unique name and with a variety of templates to choose from, ranging from blank pages to lined pages, dotted pages, checklists, daily agenda, weekly agenda, calendars, music, maths, calligraphy and so on.
The feeling of writing on the screen is almost like writing on paper. I was amazed at how fast the response was - I certainly wasn't expecting it to be that good.
When writing in your notebooks you will see a selection menu on the left side (which can be moved to the right side). You can select the pen type (with options for pen, fountain pen, marker and pencil), each with a different stroke. You also have the option to select a highlighter (which will appear as light grey on the screen) and different thicknesses for each.
If you have the Premium Pen you can just turn it upside down and use the built-in eraser to clear any mistakes. If you have the Basic Pen then you can select the Eraser tool and select thickness or an option to select and erase an area that you draw on the screen.
There's also a Lassoo Selection tool that allows you to select an on-screen area and cut/copy to the clipboard or move around - very handy when you want to create more space but already started writing the next line.
And finally, the selection menu offers Undo/Redo options which allow you to navigate through versions of your work.
In addition to creating your notebooks directly on the Kindle Scribe, you have the option of loading existing content. The results are different, depending on how you send the content to your Kindle Scribe.
The first option is to email the document to your special @kindle.com email address associated with Kindle Scribe, set up in the Content and Devices settings on your Amazon account. Different document types will behave in different ways. If you email a Word document or text file they will be loaded as formatted ebooks. This means you can add a handwritten note to selected text. If you email a PDF document then you can write over the content anywhere on the page.
If you work with Word documents and have a Microsoft 365 subscription then you have a more flexible way of sending the document. Word has a new Export option called "Send to Kindle". You login into your Amazon account the first time you click that option, and you can then just export your Word document directly to your Amazon account. You can send it as an ebook or as a printed document - similar to sending a PDF if you want full formatting and full on-screen handwriting capability.
Getting things out of the Kindle Scribe is easy too. You can export your notebooks in two ways: as a PDF or a text file. In both cases, an email arrives with a link to download the file. The TXT file contains any text recognised from your notes. In my case, it worked really well, except for a couple of mistakes translating my handwriting to text - things like 5G coming out as 56 or HD+ coming out as HD4. The majority of the time the system got it right, though.
All your notebooks are automatically synchronised back to the cloud for backup. Notebooks and handwritten notes only appear on Kindle Scribe models, so if you have a different Kindle model on the same Amazon account these will not show your notebooks or handwritten notes. Book-attached text notes still show in all models.
The Amazon Kindle Scribe comes with the option of 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB storage. An optional case is available, which I bought for my review unit. It attaches magnetically to the back of your Kindle Scribe, and can be folded in different positions to keep it upright if wanted.