Amazon Kindle Scribe review

Amazon Kindle Scribe: the writing is on the wall (review)

With a stylus for scrawling notes on the screen, the oversized Amazon Kindle Scribe eBook reader seems a case of too little, and far too late.

The quest for the perfect touchscreen device with support for a stylus goes back to the early 1990s, from the Apple Newton and Palm Pilot to the early Microsoft Tablet PCs and HP TouchPad. While they met with varying degrees of success, the one thing they all had in common is that they never quite delivered on the true promise of what a stylus could bring to the user experience.

These days, that quest would seem complete, with devices like the Samsung Galaxy Ultra (née Note), Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad finally getting it right. So it seems strange that Amazon would choose 2022 to unleash the Kindle Scribe on the world, an eBook reader with a hefty asking price of $549 – equivalent to the current entry-level 9th generation iPad.

Review: Amazon Kindle Scribe

Australian websiteHere
Pricefrom $549 RRP
Warranty1 year
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Amazon Kindle Scribe first impressions

Take it out of the box and the Amazon Kindle Scribe is almost identical to the entry-level 9.7-inch iPad. It’s only a fraction smaller and 50 grams lighter meaning that, along with its high price tag, the Kindle Scribe sacrifices several key advantages that Kindle eBook readers have always had over tablets.

With a 10.2-inch screen, the Scribe is the biggest Kindle we’ve seen from Amazon. You need to look back to the ancient 9.7-inch Kindle DX of 2012 to find anything close, although the DX only sported a 150 dpi display.

The new Kindle Scribe ups this to 300 dpi, on par with the rest of the current Kindle lineup. It’s still a 16-level greyscale display, which might frustrate artists. The aspect ratio is 8:10, which is close to the 4:3 aspect ratio favoured by iPads as it mimics the written page.

The Scribe’s bezels are surprisingly thick, especially on one of the long sides, similar to the high-end Kindle Oasis. You might assume this is so you can hold the device without interfering with the touchscreen, but the pen works fine even if you’re touching the screen in other places. 

Like the Oasis, the Scribe features an auto-adjusting warm light along with automatic rotating page orientation. Surprisingly, you miss out on wireless charging and an IPX8 waterproof design. It also lacks the physical page-turning buttons found on some Kindles.

Like all Kindles, you’re looking at a battery life of weeks or months, rather than hours or days – one area where the Scribe still wins out over a tablet.

Amazon Kindle Scribe with included stylus
Amazon’s biggest ever eBook reader, the Kindle Scribe is designed for both reading and writing.

Stylus first impressions

Of course, the Kindle Scribe’s big selling point is the stylus. It’s not an active stylus, so it doesn’t rely on a battery, but the Kindle can still detect its presence, meaning you can’t write on the screen with any old stylus.

If you opt for the 16 GB model you only get the Basic pen for writing on the screen, but for an extra $99 – still half the price of an Apple Pencil for an iPad – you can get the Premium pen which features an action button that switches it from a pen to a highlighter. Some of the higher-capacity Kindle Scribes include the Premium pen in the price tag.

The Premium pen also features a virtual eraser on the other end, so you can spin the pen around to rub things out on the screen. It lacks other features which you might expect from a premium stylus, such as the ability to measure different levels of pressure when you’re drawing on the screen. Once again, this is likely to frustrate artists.

There’s no slot for sliding the stylus into the body of the Kindle, but it does attach magnetically to the side of the Kindle, so it’s always at hand when you need it.

There’s also the option to invest in a protective case, which safeguards the screen and includes a loop for holding the stylus. The case folds back to act as a stand, similar to some tablet cases.

Amazon Kindle Scribe specs

Display size10.2-inch, 8:10 aspect ratio
Display resolution300 ppi
Display technologyMonochrome eInk, 16-level greyscale
ConnectivityUSB-C, Wi-Fi
Onboard storage16, 32 or 64 GB
Stylus techPassive
Dimensions196 x 230 x 5.8 mm
Weight433 gm

eBook reader features

The Amazon Kindle Scribe is a fully-functioning eBook reader, so there’s no need to cover too much old ground. It offers a slick reading experience with tight integration into Amazon’s extensive eBook store, although it lacks 4G “WhisperNet” access for downloading books when you’re away from Wi-Fi – that’s only available on the Oasis.

It’s easy to buy books directly from the eBook reader and keep your progress in sync with the Kindle app on your other devices. There’s also the Kindle Unlimited subscription, which grants you access to a wealth of titles for $13.99 per month (Amazon throws in a free 30-day trial).

Depending on where you want to buy your eBooks, some people might prefer the greater freedom granted by rival eBook readers like Kobo, which support the widely available EPUB eBook format. Amazon is reportedly expanding Kindle EPUB support, but meanwhile apps like Calibre offer a handy workaround.

As with some other Kindle models, the Scribe features Bluetooth so you can connect headphones. This lets you take advantage of text to speech, as well as listen to Audible downloads. 

Amazon Kindle Scribe covers
Amazon offers protective case, in a range of colours, which can also act as a stand to prop up the Kindle Scribe while you read or write.

Writing features

If you’re just looking for an extra large eBook reader, the Kindle Scribe doesn’t disappoint. Kindles have always had one job, and they’ve done it really well. The Scribe’s extra screen real estate is perfect for fans of graphic novels.

But if you’re looking to take advantage of the stylus to take notes then you’ll likely be underwhelmed by its limited functionality and integration.

To be fair, the actual writing experience is smooth and responsive. You can tap on the toolbar to open a collapsible menu that lets you select between the pen, highlighter and eraser – although this is somewhat redundant if you have the Premium pen. The menu also features undo and redo options, along with the ability to adjust the size of the stylus’ tip when writing on the screen.

You can call upon the stylus for several tasks. Firstly, you can use it to annotate eBooks with sticky notes, either handwritten or typed using the onscreen keyboard. You can’t actually “mark up” eBooks and write or draw directly on the page. Nor can you underline or highlight text.

Despite these limitations, it’s the kind of feature that could be useful for students who might have previously written notes inside the margins of physical books, especially when studying texts like Shakespeare.

This is where you start to encounter the Scribe’s shortcomings. Firstly, it’s only a monochrome display so, if you use the highlighter within a note it’s grey – perhaps not as striking as you might have hoped. You can write, type or draw in notes but you can’t embed multimedia or web links.

More importantly, there is no support for handwriting recognition, meaning that your written notes aren’t searchable and can’t be copied – two major frustrations for students and knowledge workers hoping to use the Scribe as the central hub of their notes and research. 

Thankfully, the stylus isn’t just for annotating books and you can use the Kindle Scribe like a large notepad. When you open up a new document you can opt for a sheet of blank paper or choose from a range of templates including lined paper, grids, to-do lists, checklists, weekly planners and more.

You can flick back and forth through the pages of a document the same way that you do when reading an eBook. You can also create folders for storing your documents, to help keep your life organised.

Along with creating fresh documents, you can also import and mark up PDF files – actually writing on them – or insert sticky notes on a range of image and document formats including Microsoft Word.

You transfer documents and images on and off the Scribe using the ‘Send to Kindle’ feature, which is not as clunky as it once was. It lets you drag and drop documents on the Send-to-Kindle web page, send them via email or use the Kindle desktop/mobile app. Documents created on the Kindle Scribe can be viewed, but not edited, on other devices. 

This is where the Scribe’s note-taking and organisation capabilities feel rather basic compared to tablet apps like OneNote and Evernote, which support a stylus, integrate tightly with cloud storage, keep your notes in sync and editable across multiple devices, and make them easy to share.

GadgetGuy’s take

It sounds harsh, but the Amazon Kindle Scribe feels like a relic of a bygone era. You can see how it would have once been considered useful, perhaps even the best tool for the job, but today it’s been made redundant by the rise of tablets.

These days Kindle Scribe has a very narrow use case, but even then it’s hard to justify the expense when an iPad with Apple Pencil is a little more expensive and infinitely more useful. People who are serious about taking notes will probably expect more from their device and a tablet is a better option in almost every way, except as an eBook reader.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the Kindle Scribe was a lot cheaper, as you could treat the stylus as a bonus feature, but at these prices you’re paying a significant premium for the ability to write on the screen.

The lack of handwriting recognition is probably the biggest deal-breaker in terms of limiting the Kindle Scribe’s usefulness as a study or productivity tool. Modern users have also come to expect better markup/editing features and tighter integration with cloud services. 

Perhaps the Scribe is the Kindle we dreamed of more than a decade ago, back when tablets were still clunky and expensive with unreliable handwriting recognition. These days, it’s hard to see where the Amazon Kindle Scribe fits into the modern world.

Would I buy it?

No, not unless all I wanted was a really big eBook reader.

Amazon Kindle Scribe: the writing is on the wall (review)
The Amazon Kindle Scribe's stylus offers a slick writing experience, but overall it falls short of what people taking notes would expect from a modern device.
Features
7
Value for money
7
Performance
8
Ease of use
8
Design
8.5
Positives
Stylus support
Basic notetaking features
Large screen eInk ebook reader
Negatives
Monochrome display
No handwriting recognition and limited markup options
Little integration with other services
7.7