In 2012, Amazon finally discontinued the Kindle DX, the first and last large-screen Kindle. Ten years later, a handful of competitively large e-reading devices exist and are excellent at taking notes, and are clearly eating Amazon’s lunch.
Amazon is attempting a comeback with the Kindle Scribe, a fresh 10.2-inch e-reader with a Wacom layer in the display for easy note-taking. The Kindle Scribe is the most expensive Kindle, starting at $339. While this is a competitive price for an E Ink tablet that can take notes, Amazon is playing catchup with more than hardware thanks to underbaked software that can’t compete with reMarkable or Boox. There’s still a long road ahead for Amazon’s Scribe, and since you should never buy something on its potential but for what it offers, the Kindle Scribe is a mixed bag.
On the other hand, as a person who reads manga frequently, I absolutely adore the Scribe despite its software shortcomings. Most of my manga is already on Amazon thanks to the Comixology merger, and at 10.2 inches, all of these e-books look great with legible text (something I can’t say about the Paperwhite or Oasis). On this front alone, I’m pretty happy with the Scribe, and if you’re into comics, it’s one of the best Kindles you can get.
I’ve been hunting for the perfect manga reader for years, and Amazon has gotten much closer than most. Then again, the Scribe is a note-taking device first and foremost, and it’s not that good at it. With middling firmware, it lacks many of the features competing devices offer out of the box. The Kindle Scribe feels rushed, but if you’re willing to look past the half-baked software, this new large-screen Kindle is proving to be one of my most-used E Ink reading devices.
The Kindle Scribe is Amazon’s first foray into a note-taking e-reader, and it is only the second time the company has launched a large-screen Kindle. It’s a device long in the making that users have been asking for, but ultimately the software is lacking. It’s still an excellent e-reader; it’s just not a competitive note-taking device.
- Screen: 10.2-inch Carta 1200, 4:3
- Resolution: 2480 (H) × 1860 (V)
- Storage: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, bluetooth
- Front Light: 35 LEDs, cool and warm
- Battery: 3000mAh lithium-ion
- Buttons: Power button
- Weight: Device: 15.3oz, Basic Pen: 0.49oz
- Dimensions: 196 x 230 x 5.8mm
- Format Support: Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, DOCX, DOC, HTML, EPUB, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion; Audible audio format (AAX)
- CPU: MediaTek MT8113
- RAM: 1GB
- Large 10.2-inch E Ink screen
- Handles manga and comic books well
- Included stylus makes it easy to jot down notes while reading
- Expensive, and a better stylus is an upsell, as well as the cases
- Software is limiting, adding PDFs that can be edited is an outright chore
- Huge bezel serves no purpose other than a grip, and it’s an uncomfortable grip
Amazon Kindle Scribe: Price and availability
The Kindle Scribe began shipping out to customers on November 30th and has been in stock starting at $340 ever since. The item is available to buy through Amazon, and while the price is high compared to all other Kindle devices, this is the only E Ink Kindle that offers a large 10.2-inch screen. Plus, you can use that large space to jot down notes thanks to the device’s stylus support, a first for Amazon’s Kindle brand.
Amazon Kindle Scribe: What’s in the box
Amazon likes to keep things minimal regarding how it ships its products. All packaging is made of recyclable cardboard and easy to open with a tear tab. Once you pull out the box’s contents, the Scribe is wrapped in a plastic protective sleeve. Under the e-reader is an instruction booklet, and below the device sits the USB cord and included pen (you can choose a basic or premium pen when purchasing). It’s all typical Amazon packaging that forgoes a power brick, so you’ll have to supply your own.
Amazon Kindle Scribe: Design and hardware
The design of the Kindle Scribe gives me pause. It was immediately apparent the device was rushed. You get a grip on the side that’s basically a huge bezel. But the Scribe is completely flat, unlike the Kindle Oasis, so there’s nothing to grip in the rear to help hold the weight in one hand. Amazon also didn’t bother adding any physical page turn buttons, so the huge bezel is functionless.
Amazon didn’t even bother adding gesture support to this wasted area, which could have been an acceptable compromise to not having buttons. Ultimately, you are forced to touch the screen every time you want to turn a page, and you have to do so by reaching over the bezel if you’re holding the device one-handed. This is uncomfortable when combined with a weight of nearly a full pound.
But worst of all, Amazon somehow decided to place both the power button (made out of rigid material, an awful choice) and the USB port along the side of the grip, the very area you’ll always touch. You’ll feel the USB-C port and the hard edges of the power button every time you grip the device. Seeing that there are three more edges where this port and button could have gone, the design feels rushed and lazy. There’s nothing elegant or useful about the bezel’s design, which feels like a complete waste of space, not to mention a missed opportunity to appeal to hardcore readers and their love for page-turn buttons. You know, the type of people that spend large sums of money on first-gen equipment.
Internally, a MediaTek MT8113 is powering the device with a paltry 1GB of RAM. Thankfully the bare-bones firmware isn’t all that demanding, so everything runs smoothly. On the other hand, perhaps this explains why we still haven’t seen Amazon introduce more features, like the ability to stream music. It’s likely 1GB of RAM probably couldn’t stream and keep the navigation experience smooth.
However, there’s plenty of room to have shoved in a speaker or two, considering how large the device is. After experiencing what it’s like to stream Spotify on competing E Ink devices while reading comfortably in my bed, I’ve realized that this is an area Amazon comes up short repeatedly. Even though Amazon owns Audible and wants to sell audiobooks, you still have to resort to Bluetooth to listen.
The star of the show is the brand-new E Ink screen used in the Scribe. It’s a 10.2-inch Carta 1200, and it’s the only E Ink screen at this size that offers 300 pixels per inch, made exclusively for Amazon. This is where Amazon shows its dominance in the field; the screen itself is gorgeous (well, as gorgeous as E Ink can get). It’s a 4:3 screen that’s 2480×1860, and I find it fits most content pretty well.
Manga will be slightly pillarboxed, and US comics more so (more comic formatting in the software section), but 4:3 is a fine middle ground for most comics, including Calvin and Hobbes collections that look great displayed in landscape. The device recognizes this and changes to landscape automatically, something I’d like to see more of.
The Scribe’s screen is the highlight, and it certainly shines with 35 LEDs, and warm lighting is supported so that everyone can comfortably read at night. With this many LEDs, even at 10.2 inches, I’m not seeing any uneven front lighting. There’s also a WACOM layer for pen support, but contrast is unaffected despite an extra layer between you and the screen.
You have two pen choices when purchasing the Scribe: the basic or the premium. I have the premium pen that comes with a dedicated shortcut button (handy for changing from highlighter to pen). There’s no need to charge this pen, but it does attach to the side of the Scribe, thanks to the magic of magnets.
The official case also has a spot to place the pen, whether you opt for the fabric case at $60 or the leather folio at $100. At the very least, Amazon has moved back to using magnets for an official Kindle case, which means you can easily pop the Kindle in and out with ease; you don’t have to read with the case on if you don’t want to.
The pen doesn’t feel especially cheap, but it doesn’t feel very premium either since it’s just a bunch of plastic. But it works and works well, and that’s what matters. There’s no discernable delay when writing, up to par with competing Boox devices that run Android and much more powerful processors, so rest assured drawing and taking notes feels good while using the pen.
Amazon Kindle Scribe: Software and performance
Amazon did not put in the work to improve the bare-bones firmware of the Kindle line. Some extra settings and features are specific to the Scribe, like the new Notebooks section where you can doodle and take notes. But there are certainly no handwriting-to-text options, which is incredibly odd for a device designed to take handwritten notes.
It’s almost like note-taking abilities were an afterthought when the only way to edit your personal PDFs and other files are to email them to your Kindle account; anything you sideload over USB doesn’t offer editing options. This is both cumbersome and annoying. While I’m pleased I can jot down a few notes and draw a few diagrams or sketches in the new Notebooks section, if you are planning to use the Scribe at the office or university, there are much better devices out there for editing PDFs in a professional capacity that don’t require you to constantly email files to yourself.
One feature I appreciate about the new Notebooks section is that whatever you create is synced to the cloud (plus you can share these notes to any email), so you can see these notes in the Kindle app on Android, and yet you can’t edit them; you can only read them. Stranger still, any annotations you leave in the e-books on your Scribe do not sync to your phone or other apps. So the sync situation leaves a lot to be desired; this feature doesn’t feel adequately fleshed out.
Thankfully, the reading experience is as great as ever. All of my purchased e-books and manga look great, for the most part. There are still some stragglers from the Comixology merger that contain odd formatting, and this seems to be an issue with most US comic books, where the page is shifted to the left of the screen with a black bar along the right side.
Unsightly stuff caused by the Comixology merger that’s still unaddressed, but as long as you stick to manga for your media, the experience is pretty good. What I especially love about reading manga on an E Ink screen is that it’s less noticeable when a book offers low-res art.
What would be immediately apparent on something like the Tab S8, like blurry pixilated text, is much less noticeable on an E Ink screen, thanks to the inherent softness of the screen. It’s almost like manga is anti-aliased on E Ink, which is perfectly fine with me to keep the pixilated text to a minimum, something I can’t stand on my high-res Android tablets.
Moving on to actual text-based e-books, you can easily fit a ton of text on the 10.2-inch screen. Think of it like reading a large hardback compared to a small paperback; the larger footprint allows more room for text. While I wouldn’t say the Scribe is a great bedtime reading device thanks to its weight (something still reserved for my base Kindle, the Scribe is close to 1lb), for daytime activities when you’d like a bit more room on your screen, the Scribe is a great choice.
I often reach for the device while sitting on the couch, much like a tablet. Plus, it’s really nice not to have to turn pages as often as you would on a smaller device. The less I have to touch the screen, the happier I am (which is where physical page turn buttons would have really helped, Amazon).
Amazon Kindle Scribe: Battery life and charging
The Kindle Scribe comes with a 3000mAh lithium-ion battery. This is large for a non-demanding e-reader running bare-bones firmware. Since the device doesn’t have to push a heavy OS, say like Android, battery life is phenomenal. I charged the device upon receiving it and am currently at 81% battery after two weeks, and that’s two weeks of testing while downloading all manner of manga and e-books.
The default battery mode sees the Scribe go into a deep sleep that conserves power, which is precisely why I’m only at 81% after two weeks; the standby time is great. But this mode does delay how quickly the screen wakes when you power it on. If you want a snappier wake, you can change this in the settings, though you’ll get less standby time. Amazon claims you can get 12 weeks of use with a half-hour reading each day, which appears to line up with my use so far. Suffice it to say, 3000mAh is plenty for a Kindle device, even when it sports a large front-lit screen.
Amazon Kindle Scribe: The competition
There are many options when it comes to competition for the Kindle Scribe, and Amazon itself offers the stiffest competition with the base Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite. For starters, if you don’t require a large screen and simply want to read text-based books without dropping tons of cash, the new base Kindle (2022) is only $100, and thanks to recent improvements, all text is clean and legible, perfect for a pocketable reader.
Then again, if you prefer larger screens, then the larger Kindle Paperwhite might be the step-up you’re looking for with its 6.8-inch screen, which is much more preferable if you like to read manga along with text-based books. Since the Paperwhite is constantly on sale, you can snag one for much cheaper than the Scribe. You’ll miss out on the Scribe’s note-taking features, but seeing how poorly these are fleshed out, dropping down to a more traditional Kindle allows you to save a good bit of money.
Amazon Kindle Scribe: Should you buy it?
Whether you’ll enjoy the Kindle Scribe depends on what you want to do with it. I’ve certainly had a good time with it; ever since I received the Scribe, I’ve been reading manga nonstop. It’s a joy to read on the device, even the lower-res books. But the note-taking abilities of the Scribe leave a lot to be desired. Sure, you can jot down a few notes, and if you’re determined, you can constantly email PDFs to the device for hand annotations like you would anything sideloaded on the competition.
But without the ability to convert handwritten notes to text or an easy avenue to use your files how you wish, the Scribe’s note-taking experience feels hobbled. As of now, I’d say the Scribe is a perfect large Kindle for reading and nothing more. If that sounds good to you, then I say go for it. The $340 price might sound high at first, but there are far more expensive e-readers at this size; Amazon is actually doing a good job keeping costs down.