Amazon Kindle Scribe review • TechCrunch

The Kindle turned 15 this month. It’s been a wierd trip for Amazon’s first {hardware} machine. CEO Andy Jassy gave the e-reader a uncommon bit of affection in final 12 months’s shareholder letter, noting:

Our first foray into units was the Kindle, launched in 2007. It was not essentially the most subtle industrial design (it was creamy white in coloration and the corners have been uncomfortable for some folks to carry), however revolutionary as a result of it supplied clients the flexibility to obtain any of over 90,000 books (now tens of millions) in 60 seconds—and we received higher and sooner at constructing enticing designs.

Within the context of the letter, the machine is just a prelude. It’s step one right into a world that would come with tablets, a military of good house merchandise, wearables and one ill-fated smartphone. It’s type of good, actually, for a product line that conquered the world after which took a backseat to the remainder of Amazon’s choices.

Earlier than the September Kindle Scribe announcement, the road hadn’t acquired a SKU for the reason that 2016 arrival of the premium Oasis. Certain, there have been refreshes over time, however not even these have arrived with any kind of regularity. Previous to the long-awaited Paperwhite replace that introduced USB-C to the road roughly this time final 12 months, Amazon hadn’t introduced a single machine refresh since summer time 2019.

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Are you able to blame them? For starters, folks preserve their readers round for a very long time. The batteries final perpetually, they usually’re not often topic to the identical kind of each day abuse as our smartphones. Much more importantly, whereas Amazon’s isn’t the one sport on the town precisely, it positive feels prefer it typically. Sony, the one-time maker of superb readers, tapped out for good in 2014. Barnes & Noble — whereas not out of the Nook enterprise fully — appears to solely exist to drop a minor refresh each few years, so don’t neglect about it fully.

Right here in North America, Kobo presents the closest factor to precise competitors for Amazon’s e-reader dominance. The Canadian-founded, Japanese-owned agency makes good readers that may maintain their very own towards the Kindle, however Amazon totally dominates the marketshare right here within the States. Granted, these numbers are previous (from 2018), however this research places Amazon at a >80% marketshare within the U.S. If the iPhone commanded that a lot of the market, do you actually assume Apple can be falling over itself to current a serious replace every year?

However Amazon’s September machine occasion introduced two surprises. First, the whole factor was much more subdued than previous years, with fewer merchandise being introduced. In fact, Amazon’s not alone in slowing down its product stock forward of unsure occasions, and subsequent layoffs within the firm’s units division appear to level to that pattern sustaining for the foreseeable future.

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Second, we received a brand new Kindle. Not an replace to an current Kindle, thoughts. A genuinely new product — and actually, a completely new product class for the road. Throughout the Kindle’s life, it’s been a content material consumption machine. It’s a spot to learn what different folks have written. And whereas it’s comprehensible that the corporate dropped the bodily keyboard present in its earliest iterations, the E Ink contact display has been extra miss than hit in relation to typing.

The Scribe provides a seemingly easy characteristic that customers have little doubt been requesting for the higher a part of a decade: pen-based writing. I spoke with the corporate forward of the official announcement, and right here’s the place I landed with reference to why it took so lengthy to implement:

The corporate says the truth that it didn’t launch a Kindle with this performance earlier isn’t for lack of making an attempt. Reasonably, it was vital it get the tech proper, whereas sustaining key options like entrance lighting and the line-wide 300 ppi show (in comparison with 226 on the reMarkable 2). Given the $90 worth bump over the beforehand most costly Kindle (Oasis), it actually is smart that the corporate would need to keep these line-wide options. Amazon says it labored with E Ink Holdings (EIH) on the show, which it then custom-made to hit these specs.

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I’ll say, e-book reader homeowners are a forgiving bunch. Lags and refreshes include the territory on e-ink units. There’s lots of stuff customers wouldn’t put up with in different merchandise, partly as a result of they’re conscious of the advantages of the expertise (clearer/simpler on the eyes, wildly good battery life) and partly as a result of, effectively, it’s the one sport on the town. Whether or not you go Kindle or Kobo, you’re successfully working with the identical primary expertise.

Writing lag, then again, is a distinct beast fully. It’s the kind of factor that makes you need to huck your costly new piece of plastic and glass throughout the room in a match of rage — barring that, if the expertise is unhealthy sufficient, you’ll in all probability strive it a couple of occasions earlier than giving it up all collectively.

I’ve been pleasantly stunned on that entrance. I admit my expectations have been lowered by greater than a decade of utilizing e-ink screens, however the Scribe supplies an excellent note-taking expertise. In reality, there’s lots current right here that may come as a nice shock for anybody who has not up to date their e-reader in a couple of years. Whereas the expertise continues to stay distinct from that of a regular pill, Amazon has added little touches right here and there to tug the product line kicking and screaming into 2022.

This begins with the design. The Scribe borrows plenty of key components from the Oasis. It’s superb how a lot a flush glass show contributes to the general premium really feel. Additionally, just like the Oasis, one of many facet bezels is significantly bigger than the opposite, presumably so you could have a spot to relaxation your hand whereas holding it that doesn’t set off the contact show. Not like the Oasis, nevertheless, there are not any bodily page-turn buttons on the floor, which looks like a missed alternative.

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At 10.2-inches, that is the biggest Kindle show by a substantial margin. Take into accout, there was a relative statis in display sizes for a lot of the product’s existence. The Kindle began off as a 6-inch machine and the entry degree mannequin has stayed there for a decade and a half, as if the corporate had discovered a type of platonic e-reader ideally suited.

There have been derivations from the quantity, in fact. The Kindle Oasis 2 pushed the display to seven inches, and the most recent Paperwhite isn’t far behind at 6.8 inches. However to get wherever close to the Scribe’s measurement, we’re going to must journey again in time even additional to the DX. Launched in 2009, the short-lived product is a little bit of an anomaly on the Kindle flowchart. With a 9.7-inch show, the machine discovered the corporate stepping outdoors the Kindle’s core guide studying performance.

The pitch largely revolved round PDFs and newspapers. 2009 was a time when it appeared there would possibly nonetheless be a viable marketplace for individuals who actually needed to learn broadsheets in one thing near their authentic kind. The viability of that market apart, the reality is the expertise simply wasn’t prepared. As irritating as e-ink will be right this moment, coping with photos was a nightmare then, each when it comes to decision (all the pieces felt like a type of WSJ stipple drawings) and refresh occasions. A full-page refresh for each fraction of an inch a picture was moved is my model of strolling to high school uphill each methods within the snow.

Additionally, very similar to smartphone house, bigger screens required bigger machine footprints than they do right this moment. The Scribe is a big display reader that doesn’t really feel like a brick. I imply, I actually can’t carry it round in a pocket the best way I can different Kindles, however I don’t really feel foolish studying on it throughout an extended prepare trip. At 433 grams, it’s a contact lighter than the ten.2-inch iPad (487 grams). The scale are comparable, as effectively, with a distinct, reading-focused, side ratio. The Scribe is 9.0 x 7.7 x 0.22 to the iPad’s 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29.

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The 9.7-inch Kindle DX, then again, measured in at 10.4 x 7.2 x 0.4 inches, with a weight of 535 grams. Maybe the DX was merely a product forward of its time. It was an concept for which the {hardware} merely wasn’t fairly prepared. Newspaper purists (effectively, not purist sufficient to nonetheless desire a Kindle) might have been an evolutionary lifeless finish, however loads of of us — particularly these with imaginative and prescient impairments — might have benefited from a bigger display.

Definitely, the bigger display makes lots of sense on a product just like the Scribe that’s designed particularly for handwriting and drawings. It does fill that lengthy dormant hole of a very large-screen Kindle, however the $340 beginning worth is sort of actually going to be a stumbling block for a lot of. The previous highest-end Kindle — the Oasis — has a beginning MSRP of $250, and as I kind this, Amazon has it marked all the way down to $165.

A few of the Kindle’s most premium design components have grow to be a foundational piece for the Scribe. The rear of the machine is all metallic — virtually a, dare I say, iPad-like design. There are small rubber ft in every of the machine’s 4 corners to maintain it from sliding round on a desk. It’s full flat again there — with out the sunken design you discover on the again of the Oasis. I think about that is due, partially, to the truth that the Scribe is a two-hander, in relation to studying. It’s a pretty big and fairly heavy machine that feels way more like a pill than any devoted e-reader I’ve ever used prior to now.

On the appropriate facet is the machine’s single bodily button. A single brief press will get up the machine or put it to sleep. An extended press will pop up a dialogue field asking if you wish to flip the display off (for additional battery saving) or restart it. There’s no choice to energy it off fully. To the button’s proper is the USB-C port.

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For years, it felt like Amazon would possibly by no means transfer on from micro-USB. I preserve the cable round completely for my Kindle Oasis. It’s good figuring out I can cost the Scribe with the identical wire I exploit for virtually (ahem, iPhone) all the pieces as of late. The Scribe ships with a USB-A to USB-C cable, reasonably than straight USB-C. Undecided if that claims extra about Amazon or their perceived userbase for the product, however once more, one of many massive promoting factors with the brand new port is that you just seemingly have already got a few these cables already mendacity round.

Lots of the current enhancements arrive on the software program facet. If you happen to’ve received a cellular machine useful, you should utilize it for fast setup. Signal into the Kindle app on cellular, click on “Amazon Gadget Easy Setup” and “Arrange together with your telephone” on the machine, and also you’ll be up and working with a synced library in a minute or two.

I’m a longtime Calibre person. Lately, Kindle Oasis+Calibre has been a super e-reader expertise. The app is nice for plenty of various things, however the topline characteristic (for me, at the least), is the flexibility to transform ePub recordsdata to a Kindle format and ship them on to the reader. It’s lengthy been the perfect workaround for Amazon’s walled backyard strategy to promoting books. Earlier this 12 months, nevertheless, the corporate lastly added assist for ePub, the default e-book format outdoors of the Kindleverse.

Add to that some massive enhancements to options like Ship-to-Kindle and the corporate’s taken an enormous dent out of what made Calibre an awesome third-party app for a lot of customers. There are nonetheless causes to make use of the service, in fact, together with an off-device technique for organizing your recordsdata, however Amazon’s dramatically improved the expertise for individuals who need to buy books outdoors of the Kindle retailer.

For years, the whole Ship-to-Kindle expertise was missing. Getting recordsdata onto and off of the machine was a a lot larger chore than it had any proper to be. In its present iteration, Ship-to-Kindle internet is a type of issues that feels prefer it ought to have been there from the outset. Open a browser, register and you’ll drop recordsdata instantly into the interface. After a couple of minutes, Kindles linked to that account (and Wi-Fi) will sync, with the file showing of their library. It’s not magic, precisely, however after so a few years of what felt like pointless complexity, it sort of feels prefer it.

Streamlining Ship-to-Kindle is especially vital, provided that the flexibility to take notes on the machine is central to the Scribe expertise. It’s a technique to ship a PDF or different doc on to the machine for markup. To get them off the machine, faucet Share and from there you possibly can both do a “fast ship” to the e-mail related together with your Kindle account or manually enter one other deal with. After a few minutes, the recipient will obtain an electronic mail with the topic line, “Somebody despatched you a pocket book from their Kindle.” Click on Obtain and it’ll floor a model of the file hosted on AWS.

The opposite main use for handwriting is taking notes within the guide studying expertise. If you happen to’re somebody who likes to make copious annotations, it might be a useful characteristic. Whereas studying on Scribe, a small menu pops up within the left margin. Tapping on this allows you to go away notes in particular spots throughout the textual content. There’s actually potential worth there for college kids and researchers who don’t need to juggle between units to take notes.

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The Scribe ships with a primary pen that magnetically snaps to the facet of the machine for secure holding. Upgrading to the premium pen will add one other $30 to the bottom worth (that is the evaluation unit Amazon despatched alongside). The essential and premium pens can be bought on their very own for $30 and $60, respectively, however be mindful, the Scribe is the one Kindle they at present work with.

The premium pen provides a faithful button to modify between pen and highlighter performance — I discovered myself by chance triggering it every so often, in order that takes a little bit of getting used to. It additionally has a built-in eraser on the highest. Flip the pen over and apply some stress towards the display to depress it and it’ll take away your marks (after a slight refresh delay). The pen is a passive stylus and doesn’t require any charging — in order that’s one much less factor to fret about.

The writing expertise is stable for a first-gen product like this. There isn’t sufficient notable latency to actually be annoying. The pen towards display has a pleasant tactile sensation to it, together with a built-in sound that nearly approximates pencil on paper. You’ll be able to select between 5 line thicknesses — although honest warning, the thinner the road will get, the clearer the pixelation turns into on the show.

The expertise is nice sufficient for be aware taking and even primary doodling, nevertheless it’s not going to exchange a Wacom — and even iPad — any time quickly for severe artists. That stated, I can actually see dropping this in a backpack to exchange a espresso store sketchbook and even getting some roughs down on the web page earlier than actually drawing in earnest. The addition of drawing provides an thrilling new dimension to the 15-year-old line. For now, it’s not mandatory for many customers, however will probably be attention-grabbing to observe it develop over future generations.

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At 300 DPI, the Scribe sports activities the identical pixel density as the remainder of the road. It’s nice for studying and does an excellent job rendering black and white photos. The system is definitely a extremely nice measurement and form for studying comics. You’ll clearly lose one thing vital in the event that they have been revealed in coloration, however for manga and lots of unbiased press (see: early Love & Rockets pages above), studying PDFs are literally a fairly good expertise. Refresh charges have dramatically improved over time, although you’ll nonetheless run into some imperfections like ghosts of photos after you’ve turned the web page.

For studying textual content, nevertheless, you continue to can’t beat e-ink. It’s the simplest on the eyes and battery life. I fairly loved the bigger web page format, as effectively, although the machine’s measurement means it’s a bit powerful to learn whereas mendacity down. Reasonably than holding it above my head, I discovered myself largely studying on my facet whereas in mattress. If you happen to’re purely in search of an informal studying machine, once more, the Scribe is overkill.

If the Scribe feels absolutely fashioned for a first-generation machine, it’s as a result of it was constructed on generations of Kindle iterations earlier than it. The entrance gentle, for instance, is nice. The Scribe has 35 LEDs to the Oasis’s 25, presumably as a result of bigger measurement. Earlier generations had points with uniformity, however Amazon has a lot improved on that entrance. Utilizing a Kindle in 2022 makes you marvel how you bought by earlier than the arrival of options just like the auto adjusting gentle and heat gentle for earlier than mattress.

Apparently, the Scribe and entry-level Kindle are the one two present units within the line that aren’t IPX8 waterproof. My guess is you’ll in all probability get by okay with out it 99+% of the time, nevertheless it’s curious to see the characteristic skipped in solely the least and most costly entries. There’s additionally no mobile possibility for the Scribe (once more, attention-grabbing, provided that it’s the default on the Oasis). It’s a type of issues that’s good to have (particularly on the street), however you may get on completely effectively with out.

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As ever, there’s an internet browser on board, and as ever, the Kindle is a lower than ideally suited technique to surf the online. Including to the same old enter, latency and formatting points, it appeared to have issue rending primary language, as seen above.

Bluetooth, then again, is now customary throughout units. Pairing headphones with the Kindle is mainly the identical course of as on a cellular machine. There are some good accessibility choices there, with the supply of textual content to speech. You too can use the Kindle to hearken to Audible downloads, although I’m nonetheless having bother pondering of too many situations through which it makes extra sense to hearken to an audio guide with a Kindle machine versus the Audible app on a smartphone (although I admit that I not often hearken to audio books in any respect).

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As with different Kindle, battery is listed in weeks, reasonably than hours or days. That’s thanks largely to the e-ink show. As a result of new content material creation aspect, there are extra storage choices. The Scribe is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB flavors. Solely the 16GB model is out there with the essential pen in the mean time. The 32GB model will run you $390, whereas the 64GB is $420, which means the top-end unit (with the default premium pen) is one other $80 over the bottom worth.

The leather-based cowl is sort of good — and actually, a canopy of some sort is important when you’re going to be tossing this factor in a guide bag. That can run you one other $99. Along with defending the display and again from scratches, the pen loop on the backside is safer than the magnetic connection. The quilt can be flipped again to function a stand, propping up the Scribe at a slight angle designed for writing/drawing.

Picture Credit: Brian Heater

It’s thrilling seeing the Kindle tackle a completely new dimension in spite of everything these years, however for a majority of customers, the value premium over the remainder of the road might be not commensurate with the worth add. It’s additionally $40 over the beginning worth for the reMarkable 2 — although you don’t have purchase right into a month-to-month subscription price right here, and also you additionally get lots of current Kindle ecosystem performance.

For most individuals in most situations, the Scribe goes to be overkill, nevertheless it’s good seeing Amazon discover new territory with a product line that’s too typically neglected.

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