Kindle Amazon writer bets handwriting is the future of e-readers

with the kindle writerAmazon is hoping that the device it launched during the George W. Bush administration could be the next big thing again.

Amazon doesn’t shy away from flashy ideas, whether it’s a drone, Automated guard Or a conversation with the virtual assistant Alexa. But this week, Amazon started selling the Kindle Scribe, an updated version of the E Ink reader that first launched before Amazon even had a mobile app.

Kindle writer is not my future. He is not semi-conscious. It doesn’t even have a color. His big update: In addition to reading, you can now write on it, too.

Read more: Amazon Kindle Scribe review: This note-taking E Ink tablet strikes a nice balance

But by revamping the low-frills Kindle, Amazon hopes to give you new reasons to experience the centuries-old pleasures of reading. The first Kindle launched the same year as the first iPhone, and in the decade and a half since then, our personal devices have grown smarter, faster, and flashier—and now exert an even greater influence on our mental health. Swimming against this tide, the Kindle Scribe’s mission is unimpressive. Designed to help you dive deeper into the tasks most Internet-enabled devices undermine: mindful reading and note-taking.

“We’ve expanded the realm of what customers can do but we’ve still kept the idea of ​​a safe haven where people can go into content and not be distracted,” Kevin Keith, Amazon’s vice president of product management and marketing, said in an interview.

The writer’s real breakthrough may simply be that Amazon, the fourth-largest company in the world by market capitalization, makes it.

Kobo, reMarkable and Boox E Ink tablets From smaller makers that actually offer typing as a feature, some even have large formats with screen quality nearly as good as Scribe. But nobody allows you to mark up Kindle books, and some don’t even support the Kindle app. With Writer, Amazon has unlocked its vast and popular library for your doodles.

Adding a new glamor to the Kindle experience makes sense, given that Keith says Amazon customers buy more Kindle books than physical ones. And there’s a potentially large base of future Kindle users who already use Amazon’s e-reading app. The Kindle app has been downloaded more than 326 million times globally since 2012 on Apple and Android devices rather than Kindles, according to data.ai, a market analytics firm that tracks mobile apps.

Keith said the company views the device as “a new category of Kindle that adds writing to everything customers love about the Kindle today and opens us up to new and different customers.”

Amazon’s chief product manager, Chris Labruto, said that Kindle users were already creating a “Cliff Notes” version of their Kindle books with highlights and written notes. Adding a writing pen to the writer elevates the experience, LaBrutto said, allowing readers to participate more actively.

The question is whether gadget buyers like yourself, after 15 years of growing smartphone addiction, are itching to get back to reading and writing in shades of grey.

E Ink fans love its borders

First sold as part of e-readers in the mid-2000s, E Ink displays have gained loyal fans of readers of all kinds. The screens display text and graphics in a gray scale with tiny charged capsules that turn either black or white in response to negative or positive electrical signals. They consume much less power than traditional tablets, giving them battery life measured in weeks instead of hours.

You can also read the E Ink display in direct sunlight and avoid shining blue light into your eyes, as it’s not backlit. This immediately appealed to Nick Price, a security engineer in Portland, Oregon, who has used a number of Kindles with E Ink, as well as Boox e-reader.

“I found it was much easier on my eyes in the evening when I’m trying to go to bed,” Price said of the first Kindle screen.


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For hobbyists, the simplicity of the hardware is the point. In addition to eliminating bright, vivid colors from screens, E Ink devices don’t usually offer the entire Internet, which is a huge distraction from focused reading. said Andrew Loeb, a professor of English at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who wanted to be able to focus on his reading and note taking.

“For the same price you can get an iPad,” he said, but that would defeat the purpose. “If I had an iPad, I would do other things with it.”

Writing on an e-book is the next logical step when trying to capture the experience of reading from paper. Loeb is using reMarkable 2 to mark up student papers and solve a problem he encountered at the start of the pandemic when his classrooms became remote. He also likes to use it to read articles and take notes in meetings and conferences. He said the tactile sensation when typing on the tablet adds to the experience.

Read more: Best e-ink tablets of 2022: Amazon Kindle Scribe and more

E- An ink that attracts the senses

With devices like reMarkable to compete with, Amazon aims to make the Kindle Scribe an advanced writing experience.

The writer’s distinction is the combination of high-end features. A realistic typing experience coupled with a 10.2-inch screen with sharp 300dpi image quality brings together the facets of a variety of popular e-readers.

Amazon sent me a test unit so I could get a feel for it myself. I found that the pen captures the joy of writing on paper, instantly making for a sharp line. The screen has just enough texture to elicit a satisfying dripping sound while typing.

That experience was the result of intense effort, according to Labruto and Tim Wall, Principal Industrial Designer at Amazon. They included the refinement of screen texture, the clarity of images, and the immediacy of the typing experience.

With an E Ink screen, “you don’t actually write on the surface you’re writing on,” Wall said. “Everything under that lens, that surface, is additive.”

The team focused on the microns of distance between the top layer of the display and all the components that need to sit underneath, along with the e-ink. They also focused on microseconds of latency, or how long it takes for a line to appear after the pen contacts the screen.

Amazon says the Kindle Scribe is geared specifically for reading fiction. The large screen sharply displays charts and graphs in gray scale and fits more text on each page. In addition to sticky notes in Kindle books, you can mark up PDFs and Microsoft Word documents. Adding handwriting also makes sense for realism, as research has shown it improves learning compared to writing notes.

Tinkering on a Kindle Writer

Scribe notebooks let you draw, take notes, and make lists with your pen.

David Carnoy/CNET

Highlighting and tagging directly on the PDF helped me absorb information from a thick legal brief, for example. When I read a non-fiction book in the Kindle app, I proceeded to highlight important names and dates, as well as create a running caption with both handwritten and text sticky notes.

(I’ll be re-unit testing my Kindle Scribe after this story is published, at which point I’ll be back in the Kindle app on my phone – where I won’t have access to my handwritten notes. I can download each separately as a PDF. But my notes are highlighted and text created on Scribe It’ll stay for me to see in my Kindle phone app.)

Writing on a Kindle book involved more steps than writing directly on a PDF, something CNET reviewers found it both unfortunate and stressful. Keith said the Kindle team made this design choice to leave the pages neat. It also means, he added, that readers can edit their font without disrupting the location of their posts on the page.

“One of the things customers love about Kindles is that it’s distraction-free,” he said.

If the writer succeeds, that simplicity will keep you inside Amazon’s world, without the gadget needing a dash of color, let alone the ability to fly like a camera drone or roll and dance like a household robot.

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