It’s taken a while for the Kindle Scribe to find its place among my working tools.
As I discussed in my first take on the device, it’s a highly modal experience. There is a Library view of books and PDFs plus a Notebook view of, well, Notebooks. The Scribe was picked up and put down over and over until I understood its strengths and weakness.
Here how I’m using each mode for now.
Quite simply, the Scribe is an excellent digital facsimile of my usual fountain pen and notebook.
There are a few advantages to the Scribe in fact. The stylus never runs out of ink, although the device can run out of juice. I’d say charging is of the same frequency as refilling one of my Pelikan piston filling pens so it really just comes down to the fact the stylus lives with the Scribe while I often sit down and don’t have a pen at the ready. My fault, given how many pens I own. The writing experience on the Scribe is really paper like and reminds me why I never could use the iPad pencil for note taking. Plus, the scribe is the size of my favored A5 size notebooks, but light and rigid enough to write on standing or sitting away from a desk. Notebooks really need writing surfaces for use, a pad like the Scribe can be held with one hand and written on with stylus in the other. Lets just say that the Scribe lends itself to casual use.
In the hybrid analog digital model, the Scribe is digitizing the image of my handwriting in real time and frequently uploading the file for off device storage. If the Scribe is lost or destroyed, my notes are secure. Notebooks can be lost, misplaced or soaked in the rain. Fountain pen ink is water based, so a wet notebook is not only wrinkled, but often smeared to the point of uselessness.
Barring loss or damage, a notebook needs the extra step of digital capture by scanner or photo. I use GeniusScan when I want a digital version of a notebook. I’m selective, copying over handwritten notes that I want to revise as text files. But the PDF images of a notebook sit side by side with PDFs sent from the Scribe, so ignoring the extra step of the iPhone capture, the end result is the same.
My notebooks have a couple of hundred pages, so I’m selective about what I archive digitally. The Scribe has no way of being selective other than exporting a PDF of an entire notebook and deleting unwanted pages or dividing up the file into multiple topic specific PDFs. For now, I’ve settled on starting a new notebook every month, so there are exported Scribe PDFs in a journal folder in DEVONthink for reference. DEVONthink does handwriting recognition and allows searching for notebook contents. I love the fountain pen and notebook experience at my desk. If not for that, I might have switched over to the Scribe completely for this kind of note taking.
PDF Annotation and eBooks
PDFs can be sent through the Send to Kindle service. Though PDFs live in the library, their interface is like that of a Notebook since once the page opens, the natural way to annotate is to write on the PDF with the stylus. Choosing the highlighter gives a transparent way to color over the PDF like one would highlight a paper printout. However, a long press on the text of the PDF allows the more standard type of PDF highlighting with the option of adding a note. Unfortunately, at this point that note only accepts typed input, which is less than optimal on this stylus focused device. Export of PDFs show the handwritten annotations with the highlighted text and note text following the PDF.
eBook annotation is much better developed, where the highlighter choice for the stylus acts in the usual way to select and highlight text. But if you add a note, one can enter either typed text or handwriting. I hope that they bring this over to PDF notes as well. But as with PDF output, we get the highlighted text followed by the note- handwritten or typed. This PDF also nicely goes into DEVONthink where the highlighted text or the handwritten annotation can be searched. The experience here is nice enough that I bought a book through the Kindle store (Thomas Hertog’s On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory) which I am now reading and annotating on the Scribe. So for some types of reading, the Scribe may move me back toward eBooks from physical books read with a notebook at the desk.
Like all the tools we have for reading and note taking, the Scribe is a product that excels for specific use cases. I’m using it for notes involving brainstorming and option exploration in a monthly journal format, knowing that these kinds of notes would be lost in a paper notebook system. I’m also reading, highlighting and annotating a book with handwritten notes, which solves one of my frustrations with the traditional Kindle format. Amazon seems committed to improving the software on the device, likely to make it more useful in the future.