Hard to believe that, in 2022, the Kindle can still headline an Amazon event — and yet, he were are. We’re expecting plenty of news out of today’s virtual Amazon event (and slightly melancholy that we weren’t able to cover it from Seattle), but the company’s 15-year-old e-reader line is the big news this time out.
News of the Kindle Scribe arrives as things have been fairly quiet on the e-reader front. Kobo is still kicking, but Amazon has utterly dominated the category for some years. It’s the sort of thing that tends to slow innovation to a screeching halt, aside from the addition of USB-C to the entry-level Kindle and Paperwhite, along with a bump in display res to 300 ppi for the former.
But the Scribe brings something altogether new to the line: writing. For the first time since the first Kindle was introduced in late-2007, Amazon’s added the ability to write on-device with a stylus. Its a big new feature for the product, though a couple of firms have already beaten Amazon to the punch here, include Remarkable and Sony, with its DPT-CP1 and DPT-RP1 products.
Amazon’s entry in the space has a 10.2-inch screen and a design partially reminiscent of the premium Kindle Oasis, include a large side bezel (no page turn buttons, unfortunately) you can hold onto while reading. It has a battery the company rates at “weeks,” keeping in line with its fellow readers. At 433 grams, it’s (predictably) the heaviest Kindle, which could put a bit of a crimp in those bedtime reading marathons.
The device ships with its own stylus, which magnetically snaps on the side — similar to what you see on a lot of tablets. The stylus doesn’t requiring charging, and instead relies on EMR (electro-magnetic resistance) — that means, among other things, that other styli will likely work with the Scribe, though the company cautions against that (naturally), stating that their own is tuned specifically for work on the Kindle.
A more premium model will also be made available with a built-in button for quick actions. These styli allow for a variety of different line styles, though the tips are permanent, so that’s happening through the on-board software accessible via a software toolbar. The company says it specifically designed the display/stylus combo to mimic the feel of a pen on paper.
We’ve certainly heard that claim before, and your mileage will vary, though we’ll report back after testing the thing. Ditto for latency, which has traditionally been one of the biggest setbacks to this sort of technology. Strangely, handwriting recognition will be missing at launch, though the feature is almost certainly on the company’s roadmap.
It will, however, have a newly Streamlined software offering, allowing files to be shared off the device through the Kindle app, a web browser or email. The company also says it has updated the notoriously outdated Send to Kindle feature to help remove some of the friction from the process. Meanwhile, a deal with Microsoft will bring Word functionality to the product at some point early next year.
The company says the fact that it didn’t launch a Kindle with this functionality earlier isn’t for lack of trying. Rather, it was important it get the tech right, while maintaining key features like front lighting and the line-wide 300 ppi display (compared to 226 on the remarkable 2). Given the $90 price bump over the previously most expensive Kindle (Oasis), it certainly makes sense that the company would want to maintain those line-wide features. Amazon says it worked with E Ink Holdings (EIH) on the display, which it then customized to hit those specs.
Preorders for the $340 device start today, with shipping expected before the holidays (think November). The company will also be offering up cases that convert to stands via magnets, like the rest of the line. They also have a little loop to keep the stylus in place.
Remarkable has received positive marks for its own system, though the company recently sliced its new premium service from $5 a month to $3, leaving many wondering whether the company hasn’t been hitting the sort of subscriptions numbers it had been banking on. Of course, we can’t speak to the quality of the Scribe without having tested it, but the team behind Remarkable is almost certainly assessing its options after this bombshell.