I received a Kindle Scribe for Christmas last year, which, due to the demand, was probably what I should have expected. The Kindle Scribe is, in essence, a large e-reader with a stylus. It came out late last year. I put it on my wish list because I was curious about it, but I’m not curious enough to buy one for myself.
I’m a fan of the Kindle e-reader line. (I’ve heard Kobo e-readers are pretty good if you want to be free of Amazon’s ecosystem and the whole evil deal, but I’ve never used them, and Kindles last forever, so I didn’t need to completely replace the old ecosystem.) My ideal reading setup is to keep a physical copy of a book at home and to borrow an e-book copy from the library for bars, restaurants, and train connections. (Bless Verso Books(By the way, for including a free e-book with nearly all of their print books.)
What’s immediately apparent about the Kindle Scribe is that it’s a nifty little device that’s almost useless. It’s a very good large format e-reader, but there simply aren’t many uses for a large format e-reader. Being too big to fit in a coat pocket or carry comfortably in one hand on a crowded train, Writer is not at all condescending to the stuff an e-reader is used to. Of course, its selling point isn’t its size, but its pen – a Kindle you can write on! — so it’s a little disappointing to report that Amazon couldn’t figure out why one would want to write on a Kindle.
With Writer, you can’t write directly on e-books, just leave “sticky notes” on them. It has several “notebook” templates, but all you can do with the notes in your notebook is email them to yourself as PDFs. Scribe does not have handwriting to text features. (Considering I was using a stylus to type words that a mobile device automatically converted to text on my dad’s PalmPilot in 1998, this is a rather odd omission.) The only documents you can freely scribble are, as far as I can tell, PDFs. But PDFs are really the strong suit of the thing already. With its much larger screen, the Kindle Scribe actually handles text-heavy PDFs better than its smaller siblings.
So the Kindle Scribe is, basically, a device for reading and messing with PDF files.
Fortunately, there are plenty of PDFs in the world for one to read. There are samizdat or semi-legal (or sometimes even fully authorized and legitimate!) versions of out-of-print books, such as left-wing economic analyst Doug Henwood Wall Streetthat Available for free on their site as a PDF. There are strange old magazine papers and scanned archival documents. Just a whole world of things that I can now read more comfortably in bed than I could before. and scribbles on.
So I’ve been using Scribe mainly to read PDFs, and rarely write anything. Recently, when I finished Transportation Costs Project at New York University final report And New York case study—Two PDFs Instant Classics, Highly Recommended —I ended up turning to veteran crossword puzzle designer Patrick Berry Crossword Builder’s Handbook which used to be a “For Dummies” book but is now available to purchase directly from it as a PDF. The book comes with 70 sample puzzles. When I read the first chapter of the book, I noticed that it very soon began to refer to those typical mysteries. So I opened the accompanying document. And as I grabbed the pen and set to work, I quickly realized: That’s what this strange device is for. That’s what he’s good at.
I grew up writing crossword puzzles in actual paper, using a real pen, and while, at this point, I’ve probably solved a thousand more puzzles on my phone than I ever did in print, I still always felt like solving them with pen and paper was the “right” way to do it. so. The Kindle can’t check your answers as you go, tell your time, or play a little song to announce that you’ve successfully completed a puzzle. It cannot fill in the answer that you are having difficulty solving; If you want to cheat, you’ll have to cheat the old-fashioned way, by searching for something or just glancing at the answer grid. But the Sunday newspaper can’t do any of those things either, and that’s the medium for which the crossword puzzle was designed.
Scribe has all the benefits of a paper puzzle—easy viewing of unconventional theme grids, a quick glance at the entire list of keys, simple entry into reuses and special characters, and the tactile feel of filling in a grid by hand—and most of the better benefits of doing puzzles digitally, such as clean erasing of errors and the ability to store Thousands of puzzles in a slim device that you can easily bring just about anywhere. It is the perfect device for crossword puzzles. All for just $340, which is quite a lot.
The problem, of course, is getting the puzzles on the device at all. One thing you need to do is, basically, create your own puzzle packs. Most puzzle books collected don’t have ebook versions (and you can’t write directly on an ebook anyway, remember?), so you’ll have to track down loads of PDFs from whatever provider you want. This, for now, is a pain in the ass. If you subscribe to The New York Times crossword puzzles, you’ll have to visit the Puzzles section on your computer, browse the archives, and hit print on each puzzle you wish to save as a PDF. If you, as I do, Subscribe to AV Club XwordsYou’ll have an easier time searching their archives for PDF links. Then, with either provider, you’ll likely have to Use this Adobe tool to combine all of the individual downloaded puzzles into a single document, which you’ll then send to your Kindle by whatever means you normally do with such things. (AVXC also sells packages of vintage puzzles in PDF format.)
The Kindle Scribe is a device that just can’t seem to justify its existence, except as a monopoly bulwark against potential competitors in the e-book space that have recently introduced similar products. (suppose that Kobo Elisa And Remark 2 The PDF Scribble machines are equally ingenious.) But they’re so good at that one thing that justifies their cost, to me, at least, zero dollars.
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