Ask LH: Is The Kindle A Good Note-Taking Device?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been looking at getting a Kindle, but I’m not sure if it is right for me. I want to type on it (just notes and the like while I’m out and about and get struck with an idea. I don’t like typing on my phone due to the small size of the screen, and I don’t like my first-generation iPad as it is a little too big.

I like the Kindle because of the size and the look of the display (e-ink is cool). So I’m wondering: can a Kindle be used for typing a new document (that I might review on my desktop at a later date), and if not, can you tell me of some Kindle sized tablets that use e-ink that can? Thanks, Kindling The Flame.

Photo remixed from nkzs

Dear KTF,

I’ve got to be honest; using a Kindle for document writing feels like using a sink plunger for industrial welding applications. It’s theoretically feasible, but hardly the best tool for the job, although there are a number of nifty things you can do with a Kindle. Kindles are indeed cheap, but you could opt for a 7″ Android tablet for not that much more money with a lot more typing flexibility, as an example.

Still, if e-ink is your thing, it’s technically feasible. You could annotate an existing Kindle document with notes of whatever you liked, but Amazon currently doesn’t support synchronising notes off a Kindle with much ease, which I suspect might make it less than stellar for your uses, unless you only want to read the notes off the original Kindle.

For what it’s worth, I’m leaving the Kindle Fire out of the equation; not only is it not an e-ink device, but it’s also not officially on sale in Australia; if you wanted one of those there’s plenty of scope, but then you’re just back in Android tablet territory.

Theoretically, you could use the experimental Kindle browser to create documents online, but my own searches haven’t yet uncovered a tool for creating simple text notes that’s Kindle-friendly. The obvious ones such as Google Docs will allow you to log in, but fail at the document creation or editing stage. If you’re talking very brief notes, you could log into Twitter and try to direct message them to a secondary account, but it’s a slow and very torturous process. I travel with a Kindle Keyboard with the view that I can use its included wireless data in an absolute pinch, but I wouldn’t advise it as the first solution I’d try.

There’s another problem here, and it’s to do with the exact cool nature of e-ink itself. To keep battery usage at an absolute low, the refresh rate on e-ink devices is quite low, and this means that text entry is very slow indeed.

In short, you can do it, but beyond the cool factor of the e-ink screen, I reckon you’re setting yourself up for a world of frustration going down that particular path. Tablets may often be derided as consumption devices, but it’s an observation that’s even more true for eBook readers.


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