Trying out “New Paper” with the ReMarkable Tablet

There’s a little theme in Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert finds herself attempting to sum herself up in just one word. It’s a bit of a tricky task, but I’m sure everyone else who has read the book has, at some point, tried to work out their word. While on holidays recently, my boyfriend and I set about the task during a long drive.

I worked out that mine is “paper.” I’m fiendish about books and notebooks. I still have concert tickets from when I was 12 years old. I collected brightly coloured sheets of paper as a child. Nothing makes me happier than an unexplored stationery shop or, better yet, an unexplored bookshop. I’ll always prefer a notebook to a screen. But despite that, I’ve lately started to take the environmental cost of paper quite seriously.

Given the amount of paper I get through—in the office, at home planning yoga sessions, during yoga teacher training, when I’m writing my own articles and work, it made sense to think about some kind of tablet option. I hit upon the ReMarkable entirely by accident and placed a pre-order on a whim, back in August. The tablet arrived just last week because the company had a supplier delay, but to their credit, they kept every buyer well informed of the situation as it progressed. I can’t fault them on that front.

The ReMarkable is a low tech e-ink solution. It doesn’t have a web browser and it doesn’t connect to social accounts. Different to a phone, it tries to hold your attention on the screen and the work at hand by removing obstacles to free expression. And it works.

On ReMarkable, you can create multiple notebooks (with multiple templates), using it either in landscape or portrait. The pen provided has a replaceable nib, which scratches across the e-ink screen with a very pleasing sense of friction. If you plan to write music, plan weeks ahead of schedule, sketch openly on blank pages, the reMarkable is equipped to let you do it. The notebooks can be organised into folders and the tablet can also host PDF documents, which can be annotated with the pen. It’s a studious person’s dream.

This version of ReMarkable is the first iteration, so currently the system doesn’t join up to any third party software like Dropbox or Google Drive for storage—but ReMarkable’s own cloud storage does the business for now, with updates pending.

Writing on the tablet is a really lovely experience. My handwriting isn’t a thing of beauty, but the pen scratching against the surface really does have a similar friction to pen/pencil on paper and it’s enjoyable for that reason alone to see my writing spring across the screen. The nibs wear down over time but the initial package includes some extras and buying them isn’t pricey (though the unit itself is blisteringly expensive at £579.)

The battery appears to go on and on and on (I wrote consistently through a 4 hour workshop and the battery fell by 5% in that time). The unit is very light, and there are two thin rubber strips on the back to prevent it moving against a surface when you’re writing. The little ergonomic bits like that are probably the most genius parts of the whole thing; proper effort has gone into ensuring that using the ReMarkable is a user-friendly experience. The folio that came with the tablet is a solid, slim, felt envelope with a safe place to store the pen—I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

If I can incorporate the ReMarkable into my daily life, I can see it being a long used artifact, reducing my paper usage (and that awful ink smudge along the side of my hand). I’m not a drawer (both literally and in terms of drawing things), but my boyfriend drew a on the tablet and found it a really lovely experience too. Adding notes to PDFs is a useful add, especially if you’re the type who doodles notes in the margins of paperbacks, or if you’re a student with access to PDF notes.

Here’s the thing, though: being environmentally sound should come at a cheaper cost. Though the ReMarkable is the first tablet with a niche focus on writing, note-taking, and sketching, I can only hope that competition will boost the niche so that reducing the reliance on paper will become a widespread affair, not limited to those of us who happen to have some additional cash for whimsical purchases.

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