This year, I gave myself a late Christmas gift: the reMarkable 2.
And since a few people asked about my experiences with it, I figured I'd write a little post on how I'm using it and what I make of it. This won't be a technical review. You can find plenty of those online if you're interested in things like battery life (2 weeks) or how much lumen it emits (very few).
How I got here
I remember a time when reMarkable was very aggressively marketing its product. It would quite often feature on my Instagram timeline. Yet, back then, I wasn't quite sure I really needed a digital notebook - when I had 5 paper notebooks lying around at any given point.
Also, it's expensive if you view it just as an alternative to a notebook. With the pen and cover, I spent 547 Euros. That's equivalent to a weekend getaway or lots of instant ramen.
Fast forward a few months, and Cal Newport also starts talking about it. Apparently, despite his non-use of Social Media, the ads made their way to him. FYI, he's one of the few podcasters I listen to frequently enough to recall sponsors (Cosy Earth sheets sound like a dream, and Henson, a satellite parts company now selling razors, are frequent ones). Also, he's one of the few productivity influencers who won't explain that you need to create new notion templates and automate everything - which, in my eyes, gives him a lot of credibility.
Eventually, he, too, got one and reported back that it's been a very useful tool.
Maybe it's just an example of their marketing creating sufficient touchpoints, or maybe I was the perfect target audience. Either way, I bought it while reassuring myself that I could still give it back if it turned out to be useless to me.
You must admit, looking at this video makes you want one as well, right?!
Some background on my note habits
I write a lot down in my daily life.
Currently, I have at least 5 notebooks and one block in which I have notes that I'll eventually have to access again.
Sometimes, I spend a lot of time figuring out where exactly I wrote down a specific quote.
I have notebooks in which I started working on online courses, which then are interrupted by some work notes I scrabbled in there, totally disrupting the initial content 😆
In short, it's a mess. And a lot of paper.
I don't like writing and reading on tablets.
Getting set up
The postman delivered my package 4 days after I had put in the order. It cost me all my discipline to not immediately open it and spend all my work day trying it. I know myself; this is what happens with new gadgets.
After a while, curiosity won, and I unpacked the goods.
I powered it up and followed a bunch of prompts to complete the setup. It didn't take more than 15 minutes and included downloading a Desktop app and a browser extension, pairing my device with the online subscription for their cloud & connectivity platform (connect), and a little trying to figure out my WiFi password.
Ngl, it's very intuitive. It's a notebook, after all.
The thing I was most excited about was the promise of the writing experience, feeling like writing on paper. It didn't disappoint. I generally dislike writing on tablets. It feels more like gliding over an iced puddle on a winter day than leaving a trace.
Usually, my handwriting looks even worse on a touchpad than on paper. This is not an easy feat. I'm the type of person people tell to become a doctor since terrible handwriting is part of the expected persona.
I'm pretty happy to report the reMarkable writing experience is great. It's just the right amount of friction to make it feel like you're doing something. And the translation from hand movement to what's shown in the notebook is pretty accurate.
Playing around with different pen types creates different effects as well, with the calligraphy pencil making the nicest shapes for writing beautiful characters. And if you feel a page isn't long enough, simply scrolling down elongates the page.
What enhances the writing experience further is the select tool, which allows you to increase the size of certain elements and move them around.
You can also convert your handwritten text into typed text (with some margin for error for people like me whose handwriting is a little difficult to decipher).
You can write on it. You can also read. And this I've done plenty. I used to bookmark tens of articles for later review, which I never read.
Things are different now.
With the extension, any online article or report quickly transforms into an article on the device. This allows you to read them without distractions and without having your face tanned by blue lights. You can also import ePub files and other ebook formats, which could be great for academia.
On top of that, highlighting works well (can even pick different colors, but those will just show if you look at the files on a non-reMarkable screen) even when you move the pen very enthusiastically - it still looks rather orderly.
It's like reading on a Kindle, with better highlighting and note-taking capabilities and less financing for Bezos' midlife crisis.
It's a notebook, so there isn't much more to do than taking notes, writing, and reading. There are a few gestures you can learn to use even quicker, such as tapping once or twice to retrace steps, swiping up from the bottom to see an overview of pages in a notebook, and so on.
All of those I've mastered to use habitually within a few days. If I can do it, anyone can.
The search function is pretty useful, especially when adding tags to your notebooks and having some typed text; that seems to help with discoverability - or maybe it's my handwriting 🙈 .
I'm still in the process of becoming a power user. At the moment, I use it for:
My vocabulary-building practice
Taking notes for my Intro to Classical Music Online Course
Keeping track of focus areas for my personal development
Reading articles and highlighting passages in them, as well as making reminders for myself
Keeping track of ideas for blog posts
Putting down quotes from books
Writing summaries for myself of concepts I'm trying to understand
For now, I've not yet explored the sharing option (except for sharing with myself, which is a bit pointless), nor have I drawn big mindmaps. I also don't have a habit of taking a whole lot of meeting notes - but maybe that'll change, so I'll report back when that happens.
Is it worth it?
For me, totally. I am lowkey-obsessed.
But I also understand people who say it's not a great tablet. Of course, it is not because it never tried to be. It's a digital notebook that combines some digital enhancements with the feel and touch of writing on physical paper.
It's not for everyone.
People who already don't take any physical notes but do everything typing might not benefit a whole lot from it. Neither will those who want to multi-task at the same time and open various tabs.
For writers like me, who take notes all the time, in their personal and professional lives, who have a fragmented stack of note-taking apps and books, and who also love to consume online written content not served on bluely-lit screens - it's an amazing product.
Once the weather is a bit nicer, I can see myself sitting around outside with it and sketching thoughts and ideas.
For now, it's -5 degrees 🥶 , so such mindless writing flows of consciousness down sessions are restricted to being indoors.
Anyway, that's me after one week of using it. I'm looking forward to seeing how it'll become a part of my routine long-term, and maybe if I ever feel like spoiling myself, I might get the keyboard to go with it.
Or I just practice writing better so the auto-convert function delivers perfect blog posts I can just copy-paste in. 🤔
Lmk if you have any questions, and I'll do my best to answer them.
Now, if you'll excuse me. I've got a few articles to read and ponder.
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