Is analog writing back thanks to reMarkable 2?

„We are disappearing“

Miriam Meckel wrote once in her book “We are disappearing. The human being in the digital age” (“Wir verschwinden. Der Mensch in digitalen Zeitalter”): „How often do we still write by hand? There are people who still do it, for example, the historian Henrich August Winkler, who even writes thousand-page works like the History of the West by hand. I admire that because I can’t do it anymore. I write almost exclusively with a computer, whether a laptop, iPad, or iPhone. I even take notes digitally from time to time and save them in an app with the programmatic name Evernote. That doesn’t matter, you might object, the content is the same”.

„Writing the world for yourself“

But in fact it does matter. That articulates Miriam Meckel in other article „Writing the world for yourself“ (“Sich die Welt erschreiben“ in ZEIT-Beilage: „Wie Sie besser schreiben“): “Something special happens when we write a handwritten text. It is the material creation of language, and it presupposes a certain sequence: first think, then write. With word processing on the computer, this can, but does not have to be the case. Copy and paste, moving whole paragraphs around, processing text entirely in the bad and misinterpreted sense of Heinrich von Kleist’s sentence about the production of thoughts while speaking, all these are possibilities of writing on the computer.”

Especially by digital immigrants, this longing for the creativity of analog writing manifests itself most clearly. However, also digital natives do understand that and support analog writing with increasingly advanced tools.  Some time ago I happened to be at a public meeting with Swiss bestseller author Martin Suter. That was a premier of new documentation about him and the writer was present himself. When answering questions he mentioned apropos that after years of using at the beginning a typing machine and later a computer he writes now his texts with reMarkable 2.

I heard previously about it but considered reMarkable just as a new gadget like other digital tablets. They are applicable to some medical experiments with Parkinson’s patients or kids, who are learning writing. The possibility to use a longhand and not a keyboard for creative writing was out of my focus. Of course, note-taking is much more suitable with a pen and paper. But what can you do with these notes in the digital working space on your computer? Existing tools, which I tried, including the famous iPad Pro with its pencil, were not convincing. Writing on a “glass surface” is not that natural, especially with a short delay, which you cannot avoid.  The words by Martin Suter piqued my curiosity. So, what makes reMarkable 2 so special and promising? I have read many user reports and chats and can summarize experiences and opinions. 

The thinnest tablet in the world

The first thing that strikes you when you see reMarkable is that it is extremely thin. Only 4.3 mm. “The thinnest tablet in the world”. Almost fragile. Only 403 grams. It is 24.6 centimeters high and 18.8 centimeters wide. The display stretches over 10.3 inches. The space is a bit less than an A4 sheet of paper, but enough for comfortable writing. It has an e-ink display, similar to that of e-readers like the Kindle. The battery lasts for two weeks, which is attractive.

The feeling is paper-like

All users are reporting about absolutely paper-like feeling on reMarkable. It’s a pleasure to write on it. It’s tangible like paper. The amount of friction between the pen and the device’s surface is exactly right. It even sounds like you’re writing on paper. Even, the eraser, which is available as well, provides the real feeling like you are erasing something written. Erased content becomes transparent as you erase it, and then disappears once you lift the pen off the page.

There are several selectable soft options for writing instruments: ballpoint pen, fineliner, marker, pencil, mechanical pencil, paintbrush, highlighter, and calligraphy pen. You can choose tilt and pressure sensitivity and adjust the stroke accordingly. It is possible separately to adjust thickness and ink intensity.  

 Simplicity to slow down

“I have the reMarkable 2 and the iPad Pro 11″ with the pencil. They serve different purposes in my workflow and I rely on the ReMarkable for its simplicity and distraction-free experience.” – writes one of the users.

Unlike other tablets, you cannot install applications. The device can be connected to the internet, but just to sync your notes to the cloud (if you use it), get updates, and digitize your notes into pdf with OCR. You can share the screen during a Zoom call. That is all.

There are no colors. The set of features is small. You have only what you need. Nothing should distract you from writing. reMarkable forces you to slow down without switching from one application to another or flipping between pages of your notebooks, photos, etc.  It is intended just for writing.

However, there is a set of templates, like in any word processing tool, which returns reMarkable to its digital origin. They are suitable and practical.

Integration in the workflow or back to analog

Interestingly reMarkable feels like more of an analog device than a digital one. It’s more of a paper or notebook replacement. The high quality of handwriting makes the device great for writing down notes or whole articles and books (like Martin Suter), brainstorming, making PDFs out of them, and reading external PDF files, for instance, research papers or books. Many users value this function, which along with writing makes reMarkable suitable for research work.

According to Magnus Wanberg, CEO and founder of remarkable, “paper is the ultimate tool for thinking. It improves our focus, engages our brains, and sets our minds free to work and imagine, without restrictions or distractions”.  As they are formulating on the reMarkable website (www.remarkable.com):” The first real digital paper tablet. Designed for reading, writing, and sketching. And to be an elegant tool for thinking in the digital age, for those who love the inspiration and clarity they get when working on paper.”

P.S. I would like to thank Coya Vallejo Hägi from Digitec for a nice article and permission to reuse the photos from it.