As with most technophiles, I read about, watch reviews of, and hyper-focus on the latest and greatest advancements in technology. From iPhones to Westlaw Edge updates, I want to ingest all the information I can. I hope to incorporate useful new features and products into my workflow.
Unfortunately, my dreams and imagination tend to outpace what gets released. What usually happens is that I change my workflow to incorporate the new piece of technology. So, it’s amazing to find a piece of technology so revolutionary, so useful, so precise, so… remarkable, that it fits perfectly in my current workflow.
As of late, I have been experimenting with the reMarkable Tablet. Below, I will discuss why the device was important to me, the specifics of the technology, and my thoughts on using it.
Handed a Problem
Being left-handed, I hate writing with pencils. I do it. But I loathe it. It’s essentially asking for a silver coat of lead on my hand.
Pencils and papers were the first tools I (and probably most of you) used to process thoughts. To this day, I feel most comfortable manipulating, seeing, and visualizing my thoughts on a flat surface with a writing utensil. As I matured, the utensils I used changed slightly. From pencil and paper to ink and paper. Unfortunately, I reached the same outcome. Smeared ink on my left hand, this time in alternative colors – blue, red, green, and the like.
Once Apple came out with their stylus, I thought a game-changer had finally entered my world. From 2018 to 2021, I used an iPad and Apple Pencil. But, after working all day with multiple monitors, moving to an iPad for reading and writing strained my eyes and gave me headaches. Additionally, my sloppy handwriting was not aided by the silky-smooth screen of the device.
After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore. I bought blue light glasses, I changed the settings on my monitor & iPad, and I even started printing out articles to read1. I took notes in a notebook or directly on the print-out articles2, and went analog where I could to relieve the eye stress3. Needless to say, I missed the iPad4.
At some point during the 2021-2022 school year, I learned that faculty could ask for a reMarkable Tablet5. The reMarkable is an e-ink reader and writer that does not have a back-light, and it claims that writing with their Marker on the device feels just like writing on paper. I believed the device would be everything I could ever imagine.
Purely based on the claims reMarkable makes, this device should have been revolutionary:
- If you’re tired from looking at monitors and screens all day, the reMarkable uses e-ink without a backlight.
- If you’re tired of ink smearing and staining your hand as you write, the reMarkable doesn’t use lead or ink.
- If you’re tired from holding heavy books and articles, the reMarkable is light-weight and thin.
- If you’re tired of misplacing notes, this tablet stores all your handwritten notes and annotations right on the device.
Overall, this device just sounds impressive. Upload a PDF or ePUB file to the device, and all the above features become available. If you’re willing to pay for their “Connect” plan, then even more features are unlocked.
Changing the Workflow
A colleague of mine was quick to remind me that, and I’m paraphrasing here: technology tends to change us more than we change technology. And, quite honestly, she’s right. After using this device for a few months, I’ve concluded two things.
First, because of reMarkable’s clunky app, I have changed how I access my digital files. I used to just keep the files in the cloud. I would then access the file on a desktop or iPad. Now, I must move files I am interested in reading to the reMarkable app. The result of this is that markups that I make to the file are not saved across locations. Markups are only saved to the device6. The result of this is that after making edits, I have to download the file to my desktop and move it to my cloud storage.
Second, because of reMarkable’s unique interface, I have learned that I have a high tolerance for change (to my workflow). The same colleague I wrote about above could not manage the incumbrances to her workflow, so she simply stopped using the device. I, on the other hand, am cool with whatever.
- E.g.: The device sometimes has issues zooming. That’s cool, I’ll just stop where I am, close the article, and then re-open it.
- E.g. The device sometimes cannot accurately pinpoint where the Marker is on the device. That’s cool, I’ll just stop writing, close the article, and then re-open it.
- E.g. The device sometimes doesn’t turn to the next page. That’s cool, I’ll just stop what I’m reading, close the article, and then re-open it… Oh, that didn’t work? No problem, let me change the “view” and see if it’ll read a swipe from a different direction.
Although the reMarkable Tablet has faults, I am quite satisfied. It has added only a few additional steps to my workflow. But, in exchange, I have benefited greatly.
Use of the reMarkable has:
- Stopped me from staining my dominant hand with ink and lead;
- Reduced the frequency of headaches I generally get in a week;
- Helped me keep track of my annotation;
- Helped me be more engaged in meetings;
- Kept track of various miscellaneous notes, because of the fantastic note-taking functionality; &
- Stored articles I am trying to work through, to be accessed whenever and wherever I want.7
1. This was such a bad idea.
2. I lost so many pages of different articles, so many annotations, and used so much paper… So many dead trees died to be a reprint I had accidentally left in my office desk.
3. Sure, the eyestrain lessened, but the headaches I got from looking for a specific annotation weren’t much better.
4. The iPad I was using was my private property. At some point, I grew to dislike the idea of using my private property for work. But we can delve into this idea in a future article.
5. If you’re going to buy this on your own, the reMarkable, Marker 2 (their proprietary stylus), and tablet cover will run you $595 before taxes. Note, there is an added cost for their software as a service, “Connect,” which I have not signed up for.
6. This is not the case if you pay for Connect. I am working on an article with a brilliant peer who bought the Connect plan. She has been able to synchronize files across the tablet and cloud. But we must upload all our shared documents to her cloud. At the time of this write-up, reMarkable cannot synchronize files shared with you by someone else.
7. Although, if articles are not opened within 50 days, then the article will not sync on your desktop. See https://support.remarkable.com/hc/en-us/articles/4406217575441-Information-about-Connect
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.