Can a journalist live with a digital notebook? We test the best high-tech alternative

When I’m not reviewing gadgets, I’m a journalist in rural Derbyshire. And the most important tool in any journalism profession is a notepad.

Throughout my career, I’ve rarely been seen without a lined ring notebook in my pocket, but I’ve often wondered if technology has gone far enough to replace this old-fashioned way of taking notes.

And one of the best devices I could find to improve my daily work was the Kobo Sage eReader. An eReader is usually designed just for reading e-books, and that’s what Rakuten’s Kobo range does best. But the latest device, the Sage, goes even further by offering a digital “pen”, which allows you to take notes.

At first glance, its 8-inch e-ink screen and Kobo stylus are one of the best ways to explore the world of digital note-taking. But does it work?

I’ve spent several weeks with it now, and the short answer is yes.

Its clever software is able to convert your notes into clean text, even with my dodgy handwriting, and it’s impressive. This means you can spit documents onto other devices without having to transcribe them.

My dodgy handwriting was a bit off at times, but as you get to know her and as she gets to know you, she gets better. Obviously, converting my shorthand was too much to ask, but jotting down snippets of a conversation or taking notes in a meeting was a joy with the Kobo.

the Kobo Stylus comes as an option, costing £40 on the £250 cost of the eReader itself. And I would highly recommend the Power Cover, which acts as a luxury leather-covered charger and battery. It’s still £70, but worth every penny.

So obviously it’s not cheap. Not when a journalist’s notebook costs a pound and lasts several weeks. But it’s a different way of doing things. And that can be a big time saver.

Although handwriting recognition is generally very good, it does occasionally make funny howls, although they are easy to solve.

And there’s a chart feature, which takes a bit of work, but it’s very effective if it’s the kind of thing you might use for work.

I also wish there was a more sophisticated way to categorize saved notes, maybe even a more organized subfolder system. Currently there is only an alphabetical storage system. Maybe it will happen one day in the firmware update?

Overall, however, the Kobo Sage performed very well as a replacement notebook. I was impressed with the battery life, screen quality, pen responsiveness, and compact size. Its size is similar to that of an A5 notebook.

But I loved the quality feel of this one. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s so well made that it’s worth every penny. It’s a good device to use for taking notes, but it’s an absolutely gorgeous e-reader.

In practice, however, I found myself reverting to my paper notebook. I think there is definitely a future in which a journalist can switch to an electronic notebook, but we’re not there yet.

Although the Sage Kobo is good enough to remind us that we are really not far away.