I bought a Livescribe pen

Yesterday, I picked up a two-gigabyte LiveScribe pen on clearance at Target for a pretty ridiculous $24 (75% off). I had some hiccups getting it set up yesterday, so I came back today for Round 2 and it seems to be working just fine.

I take tons of little notes at work, for phone messages, etc., and I discovered last week while doing an interview with one of our languages professors for a story that I was working on that I liked taking notes by hand in interviews (it *seriously* helps with my retention), but I wished later I would’ve had some audio backup. However, I have absolutely no interest in taking a recorder into an interview and having to manage taking notes and running a recorder.

The LiveScribe pen seems to provide all the functionality I am looking for; I can take notes with an actual pen on actual paper, while also simultaneously creating a digital copy of my notes and capturing audio. However, it also has the drawbacks of requiring special paper to operate, has the drawback of requiring paper to operate in the first place, and you obviously eventually will have to purchase replacement ink cartridges, etc. There’s also the specter of battery failure, and battery replacement in the LiveScribe pens isn’t a user function.

There are apps for the iPad that appear to offer similar, if not identical, functionality to the LiveScribe pen – things like SoundNote, for example. And at $4.99 for the app and $20 for a stylus, it’s significantly cheaper with the potential for vastly more storage. Depending on the app, iPad+stylus also opens the potential for taking notes in color, and being able to change pen nibs or brushes for alternate line styles. This doesn’t seem possible with the LiveScribe.

The only advantages the LiveScribe would seem to have over an iPad+SoundNote solution would be portability and the ability to write on actual paper. The latter is not a minor consideration; if taking long notes spanning multiple pages, paging back to refer to previous notes and then returning to your current position is still, for me, far easier when working in a notebook.

The likelihood that I would’ve bought a LiveScribe pen had it not been on such ridiculous clearance at Target at the same time I had a $20 gift card burning a hole in my pocket is basically nil. However, it’s always fun to play with new technology, and if it ultimately has no impact beyond finding new and better ways to use my iPad, it’ll be a completely worthwhile investment in time and gift card.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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