LiveScribe Pros and Cons

I’ve been using LiveScribe products since April ’09 and consider myself a heavy user (filled seven journals, ~100 interviews and conversations recorded). I’m still using the first generation pen, the Pulse 2GB which still works perfectly fine for me. The new one is the Echo, which is available in 4GB (~$150.00 USD) and 8GB (~$200.00 USD)

Overall assessment?

Buy one and try it out. It’s not a lot of money for how useful you’ll find it.

How does it work?

Photo of my LiveScribe pen and notebook


  • The Pulse is a souped-up voice-recording pen. It has a video camera at the business end which works with a special microdot paper to capture stroke order and tie it to what is being said at that time. There is additional info and video on their site if you want more details.
  • There’s a built in speaker, or you can use headphones for playback.
  • There’s an associated desktop sw package to backup and access the files.
  • Works with Mac or PC (I’ve tried both)
  • You can play back the recordings by tapping on the words in the notebook, or view an image of the page with strokes and sound using the LiveScribe desktop application

What’s it good for?

  • It’s helpful to be able to go back later and hear what people really said. Even though I’ve done hundreds of hours of interviews, sometimes I still get caught up in thinking about the next question and don’t focus on LISTENING. Now I’m able to record the interview while I take notes and have the option to listen to the whole thing later. Listening after the interview can result in an big increase in comprehension when you’re interviewing multiple people at once, or when the discussion is about something you’re not familiar with.
  • Not as intimidating as a recorder. I’ve never had anyone balk when I ask if I can “use my pen to record some of our conversation so I can concentrate on what they say.”
  • Great for capturing what people say in their own words. You can hand the pen and book to the person you’re talking to and have them draw you a diagram while talking.
  • With the attached mic/headphones, it does a pretty good job at capturing directional sound (good for group meetings)
  • You can share sound files, .pdfs and hybrid sound/stroke files with other people.


  • You have to buy the special notebooks and nibs. They are no more expensive than Moleskine supplies, but you have to remember to keepĀ  them in stock (I’ve not used the print your own paper option).
  • I’m not thrilled with the archiving options. I’m up to journal 7 and it’s hard to access earlier materials.
  • You have to remember to keep it charged. I’ve been stranded once or twice when I forget to turn it off between sessions.

What do you think?

If you also use LiveScribe products, please leave a comment. I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences so I can learn more about what other people are doing.