Kindle: Buyer Beware

15 04 2009

A letter I wrote earlier this week to Amazon:

Dear Sir or Madam,

My Amazon Kindle 1, which I have owned for about 10 months, is broken. The screen won’t refresh. Instead, all I see are horizontal lines across the screen. I called customer service on Saturday. The customer service representative was helpful and walked me through how to reset the device, both through the keyboard and through the pinhole in the back. Unfortunately, neither step worked, and I’m left with a broken Kindle.

Here’s where I’m mad at myself and frustrated with Amazon. I told the customer service representative the truth: My kindle had fallen off my nightstand earlier in the day. My son had jostled some other items on the nightstand, the Kindle slid, and it fell 27 inches to the floor. It wasn’t flung across the room carelessly, there was no velocity other than 27 inches of free-fall. My wife, who saw this happen, didn’t think anything of it at all and just put the Kindle back on the nightstand.

I’m mad at myself because your customer service representative told me, after we’d exhausted the options for resetting the Kindle, that the Kindle’s warranty doesn’t cover drops or falls, and my only remaining service option was spending $180 for a replacement Kindle. Part of me wishes I’d told a white lie and didn’t mention the fall — after all, I didn’t see it happen…

But most of all, I’m disappointed in Amazon for building and shipping a product that cannot withstand normal use. My wife was quite surprised that there was any problem with the Kindle at all. I doubt the device experienced much more impact than it would when jostled around in a backpack or a carry-on bag. You must have expected that the Kindle would be frequently left on tables, nightstands, or desks (all common areas where books accumulate), and that sometimes Kindles, like books, would fall. Unlike Kindles, though, books aren’t rendered useless when they fall two feet.

Fortunately, we’re a two-Kindle family. Before this incident, I’d been happy enough with my Kindle to buy one for my wife so we could share ebooks with no conflict over the device. Now that I better understand the shoddy construction of these devices, I’m not going to spend $180 for a replacement Kindle. I view this as throwing good money after bad. I’ll read my remaining ebooks when I manage to borrow my wife’s device, and I’ll wait patiently for ereader technology to mature to at least cell phone ruggedness. Amazon, please build a better device and win me back as a customer.


Brian Dewey



5 responses

16 04 2009

Come on, if you sold a product you would do the same thing. It dropped it broke why are they held responsible for that. I think you are getting a great deal that they will sell you a replacement for $180. They could have said sorry buy another one at full price.

16 04 2009

I guess you need to wait for the military spec kindle eh? I have had mine for over a year and it is working fine.

16 04 2009

I’m glad you’re enjoying your Kindle. For the most part, it’s a great device and I predict that in 5-10 years, e-books and e-readers will be very common as the cost comes down and the selection of books increases. (If the DRM gets fixed so I can “loan” books to others, it will be PERFECT.)
However, I really am surprised at how delicate the Kindle proved to be. I’ve (unfortunately) dropped cell phones from greater heights and with more force (falling out of my hand when rushing through a parking lot). The cell phone was dinged but still works. Ditto cameras. I have a lot of gadgets, I tend to take care of them well, and this is the only the second one that’s ever broken. (I dropped a digital camera in a lake once seven years ago. Yeah, it didn’t survive that, nor did I expect it to.) This was not a significant fall. I don’t want my e-reader to be some delicate advice that I have to handle with kid gloves. That’s what I’m valuing as a consumer.
You know, if there was a military spec Kindle, I’d likely buy it. Then I could let my kids use it!
Finally, a quick tour through Google shows I’m not the only one with this particular screen problem, and most other reports are unconnected with falls. I do honestly think that at least the Kindle 1 wasn’t manufactured to high enough standards.

9 08 2009
Exit the Kindle, in a Splash of E-Ink « Palafo

[…] I wrote yet another message to Amazon urging them to add some notes to their tech support guide on this problem. Customers should be warned that resetting an original Kindle with these symptoms might end up turning it into a useless brick. The customer might want to choose discretion and see if the device can be nursed through a few more months. (I am not the only one who has encountered this problem.) […]

24 04 2010

I am a Canadian Kindle Owner. I was so thrilled to finally be able to purchase a Kindle. Have purchased 4 to date. We all love our Kindles. However, did you know that as of the last couple of weeks, there are many many books and authors that Canadian Kindle Owner can NO LONGER download and purchase. Best Sellers list etc. No Nicholas Sparks, No James Patterson, No Malcom Gladwell and these are just to mention a few. All were available up until last week or so when Hachette Book Group took over the publishing of these authors. These today, what will it be tomorrow? As far as I’m concerned, Amazon sold us the car, now they won’t sell us the gas!!!

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