Kindle: Buyer Beware

April 16, 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