OTF: Is your Kindle 2 broken? Mine is! So let's sue Amazon.com!

I got my Kindle 2 three months ago, and it stopped working last week. Broke, busted, blammo. What happened? Hard to say. I didn’t drop it, drown it,  or spill anything on it. I just woke up one day, hoping to check out my new Kindle 2 subscription to The Economist (a T/S advertiser, no less!) and noticed that the screen had frozen. Permanently.

Now I’ve been a big Kindle 2 supporter, but I have to say I’m not too impressed with the fact that it only lasted three months. If the Kindle 2(which was like $350 when I got it) is going to catch on, I don’t think it can have the life expectancy of an X-Box. (Of course, maybe the Kindle is going to catch on no matter what. But I needed that last line as kind of rhetorical device to set up the rest of the post.)

Anyway. I called up Amazon.com’s Kindle support line. I explained the problem of the frozen screen. A customer service gentleman walked me through steps to reset it, but that didn’t work. He quickly agreed to send me a new Kindle 2 (there’s a year warranty) and, according to the email I got this morning, it’s already been shipped.

That being said, I have to ship my busted Kindle 2 back to them, which is a minor hassle. (Shipping packages, along with paying bills, falls under  the  “water torture of daily life”  category, as Martin Amis once called our never ending obligations to the everyday.)

Being the consummate reporter, I asked Amazon’s male customer service representative a couple of questions.

(What follows is a rough recreation of the exchange. I’m sure Amazon has the more accurate transcript, because, as we’re always warned, my call was being recorded for “quality assurance” and training purposes.)

“Is this is a common problem? Have their been a lot of problems with the Kindle?” I asked.

“No,” said the gentleman customer service representative. “There are 3 million, or millions of Kindles out there and only a small number have had problems.”

“Really,” I said. (Thinking: my uncle, who also has Kindle 2, had issues with his as well. Two anecdotal pieces of evidence!)

“We only even have one helpline center to deal with the issues,” he said, implying that having one support center was more than enough to handle the (low?) volume of calls concerning broken Kindles.

The call took about ten minutes, so pretty efficient as these things go.

Then I decided to do a little Googlez to see if anyone had made any public complaints. Sure enough, I learned that there’s now a $5 million class action lawsuit against Amazon.com that claims the Kindle 2 has a design flaw. The picture in the CNET story, in fact, looks very similar to what my frozen screen looks like. (Though I didn’t have any cracks.) And like the Kindle 2 victims, I also have the black cover, though I guess I’ve yet to “bend” it the wrong way.

So if the cracks are a “common problem,” as the lawsuit claims, is there a chance the screen freeze might also be a “common problem?” Would that be a lot common problems for second generation device?

Besides the inconvenience of getting it replaced(and remember, these things aren’t cheap, so I don’t think my consumer whining is too far out of line), the other slightly annoying thing is that I have a bunch of magazine subscriptions that I’ve paid for on the Kindle 2 that I won’t be able to read in a timely manner. And the whole point of getting the subscriptions on the Kindle is to get them right when they’re published–you’re trading the texture of the page and pictures for the convenience of digital ink. Should I get reimbursed for all the lost subscription time? I think so! (Granted, we’re probably talking a few bucks, and I probably signed all my rights away in some disclaimer somewhere. But it’s the principle of it. If I was getting a weekly or daily print  subscription, I’d be pretty annoyed if I’d stopped getting deliveries and all the back issues were then dumped on my doorstep three weeks later.)

I don’t have plans to file a $5 million dollar lawsuit (yet!), but I’m interested if anyone else out there has had any other Kindle 2 issues.

UPDATE: Amazon caved to the lawsuit this afternoon, and has now agreed to replace Kindles that have been cracked by the cover. But what about getting reimbursed for those subscriptions? Let’s get my three bucks back. Who’s with me?

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About michaelhastings

Journalist
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