Lines: the end of the line for Kindle

2 Feb

My broken Kindle

Just the other week I blogged about my holiday reading list. I read a lot, and I love to read. Previously I’d been very attached to actual physical books, but just over a year ago I decided to make the leap to using an ebook reader. I parted with £150 for an Amazon Kindle, and £50 for a cover to keep it safe.

The phrase ‘just over a year ago’ in the paragraph above will be crucial to the plot in this particular story.

Moving nearer to the present day, and last night I was reading, when suddenly the screen froze. It looked odd, like the top 90% of the screen had a bit of the screensaver to the left and then some vertical lines, but otherwise blank – and the bottom 10% of the screen had an indication of pages as normal (but only 9 pages!).

Close-up of broken Kindle Screen

The Kindle has sometimes frozen before, and so I know how to reset it. I did that, and it made no difference. I put it on charge overnight in case that would help and decided to tackle it this evening.

But no amount of resetting, or following the instructions on the Amazon support website, helped. I Googled for ‘Kindle Screen Lines’ to get answers to the problem and found lots and lots of forums with people discussing the same issue, including on Amazon’s own forums. I was very clearly not alone – it seems to be a widespread and common problem.

Some people had managed to resolve it with a reset, some had called Amazon support and been sent a replacement device – but many others were told they were just out of warranty, so would have to buy a new device (at a discount).

And, when I called Amazon support tonight, that’s what happened to me – because I bought it just over a year ago.

In the conversation he tried to argue with my assertion that it seemed to be a common problem. At first denying he’d heard of it, and demanding that I showed him the web page that referenced the issue – but then eventually saying ok, it is a problem, but it happens to hardly any Kindles. I asked him what ‘hardly any’ meant – and he said in his experience on the helpdesk it was ‘only 1 in 100′. Amazon doesn’t often release figures of how many Kindles it has sold, except on the 15th Dec 2011 it announced it had sold more than 1 million a week for the previous 3 weeks. So from just the 3 million sold in that 3 week period, their tech support representative estimated that 300,000 will fail! This reinforces the scale of the problem that I’ve seen in the forums.

So. I now have the choice of buying another Kindle (at a discount) – but then knowing it’s likely to fail again in a year or so. Or I lose all the books I bought – and I’d built up quite a reading list of books I was working through.

Conclusions and Consumer Warning

Kindles are not built to last. They seem to be failing on a large scale after between 12-18 months. If you’re buying one, consider it as a purchase that will only last as long as the warranty period – 1 year. You’ll have to buy another after that (and remember that’s on top of the cost of the actual books!)

The books you buy for your Kindle, will ONLY work on a Kindle. You can NEVER switch to another e-reader device without losing all your books, that you have paid for.

That’s right. By trying to be one of the people that pays for the content they consume, you are going to be restricted and punished for your ethical behaviour. If you pay for content, it seems you’re the fool. The ones who download it illegally can use it on any device they like.

That’s called Digital Rights Management, and it stomps all over your consumer rights. Can you imagine if CDs released by Sony would only play in Sony CD players? Competition regulators would not have allowed that, so why do we accept it with ebooks? It’s time to change.

UPDATE: Because of some of the issues I’ve highlighted here, there is a growing community of users that have developed software tools to allow removing DRM from ebooks. This should only be done on your own ebooks you have bought, and you should not then distribute them to others outside the terms of your agreement with the publisher or retailer. It gives you back your rights to use books you have bought as you wish, eg transfering Amazon ebooks to a Sony e-Reader or Nook if you decide to change hardware.

…and Finally… 101 Uses for a Dead Kindle

Anyone got any uses for a dead Kindle? I’ve started a Flickr set to try to gather 101 of them at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73311005@N06/sets/72157629147039107

I’ll be adding to it as I find uses for my newly dead Kindle. If you have any photos to share of uses you have found for your dead kindle, add them to Flickr with the tag ‘deadkindle’, or email them to me at the address on the contact page for this blog, and I’ll upload them.

Can I get to the full 101? Watch this space, and follow me on twitter: @steveparks and the hashtag #deadkindle.

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31 Responses to “Lines: the end of the line for Kindle”

  1. Imali 07/02/2012 at 18:11 #

    Read recently a perfect product lasts just over a year.

  2. Diane 03/08/2012 at 13:43 #

    My Kindle has just gone the same way after 18 months. Amazon admitted that mine as a mechanical fault but all they offered was 20% off a new upgraded version. I am absolutely DISGUSTED with Amazon. BUYERS BEWARE.

    • Matthew wood 18/10/2012 at 18:36 #

      I have just gone through this and fallen for the reduced new purchase how can we expose this obvious issue any idea ???? I am disgusted at what I thought was a excellent product and I thought the service to date was second to none

  3. griffinwords 26/10/2012 at 12:51 #

    It isn’t true that you can’t read your Kindle purchases on any other device. Amazon makes free Kindle reader apps for Mac and PC, and if you want a portable device similar to the Kindle, you can get an iPad, install the Kindle Reader app, and your Amazon-purchased library can be moved to that.

    • steveparks 26/10/2012 at 13:58 #

      Curiously enough that’s almost word for word the text that Amazon staff read from their screens to me, or pasted into their emails to me.

      But let’s be clear. You _cannot_ read your amazon purchases on any otherebook device.
      The iPad is _not_ the same – it’s backlit, and therefore puts a strain on your eyes when readng for long periods. It is not an ebook reader. The whole idea of an e-reader is it’s closer to the experience of reading a book, because of the electronic ink approach.

      Amazon DRM specifically stops you from using e-readers from other manufacturers such as Sony etc.

  4. Jackie 04/11/2012 at 19:37 #

    My kindle is 2 yrs old today I turned it on to find lines both across the screen and down the screen I emailed Amazon for advice they suggested I speak to them on the phone ,they called me moments later and I was told a brand new kindle will be in the post ASAP , just received email will receive new kindle within 3 days excellent service could not ask for more , totally free cannot understand why some people have been charged for a replacement and mine was a year out of warranty.

    • steveparks 05/11/2012 at 09:16 #

      Interesting! I wonder if their sudden change in policy is at all related to the recent call I had from the BBC’s Watchdog programme, saying they were investigating thiskind of problem with the Kindle, and had found it to be a big problem that Amazon was refusing to address?
      I’ll now contact Amazon to see if they’ll make amends in my case, and I suggest others do the same.
      And if you land on this web page because your Kindle has just broken – don’t take no for an answer from amazon, quote Jackie’s example to them to make sure you get a free replacement.
      This is clearly a manufacturing defect, and therefore shoud be covered for up to 2 years under European consumer legislation.

      • carla 06/11/2012 at 12:54 #

        Thanks guys, I have the same problem. Also thought it is crazy that such a device should be seen as a consumable item

  5. Joanne Whitehead 09/11/2012 at 20:43 #

    The very same happened to my Kindle yesterday. I bought it just over 16 months ago and haven’t used it much as I’m always too busy or too tired to read as much as I should. I emailed Amazon about it and they asked me to speak with them on the phone. They called me so I didn’t have to pay for the call. They first offered me an upgrade at £50..then reduced it to £30. I said I wasn’t prepared to pay them another penny as I didn’t feel the Kindle had been used for more than a few times by me. I was told that my enquiry would be forwarded onto a special team who would inform me of the outcome within 12 hours. The outcome is that they are sending me a new replacement Kindle. So I can’t really complain. My only worry is how long this one will last for!!??

  6. bel 20/11/2012 at 03:49 #

    I got my first Kindle just over 18 months ago and it broke just before the end of the warranty period. Lines on the screen etc and a complete freeze. Amazon replaced it immediately. Sadly, straight after I’d downloaded a software update a month ago my new Kindle totally froze and I’ve not been able to reboot since. Amazon offered me a replacement at a discount which I wasn’t too happy about given it was their update that caused the problem. I was told that replacement Kindles only get 3 mth warranties (which doesn’t show much faith in their longevity) but that I could choose between a heavily discounted wi-fi (GBP25) or a similarly discounted Touch (GBP65). I contacted them again yesterday to order the Touch and they advised that they’d made a mistake and could only offer me the wifi at more than the original quoted price (GBP40).
    At that point I dropped off the chat accidentally and had to try again later. On my second call I eventually got a seemingly more senior person on the line (after asking to speak to management) and, once she’d looked into the problems and the 3 prior calls I had made, offered to replace it free of charge. So it all worked out in the end but took a lot of hassle to get there. From an environmental perspective it’s very wasteful and the time and effort spent in getting it sorted each time has been pretty frustrating. If it happens again I’m going back to paperbacks!

  7. Jorge 07/01/2013 at 01:06 #

    It happened with me the same 2 days ago:/ I take care of my kindle and never fall down or something similar. It has more than one year (one and a half I think) so it’s not in the warranty and amazon only offers me a discount in refurbished kindles. Even more, they don’t have the plain basic version with this discount, just the wifi+3g version that is more expensive. So by a 2nd hand Kindle I would pay more than a new one (just with wifi). Taken into consideration the amount of people with this problem I think it’s a bad business as probably the refurbished one will have the lines also sooner or later…
    I’m really pissed with this situation! I supposed Amazon was a trustful and reliable company, how can they sell products with this percentage of defect/failure??

  8. Roger 23/03/2013 at 09:18 #

    Thank you I followed your advice, and my 15 month old kindle was replaced. They did try to get me to pay for a new one but I quoted your advice and after a few minutes of deliberation they agreed to do this as a “one time offer”

  9. Donald 19/04/2013 at 17:17 #

    Same problems with my Kindle screen freezing as others have had. Called Amazon yesterday and was offered a replacement for £47.20. After reading your article I took your advice and called Amazon again insisting I would like a replacement free of charge as per the Sale of Goods Act, that this was a much more common problem than Amazon would admit and how annoyed I was that this device had lasted only 16 months. The person I spoke to was very pleasant and I got the impression he completely agreed with what I was saying but could no say that. Upshot is, I am getting a replacement free of charge and I’ll have my already paid for books loaded. I would urge all other complainants to take your advice and call back. Thanks for your advice.

    P.S. Despite being angry at the situation I find that being pleasant to the person at the other end of the line goes a long way to resolving the problem.

  10. s hurford 10/05/2013 at 13:00 #

    Same problem for me. Also told that that had never had this problem before which is rubbish and took delight in telling them that. Love my kindle but hate the fact its not built to last and they seem to think the only answer is purchasing another machine. Now have to decide as to whether I buy another machine or do i go back to paper backs and lose my history

  11. Lindy - Perth. Australia 22/05/2013 at 15:59 #

    Hi
    I am writing this just to say thank you so much for your VERY helpful article and comment stream.
    I had the same issue with vertical lines….. I googled the problem and came upon your article.

    My first call to Amazon was not successful.. the lady on the phone insisted that I was outside my warrantee period (I’ve had my Kindle for about 17 months…. but I have bought several others for family members) and therefore would have to pay $150 to replace it.

    I persevered , insisting that I speak to management or that the matter be escalated.
    I received an email the next business day which invited me to chat or phone.
    They called me back immediately and I had a similar conversation… and it took several reiterations of how unhappy I was and that I did not think it was right as I was being forced to use their product because of the DRM, and that any savings I might have made on books purchased through amazon were now eliminated as my cost of readers was astronomical etc etc.

    All of a sudden the lady went and sought advice and then I was offered a replacement kindle valued at $89. I explained that my kindle had 3G and wireless and that the replacement cost was now ($199)..the Kindle paperwhite (as my Kindle Keyboard version has been superceded).

    After another brief discussion , while I held the line, they created a purchase credit on my Amazon account for $199. I placed the order and it is being shipped.
    Value $212 incl shipping. ($12 cost to me for shipping)

    Thank you Amazon (eventually). And thank you Steve and other respondents to your article.

  12. Ashley 29/05/2013 at 11:42 #

    Same thing happend to me 2x with 2 separate kindles around the 14 month mark. Amazon customer service could have cared less. They offered me replacement devices that were within a few $ of buying new. I think I’ll go with the App on the ipad mini. At least it wont fail after a year! I enjoy the convenience of e-books, but the quality of the kindle is unbearable. Plenty of other, more high-tech devices last much longer than a year – cell phones, cameras, laptops, ipads, etc. I think they are designed to self destruct after 12+ months.

  13. Jozsef 02/06/2013 at 19:29 #

    Hi, I am from Hungary and I had already had the same problem earlier before the end of warranty, at that time I got a replacement. Now this replacement device also went bust, no reset tricks on earth would work to bring it back to life. I have a friend who already got a discounted replacement after his Kindle 3 froze permanently after his warranty expired, a few weeks ago his replacement also failed.. incredible.. I will try to get a free replacement now from Amazon, if they won’t agree, I will buy another brand e-reader, no way I will pay for another Kindle after all my and my friend’s experiences (four dead Kindle between us).

  14. Cosmin 03/06/2013 at 16:02 #

    This is just outrageous. My second Kindle just died, having this lines problem. The first one died after only 4 month because its cursor kept going down. It was replaced at that time, but now it is outside warranty. It’s nice to read ebooks on a portable device. Too bad this device is badly (or malicious ?) designed…

  15. Edna 10/08/2013 at 05:53 #

    Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board and I in finding It really useful & it helped
    me out much. I am hoping to provide one thing back and help others such as
    you helped me.

  16. Hu 16/08/2013 at 15:52 #

    I got the same problem with my Kindle 3G keyboard. In fact I did not use it very often, and even bought a leather cover for it. Then one day, two or three lines appeared on top of screen, after some time, it is becoming worse and worse, getting more and more lines. It seems the shell life for its screen is short. I contacted Amazon, they only want me to buy a new one with discounted price, but I have lost confidence for their products. If I buy a new one, it will put me in the same situation after warranty, i.e, I’m afraid it will have lines again. I decide to give up kindle. Sorry, I’m not the lucky customer who can enjoy their kindle, I have to say I do not have that luck, sorry.

  17. Monica 15/09/2013 at 12:17 #

    Elaine

    I too have suffered as per all the previous posts and am really cross with Amazon. My Kindle 3G and authentic Amazon case cost me good money and now I find myself just out of warranty and no response from Amazon apart from a discount offer. I will investigate another e device but not Kindle as there seems to be so many issues with it.

  18. Jim 24/09/2013 at 17:11 #

    Well, my wife brought me her Kindle DX (3 years old) which now has the same issue. It was just sitting in the back of her car for a few days and now this? My call to Amazon was basically a WASTE OF TIME – I got the same response as most – We can offer you a discount on a replacement. I was an early adopter and spent $389.99 on this device, I’m certainly not going to send Amazon more money. Since she also has an IPAD we’ll just download the Kindle app and go that route to recover all the books we’ve downloaded to the Kindle.

    Funny, this Kindle cost almost as much as the IPAD I bought for her. Guess which one is still working…

    Please consider boycotting Amazon, at least their reader devices.

  19. http://www.planethackteam.com/ 25/10/2013 at 01:56 #

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    I’d certainly donate to this fantastic blog!
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  20. Mario 11/12/2013 at 08:56 #

    Same problem with my Kindle after 14 months, same Amazon customer care response (minor discount on similar model). Interesting to see how many people have the same problem which seems to be related to component weakness in the Kindle. I didnt find much on the internet why we got these lines so I opted to open my Kindle and check. I found a tiny hairlike crack on the back of the screen, only visible from inside and no damage on outside, my Kindle didn’t drop nor was handled by toddlers or animals….So either this screen is extremely sensitive or the assembly of the product needs to improve to protect this part better – or both. Although I like the product I will not purchase another Kindle due to this quality issue. Anyone else had a look inside?

  21. Mario 11/12/2013 at 08:56 #

    Same problem with my Kindle after 14 months, same Amazon customer care response (minor discount on similar model). Interesting to see how many people have the same problem which seems to be related to component weakness in the Kindle. I didnt find much on the internet why we got these lines so I opted to open my Kindle and check. I found a tiny hairlike crack on the back of the screen, only visible from inside and no damage on outside, my Kindle didn’t drop nor was handled by toddlers or animals….So either this screen is extremely sensitive or the assembly of the product needs to improve to protect this part better – or both. Although I like the product I will not purchase another Kindle due to this quality issue. Anyone else had a look inside?

  22. Alex 05/01/2014 at 18:03 #

    Well, after reading this excellent blog about the issue, I too have a successful outcome to report!

    After buying my partner a Kindle Touch Wifi last year in July, 18 months of light use and a padded case, the screen decided to pack up with the tell tale lines along the screen.

    Initially she called them as it was registered in her name, but she, like many others have experienced, she was attended by a rather incompetent customer serivces agent and basically got no further than being offered a refurbished earlier model Kindle at a “special reduced price”, ahem! How a refurbished second hand item being offered at a price as a replacement for a poorly constructed piece of electronica is ‘special’ I have no idea. It should be free! If in this modern technological age, large multinational coprorations can’t produce a long lasting piece of tech then there is something drastically wrong with thier R&D and business models!

    So I took it upon myself to handle the issue and get a satisfactory resolution. I requested an immediate call back using Amazon’s Kindle customer services support page and I spoke to a very hepful and understanding lady called Christine (if this is her real name or not I have no idea!). We went through all the information submission and explanation of why it was my partners account but me doing the negotiations blah blah blah. It then got to the issue of the Kindle exceeding warranty timeframe (12 months) and a replacement refurbed item. I stopped her before she had finished her spiel and explained that this was not going to be satifactory.
    Although the item was purchased through Amazon.com and not .co.uk, I argued my European consmer rights and the Sale of Goods Act (1979) and how this superceed the American consumer rights even though it was purchased through Amazon.com. As my partner is a fairly regular purchaser of ebooks, this held her in good stead and I managed to get a free replacement like for like Kindle with all postage costs paid for. This was after Christine had checked with her Senior Manager and they went through all the account details and purchase history.

    So, one happy little lady (therefore a happy life), a happy man and a success story for Amazon Customer Services. It just shows you it is all about perseverence, speaking to the RIGHT customer services agent and being diplomatic but firm in your demands and most importantly, don’t take no for an answer!

    I hope this helps a few others in their plight of a faulty Kindle.

  23. Rebecca 31/01/2014 at 12:39 #

    The same things has happened to me after 2. years an a half. After reading comments online, I feel pretty lucky that mine survived that long. I have decided not buy a new kindle because I don’t want to invest so much money and go through the same experience in a year, As I don’t live in the US , I also have tp pay for international shipment which is quite expensive. I am disgusted by Amazon and I think that everyone should know that’s it;s not worth buying a kindle!

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  25. Ali 10/05/2014 at 00:09 #

    Hi there guys,

    My parents bought me my first Kindle for Christmas as I’ve always been an extremely avid reader. Six months down the road the bottom half of the screen simply refused to show anything but the last screen saver picture. I phoned amazon and they were very helpful, and asked me to return the device to them and that a new one was on its way to me in the post, first class.

    The next day (much to my delight) my new Kindle arrived, all my books were saved on my Amazon account (all 170) of them and all I had to do was (admittedly very tediously) go to my archived items and individually click all the books to restore them back on my Kindle.

    That Kindle lasted nearly two years before it too developed the same problem. I was devastated. This time there was a total of 487 books that I had bought from Amazon on the device. I phoned Amazon again and got hold of a very helpful, but somewhat condescending man who asked me all the usual questions “Had I dropped it?” “Did I spill anything on it?” “Is it fully charged?” “Have you tried resetting it?” I assured him that, no I hadn’t dropped it, or spilled anything on it and that I take extreme care of my Kindle (I’m a tad OCD when it comes to books). I told him I had reset it, charged it to the max and reset it again, all to no avail. He then proceeded to tell me that it was broken and that I could have 20% off my next one, he continued on to give me information on each device they sell and the price with my 20% off.

    I asked him if there was another way I could read my Kindle books and discovered I could download an app for my laptop, phone or tablet. I told him I would think about it and consider my options. Once, I could overlook, but twice?

    I have since looked into Kindles and discovered that many people have trouble with the Kindle’s screen dying on them. I have realized how tied I am to Amazon as I cannot access my books without using either their app or buying another one of their devices.

    Please, be warned.

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  27. Anonymous 12/06/2014 at 21:43 #

    Hello everyone. I work at Amazon, in the Kindle department in fact. I’d like to shed some light on some things (anonymously, as I am not an authorized company representative I obviously do not have permission to speak on behalf of the company, nor do my views reflect those of the company necessarily). First I’d like to start by talking about statistics. Now as mentioned before, in 2011 we were indeed selling over a million kindles a week. If we were to use the same statistical models that you used to determine the kindles were defective on a large scale, and also incorporate the 1:100 number provided by that specific associate, this would mean that we have sold around 1.7 billion kindles worldwide, and that 17 million of them came out defective.

    I don’t know about you, but just as a person who likes numbers and commerce, if a company put out 17,000,000 defective products in 3 years don’t you think people would stop buying them? That there would be national media attention about the scam Amazon is pulling? But there isn’t, and thats not due to a media cover-up. Thats because its totally and wildly inaccurate information. The problem with what I just did has to do with sampling sizes. When you look online for a problem related to your kindle that you are having, you are going to see only results from other people who had this issue. And there are going to be THOUSANDS of people who are upset, outraged even, over the fact they bought this kindle that went defective after a short time. You’re going to see this and make the assumption that its a common problem. But keep in mind that 1, the information you searched for was for the defective kindle and therefore the information you find will be that and that alone, thousands of results of people who had issues, and 2, even if 100,000 people received defective kindles over the course of the past 5 years, this is still less than .001% of the people who own a kindle.

    One easy example of this, is the fact that I spend all day dealing with defective kindles, missing content, wifi connectivity issues, screen and battery issues, accidental purchases, etc. And if I were to use this to base my opinion, than I would assume that 100% of kindles are defective, since every person I talk to every single day has an issue with their kindle. But I am smart enough to realize that of course everyone I speak to has a kindle problem; thats why they are calling me. And similarly, when you look online to find a problem, you are going to see a lot of people with problems. Don’t let this fool you into thinking all kindle are defective, or even a significant portion.

    Next, I’d like to say I love this company, and I believe in what Jeff Bezos stands for. We as customer service associates have one job, and that is to ensure that your experience with Amazon is a positive one. In fact, I believe in this so much I am taking a good hour out of my personal time to come in here and defend the company I work for. However, I hope people understand that a business cannot just give things away for free. I can tell you though what is encouraged by our managers at every level, and that is to do whatever it takes, within very, VERY generous policy guidelines to ensure a good experience with Amazon. There are so many things I keep typing here to elaborate, but I just cannot bring myself to say about this subject due to it being internal information… but trust me. Your satisfaction is REALLY our #1 priority, within reason. I wouldn’t be here to advocate that if I didn’t believe it. That is not fluff talk, or a sales pitch for Amazon, that is a true statement, and I’ll leave it at that.

    As for Kindles being cheap or poorly made, without getting specific I can tell you there are thousands and thousands of customers who still use the first and second generation kindles, released over half a decade ago. No electronic device is going to last forever, we all know this. I can understand being upset if your kindle quits on the 366th day. I know I’d be furious. But I can assure you this is not intentional, and it does not have anything to do with the quality of the product. Manufacturers nowadays use the Lean Six Sigma system (go look that up) and our manufacturers do as well.

    A bit about me, I hate corporations. I think they are all monsters, using every trick in the book to squeeze every penny from America. We are not people, we are consumers to them, dollar signs. Despite my views, I am here defending this company because it is the first one I’ve seen in my life that legitimately cares more about its customers than its shareholders. I almost couldn’t believe it, but the evidence doesn’t lie. Once again I’m not going to go into much detail as to why I believe now, as it is inside information, but an external example of this, two examples actually: from the time Amazon was founded in 1994, to 2003, it lost money annually. By 2000 Amazon was losing a billion dollars a year. When a new VP gets fired after two weeks during a board meeting because he wouldn’t stop panicking about the losses, that shows me the conviction of the founder to helping people, not making money.

    My second example is books. When Amazon first started selling books, prices were (and still are, actually) set by the publisher. This price was 13.99 for a hard cover book. Most companies mark up prices from here, selling these hard cover books for some sort of profit. I’m sure you’ve seen the price of a hard cover book before, so you have a better estimation of the actual price off the shelf. However, Amazon sold these books at $6.99, nearly a 50% loss. Some people were upset, mainly other retailers, because Amazon was undercutting them. Its a dirty business trick. But lets take a step back and look at who this benefited. It wasn’t Amazon, or the publishers, or shareholders, or other retailers. It helped you. You have been the primary focus of this business since day one, and that is why I support this company, so much so that I wrote this today to help educate people about this truly amazing company.

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