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!).
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:
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.