/ Technology

Frozen Amazon Kindle screens – reading between the lines

Amazon Kindle

Kindle ebook readers are incredibly popular and regularly do well in Which? lab tests, but some users have reported reliability problems. Frozen screens are most common – has your Kindle’s screen broken?

The new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite goes on sale tomorrow, and unless you’ve pre-ordered, you’ll be lucky to get your hands on one before the end of November. And it’s not just the new model that’s proving popular – last Christmas more than 1.3m ebook readers were bought as presents, 92% of which were Kindles.

Aside from this week’s gaff where Amazon wiped ebooks from a Norwegian woman’s Kindle, it’s easy to understand why they’re so popular. You can carry thousands of books on a device that weighs little more than a mobile phone, and all instantly downloaded from Amazon’s store.

‘All is not well in the land of Kindle’

Kindles also do very well in our lab tests, but a number of owners have told us that their devices haven’t been as reliable as they’d expect. Willispi228’s user review features one of the most common complaints – a frozen screen:

‘After first being very impressed and delighted, I have now to report that all is not well in the land of Kindle. My Kindle screen developed a problem all on its own – switched it off one night and when I picked it up the next day, the screen had partially frozen.’

Amazon provides a 12 month manufacturer’s warranty and will replace or repair faulty Kindles during this period. However, some owners told us that their problems began shortly after their warranties had run out. Although Amazon usually agrees to replace these faulty devices, owners have typically had to pay £40-50 for a refurbished model. And these ‘new’ devices only come with a three month warranty. David Bradshaw’s Kindle user review picks up on this:

‘I am now on my third one of these. On the first one, the screen failed within the warranty period and it was replaced for free. The second one failed outside the warranty, and I was charged a “special fee” of £50 for the replacement.’

What about the Sale of Goods Act?

So, although these Kindles are outside of their warranty period, can’t you just rely on the Sale of Goods Act (SOGA)?

In April this year our Computing team investigated the case of Anne. Her son’s Kindle had failed just three weeks after the warranty had expired. Since you’d expect an e-reader to last more than 13 months, we suggested Anne made a claim to the retailer (in this case the retailer was Amazon itself) under SOGA, which should entitle her to a repair at no extra cost.

Instead, Amazon offered Anne a replacement Kindle, but asked for £40 to cover the use her son had had out of the old one. Amazon is entitled to do this.

We’re investigating these alleged reliability issues and have conducted a major survey of over 1,200 Kindle owners to find out how widespread this problem might be – we’ll report our findings in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have experienced any problems with your Kindle please share your stories below, including how Amazon dealt with your complaint.

G-star says:
24 October 2012

My first kindle froze and was replaced by Curry’s with no questions asked. The replacement has just gone the same way and is out of warranty. I’m just about to take them on to get a replacement.

Andy says:
27 October 2012

Very interested to know how old, and what the outcome was. Sale of Goods act says it is the shop not supplier who you have the contract with. The watchdog article, and millions of hits for sillier failures suggest inherent fault. Threaten trading standards

Helen says:
24 October 2012

My kindle has frozen and I’ve tried everything. I had just bought an expensive cover for it

Anastasia says:
26 October 2012

I have one of the first Kindle’s with the keyboard on the front which I have had for nearly 2 years now. After about 8 months I started to have problems with it. When I switched it on it would not be at the place in the book where I had switched it off but was reverting to the home screen and the only way to get back to my place in the book was to scroll through all the pages! I tried everything,. Then it started to freeze, wouldn’t charge was just getting worse – I too had bought one of the expensive leather covers that slots into the side of the device. I spent most of one Sunday afternoon on the computer reading through forums etc and one of the big problems seems to be the cover. I took the cover off and have not had any problems since.

I had the same problem but mentioned it to a friend who said a friend of his had got a replacement. A simple google search showed that it was a big problem and that Amazon would charge £40 for a new one outside of warranty. Armed with this knowledge and the fact mine was only just out of warranty and had been sitting on my bedside table i finally managed to haggle them down to £25.I’m really not happy about how they are dealing with this.

Mine broke too and was replaced but that broke out of warranty. I’d prefer a refund with the cost of use I got out of it deducted. No point paying for another that will break in a few months.

Forgot to mention that my research also suggested the replacement models are actually refurbished rather than new models. I asked the customer service team to confirm whether this was the case (by email) but they could neither confirm or deny whether they were sending a new or refurbished one

They definitely are refurbished ones.That just means it is less time till it freezes again so I don’t think it is worth it.

It is standard practice to supply refurbished tablets, computers, cameras and other expensive gadgets. If companies provided a new one each time, the purchase price would have to go up. It’s more efficient to provide a replacement than repair and return the same item.

Paul Osborne says:
24 October 2012

My wife’s kindle froze during the warranty period. They replaced it with a refurbished kindle … But dudn’t tell us it was not new. The replacement then also failed, within 6 months, but outside the original warranty period. Amazon now want £40 to replace this. If we cough up (unlikely) this would be the third kindle in 15 months.

Cathy says:
24 October 2012

My screen froze @15 months. John Lewis said it was out of warranty and to contact amazon since they knew there had been similar cases. It was linked to a friends account so wud only speak to her. Only offered 20% discount off a new one. Decided after a bit to go for this and bought cheapest available instead of 3G I’d had. They wanted 1st one returned and arranged pick up. This did not happen. I phoned again and pick up was rearranged and it was collected. Only this week my friends ‘ credit card was charged the discount with email from amazon saying item hadn’t been returned. When contacted by phone. They confirmed it had been returned and refund would be received in2-3 days. I reminded them of the whole story and was eventually told £5 credit added to account. Big wow.

I used to find Amazon good to deal with but where the Kindle is concerned they are falling far short of reasonable expectations.

I bought a 3G Kindle on 4th March 2011. It froze on 18th June. I have to say that I was impressed with the speed with which both the original and the replacement were delivered. I have had no further problems. My husband bought one on 15th March 2011 and his has been trouble free. (Hope I am not tempting fate here.)

The BBC Watchdog programme featured Amazon Kindles this evening and a professor suggested that static electricity could be implicated in causing Kindles to freeze. Apparently, something as simple as removing a jumper and putting it on top of a Kindle could cause a problem. Might be worth bearing this in mind.

I love my Kindle and have given a lot of my paper books to charity shops. If or when I need to replace it I think I will go for a relatively cheap model rather than top of the range. Although I have used the 3G facility I could easily manage without it. Bearing in mind the advances in modern technology perhaps we need to get used to the disposable aspects of these devices. Many of us change our phones very frequently. At least our books will still be in our Amazon accounts. I access mine on four different devices. Having said all that I do feel it reasonable to expect three years use – and hopefully more.

dean backhouse says:
25 October 2012

Kindle failed a week after warranty lapsed,they suggested that I buy a new one and as a gesture of goodwill they would offer a 20% discount.I had the keyboard 3 g model costing about £160 this didn’t represent good value for a year so I told them to poke their 20%.
Will be getting back on to them again.

This suggests Amazon do not expect their Kindles to last much longer than a year. In which case not good value for money.

Sally says:
26 October 2012

I had exactly the same thing happen to me. It was my 4th kindle as 3 previous ones had all failed under warranty!! This 4th kindle developed a partially frozen screen 2 weeks after the warranty expired. I asked them if there was any way of getting it repaired either by Amazon or if they could suggest someone else. They said they didn’t do repairs, free or otherwise, but they offered me 20% off a new basic model. As I had had had the 3g keyboard version and they wouldn’t offer me any discount off that, I did nothing further and have now bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab instead and put my kindle reader account on that. Having seen the Watchdog programme, I am now going to go back to them and see if they will do anything to help me with my 3g Kindle keyboard, as it is lighter and easier to use than the Samsung, and I do feel quite cheated that it only lasted a year and 2 weeks when it cost well over £100!!

Lisa says:
25 October 2012

My kindle froze 5 days before the year warranty, however as I was on holiday by the time I came home, the warranty had expired. Amazon offered me 20% off a new one, certainly won’t be taking up this offer for the incident to happen again. Further to the watchdog programme yesterday their is a flaw in the making of kindles which needs to be rectified!

The Kindle is a complete fraudulant way of Amazon making money, by ripping off loyal customers. I will certainly not be buying or recommending anyone to purchase a kindle!!

Mine froze whilst I was on holiday and I too waited until I returned home before contacting Amazon. However, I was told that Amazon would have delivered a replacement to my holiday address. However, I was in the UK. Not sure if this would have applied if I had been abroad. It is a pity that Amazon seems to be ruining its reputation over this product. I have always been so pleased in my dealings with them and therefore confident that I would not be let down. I do hope that they sort this mess out.

I too had a Kindle, but mine didn’t freeze. Instead, the WiFi simply stopped working. I couldn’t get it to detect any networks at all, which meant I couldn’t download any new books! I tried everything the technical support suggested, including a hard reset, but to no avail.

In the end, Amazon were good and offered to replace it for free (I’d only had it for a few weeks). They sent me a box to send mine back and got the free one to me within 2 days. I was impressed with its customer service, but at the same time, it was disappointing to have the Kindle go wrong in the first place.

Alex says:
25 October 2012

I bought a Kindle in Sept 2011 (wifi keyboard version) – and yesterday the top half of my screen ‘broke’ and is covered in lines/blocks. I phoned Amazon and they offered me 20% off the new kindle (£55.20) with a full new 12 month warranty. I haven’t dropped it, got any liquids on it at all or carried it around in a handbag (it has stayed on my nightstand!) and I keep it in a case so I know that I haven’t damaged it. They recommended buying the extended warranty! Which costs about £24! I just don’t think that something that has been well cared for should break after only 13 months.

Janet Mansfield says:
26 October 2012

We bought a kindle for my husband and just after the warranty ran out the screen cracked. My daughter was using it on holiday and she said she just put it on the table and when she picked it up again the screen had cracked. I says nothing about not taking it out in the sunshine. It is also kept in a case and very carefully looked after. We got ours from Tesco and as it was out of the warranty we just put it to one side and had decided to het my husband a new one for Christmas. I will try Tesco and see what they have to say but I don’t hold out much hope after looking at the rest of these comments.

John Carr says:
25 October 2012

Bought my Kindle last December and used regularly, without any problems, until it froze early into a holiday in July. Very frustrating as had loaded heavily with holiday reading material and couldn’t locate any Kindle dealers in Cyprus that could help. The Kindle was truly frozen and wondered if the problem had been the result of moving regularly from high outside temperatures to air-conditioned accommodation (and vice-versa)?. Thought I had allowed the Kindle to “re-climatise” each time before using in the different temperature conditions .
Tried to re-charge it six days later (when the battery had drained totally?) and it thankfully sprung back into life!..Noticed some of the other commentators mentioned they had problems on holidays. Co-incidence?. Will monitor my Kindle closely especially before warranty expires………..

There are 2 kinds of freezes, 1 of them can be fixed by a ‘hard reset’ but the other is permanent and can not be fixed. The permanent one is apparently caused by a very small amount of static.

It seems to be a poor design in that the kindle isn’t protected against static sufficiently.

Problems happening on holiday could be caused by storing the kindle in a suitcase with clothing that has picked up static. That is enough to permanently freeze it according to some testing shown on watchdog.

Andy says:
26 October 2012

Ive had a total of 3 kindle 3rd gen kb die with the screen problems.
First time after 4 months, accepted a new one, second time got my money back , bought a new one with a new warranty, bought the extended warranty . It died within 3 months got my money back. Bought a iPad. So whilst I know about consumer law and could argue that this should have at least 3 years warranty , it is difficult to argue with a website.
Decided to see if he new products overcame the obvious design flaw. I’ve worked in computer design , development , manufacturing for 30 years. This product should have an annualised failure rate of less than 1/2 %. Wonder why Amazon can not protect against the static problem , all e ink readers suffer the issue. Guess if you have a way to discharge the static you will not be able to charge up the display thus work.

I bought a kindle for my son’s christmas present in 2012
This problem has hit us not once but 4 times!!
The first time was within 12 months, the second was within
5 months and I was charged £40 to replace it, the 3rd within 10 days!!
Again another charge of £40! The 4th is still working…
But for how long it is nearly 5 months!!
Amazon have been poor at explaining why this happens..
And as for the replacement charge terrible!!
Amazon need to sort this out.. The downloading of books cost enough!!
Is it time to look at others? Or go back to the real book!!!?????

unhappy consumer says:
26 October 2012

Mine was purchased in late June for my birthday in July. The screen froze whilst on holiday in July the following year and when I returned I had noticed the manufacturers 12 month warranty had just expired (some 3 weeks earlier) I called Amazon for advice and was told that they no longer took £50 payment for a replacement, and that I would only be offered 20% discount on a new model – my wife had paid £150 and, as stated in the aforementioned SOGA, I was bitterly disappointed as I expecting such a pricey piece of technology to last beyond 13 months. Frustrated, I am refusing to buy another kindle and am resigned to reading all of my purchased books using my phone and the free kindle app – a horrible way to be treated by a multi-million pound company!

Andy says:
26 October 2012

Why not approach the trading standards office. Quote Which, quote Watchdog , sog , they should do something else what is the purpose.
Twitter seems a powerful tool maybe do that as well.

My 3G Keyboard Kindle was bought in Jan’11. It first froze on its first trip abroad in Sept ’11 but worked after a hard re-set. In the past few weeks it has started to repeatedly freeze and hard re-sets have only worked for a short time. I have loved my Kindle and used it daily with good care. At first I thought I had a “Friday afternoon” one and then discovered this was a known fault. I spoke to Amazon they offered me a £69 version for £51. The internet on that day was showing the keyboard version as unavailable. I am limping a long, don’t want a £69 version. Hoping what seems to be the mounting pressure on this will lead to a better solution for all. Had it not been for this problem I would have ordered the new lit version but am reluctant to do so at present. It seems that Amazon are not being honest about the fault which is what I dislike the most.

D G Frost says:
26 October 2012

From all the comments received, I think the Sony Reader is a much better proposition. I purchased a Sony Reader PRS 505 about three years ago, which I use on a very regular basis, particularly as I am retired and download a lot of literature from the Gutenberg project.

I am pleased to state that I have never had any problems of the manner described nor of a different kind, except for the one occasion last year when I accidentally dropped my Reader and it apparently landed on its top corner, which caused the toggle that operates the starting and closing of the device, to be damaged and inoperative. I had dropped it on several occasions but landing on its flat surface had never affected it.Notwithstanding that Sony does not market their Readers here in Malaysia (I managed to import mine from the USA), they very promptly repaired it for the equivalent of £40 with my profuse thanks.