/ 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.

P Tomlinson says:
6 June 2013

Purchased 1st kindle keyboard Dec 2010 and screen froze Aug 2012 (8 mtgs after warranty expired). I called Amazon for advice really, as I had tried everything detailed on website. they immediately offered me a replacement kindle. I was delighted as I had not expected this. 9 mtgs later my 2nd kindle has also frozen. I’ve just spoken to Amazon again and was told the 2nd kindle was issued under exceptional circumstances. They said there was no warranty covering my 2nd kindle as the original kindle’s warranty had expired. I pointed out that this had not been made clear to me at the time and I was not not prepared to accept that they were refusing to replace or refund. I also explained that I wanted to speak to a manager and said I politely pointed out that I intended to seek legal advice. I have just been told that my complaint has been ‘escalated’ and the Resolution Team will investigate and probably contact me within 24 hours to offer another replacement.
Am I within my rights to refuse a third kindle keyboard? If this was any other product, no-one would accept this! Just wondering whether anyone has refused and what I can expect instead.
Am seriously thinking of writing to Watchdog or similar TV show to get this investigated. I know of a few others who have experienced same problem and feel the same as me. Has anyone tried this?
If I accept a 3rd kindle, it will be on the understanding there is no further warranty and I know the 3rd kindle will probably fail too. Aargh!

Maddy Cordell says:
31 July 2013

Please do write to Watchdog. there are hundreds of us with the same problems! It’s really disgusting.

Jeremy says:
20 September 2013

I think you’ve done pretty well already to get one replacement for free outside the warranty period. If you expect or demand another, would you expect this to go on for life? Be realistic.

Alice says:
10 June 2014

I’ve had precisely the same experience, but they promised a third replacement when I quoted the sale of Goods Act, stating the issue was a manufacturing or design fault. However I did want another keyboard model and was told they were currently out of stock. It’s been many months now and still unavailable. Think I’ve been conned.

Jonathan Sindall says:
6 June 2013

Those who have ‘lost’ books on broken Kindles, or who would like to transfer books from the Kindle in order to not use Amazon again, might like to have a look at [link removed]. Useful software for e-book management. Remember, just because the screen is broken, the innards haven’t stopped working so you can still link it to your pc/laptop/whatever. There are also companies offering to replace Kindle screens. Has anyone out there tried them?

[Sorry, we don’t allow promotional links. Thanks, mods.]

Kevin says:
29 October 2015

I have just replaced my screen as it had broken, its easy to replace and there is loads of advice on the internet how to do it.

I have a graphics problem as the text is good but any pictures become ghost like and lose definition

Judith says:
6 June 2013

Your case was almost identical to mine. Dealing with the “Resolution Team” and quoting Sale of Goods Act, Citizens Advice Bureau, media coverage from The Times newspaper, and forums on Which, EVENTUALLY (after many emails back and forth) extracted an offer of £30 towards another Kindle product. Despite stating that my original purchase was over £100, they would not budge from this offer, although I did get them to remove the conditional Kindle purchase part and just add £30 credit to my Amazon account. That same week, Nook were offering their e reader for £29, so I accepted Amazon’s credit and then bought a Nook from Currys/PC world + £10 for a 3 year no questions asked replacement deal as I had no intention to purchasing another Kindle.
Please note that you can continue to read books on your Kindle account via your PC or iphone by downloading the free ap. Hope this helps

Does the Nook not suffer the same problems as the Kindle, then? If not, why not? And why does Amazon not adopt the same technology?

D G Frost says:
5 October 2013

Obviously not all e-readers behave as badly as the many complaints warrent. My Sony e-reader PRS 505 has now successfully lasted for five years without any manufacturing problems. It has only quite recently ceased to effectively function on account of the internal battery giving way whereby frequent recharging is required. Unfortunately Sony do not market e-readers in Malaysia where I reside, but I am hopeful of being able to obtain a new battery somehow – it has been totally reliable all these years and it would be a waste to discard it. I understand that Sony readers are marketed in the U.K. (as well as Australia, USA and Canada, and of course newer models are available – I believe at lower prices than Kindle.

Fiona says:
6 June 2013

I bought a Kindle for my husband as a birthday present. It cost in total just over £200 as I bought a leather cover with integrated light. Nine months after the warranty expired the screen froze. I contacted Amazon and they said it is a known fault and although out of warranty they would offer me a new and upgraded model for £75, although the cover I had would not be of any use to me felt I had no choice other that to accept the offer. I was however irritated as I felt it not unreasonable to expect the original product to last longer than 21 months. The following day I received an email telling me to get ready as my ‘certified refurbished Kindle’ was on its way. This isn’t what was offered and certainly not what I accepted since I could have bought it new for an extra £25. It went straight back. The CAB said Amazon had fulfilled their obligation by accepting the return.

Ben F says:
6 June 2013

This experience has given me an idea. All electrical items sold must state their expected average lifetime determined by an independent expert/body. If the product stops working less than 3/4 through that time a replacement/repair must be offered at no extra cost to the consumer.

Even without that second part, stating the expected life of an item is vital. Items like e-books have a life of 2 years apparently and I don’t think many consumers realise that.

Ben F says:
6 June 2013

I should just point out that is something that I believe should be brought into law not something that exists now,

Maddy Cordell says:
31 July 2013

I had a Keyboard style Kindle and it went wrong with a faulty screen within a year and I was sent a replacement refurbished Kindle. I then bought a Kindle Touch for my son at £109 at the end of April 2012 and now that one has gone faulty with a screen problem too! They have asked me for £67.99 to replace it!! That is not acceptable to me as I believe it is not fit for purpose if it goes faulty so quickly. No one would pay £109 for something to last just over a year!! I have the Supervisor Customer Services rep calling me back tonight. Really NOT a happy customer. I queries this on a couple of Facebook sites and LOADS of people complaining about the same screen fault. There are also loads of faulty Kindles on sale on eBay!! They need to redesign the Kindles!

Maddy Cordell says:
1 August 2013

An Amazon Supervisor called me last night at 10.05pm. After waking up my son to verify who he was(!), they listened to my comments re Which, The Times Article, BBC One Watchdog, Sale of Goods Act etc. then said that this particular Kindle had an ‘extra 3 months warranty’ and as I was only 5 days past that extra warranty they would replace my son’s Kindle! Worth doing your homework and taking it higher! See http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/money/consumeraffairs/article3708869.ece

Megan Kube says:
1 August 2013

My keyboard kindle screen froze at about 15 months. I contacted Amazon (it was bought direct from them) and while they were helpful and polite, they would only offer me a “special price” on a newer model. I wrote to them (again) – not so much because I thought I should get a replacement, but basically saying that I thought ANY product should be expected to last longer than just a few months out of warranty. I received another (virtually identical) letter offering me a special price replacement. I haven’t done anything about it yet, as I was fortunate to borrow a kindle from a friend on a “long term” loan.

I’m so disappointed with this outcome, and especially after seeing all the comments here and realising that this is such a common problem. I just doesn’t seem right that a company can sell something that so clearly has ongoing faults. I wouldn’t mind so much if I’d had a bit more use from it, but really to only be a few months out of warranty just isn’t good enough. Hopefully, Amazon will do something to improve this ongoing screen problem, but I’m afraid they’ve lost my custom. I’m saving up now for an iPad mini!

Maddy Cordell says:
1 August 2013

See my comment above.

John Perham says:
15 August 2013

My wife’s 30 month old keyboard Kindle developed a frozen screen and was a right off.
Amazon offered 40 per cent off a new Paperwhite which she accepted at £75 cost. The model may be an upgrade but she downgraded from 3G to wifi.
Overall feeling is disappointment, but the current model is very good. I just hope it lasts.

Charlotte says:
22 August 2013

My kindle screen gave up the ghost last night – lines on the screen. I’ve tried Amazon’s troubleshooting but having researched online, it appears to be caused by a kindle screen defect. I have spoken to a manager in the customer services kindle team who tried to offer me a discounted replacement. I quoted Sale of Goods Act, negative publicity, eg Watchdog etc and told him that I was not prepared to pay for a new kindle, discounted or no. Just because the warranty is up, my expectation is for my kindle not to just up and break because of an obvious design defect affecting hundreds of people. After a while, and after mentioning contacting the MD, the manager agreed to send my case for review by the “escalation team”. They have 48 hours to contact me. I will let you know how I get on – am not going to accept anything less than a repair / free replacement.

I wonder how many people think that Amazon is being generous offering a discount on a replacement Kindle.

It would be good if Charlotte and others who are prepared to stand up for their rights would post on the recent Conversation about the Sale of Goods Act: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/sale-of-goods-act-rights-rejected-by-retailer-shop/

Charlotte says:
7 September 2013

Hi there, just to give you an update…I have received an email from Kindle who have credited £169 to my account for me to buy a new Kindle with. They gave a long explanation about how they do respect the Sales of Goods Act and that my payment is a gesture of good will. I hope that others are able to get a similar success.

That’s great news, Charlotte. It shows what can be achieved, and hopefully your success will help others.

I do wish that Amazon would give at least a 3 year guarantee with the Kindle.

Jonathan - Sheffield says:
30 August 2013

I was given a Kindle back in 2010 and it work until I replaced it in 2012 due to screen damage. The screen has now frozen and as the replacement is out of the 12 month warranty I was offered a further replacement at £40.

It seems that the device is not up to the job it terms of robustness given the great play they make of its portability and I am not going to pay £40-50 each 13-18 months to replace it. Fortunately I can read my e-books on my phone so I am not in the position of having to buy a new Kindle.

Which? should read the reviews of Kindles on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. There are many examples there of failed screens and the woeful response from Amazon.

Here is just one example:


Adrian Manhire says:
21 September 2013

Given the number of Kindles that fail, it is surprising the Which continues to recommend them. The failure rate has been estimated at 8% and this is unacceptable for a consumer product.

Expensive consumer product, too. £169 is no throw-away price for a book reader. But do the same faults affect all e-ink based readers?

D G Frost commented about his Sony Reader which lasted 5 years. I too started with a Sony reader, about the same time. It was OK, nothing like the quality of readers these days, but the main problem was the paucity of books available then compared with Amazon and the much, much higher price of books, which HAD to be bought from Waterstones at the time. This forced me to move quickly to the Kindle platform and sell the Sony.

The Sony displays use the same e-ink and there is little to suggest that they should be any different to Kindles or Kobos or Nooks in screen reliability, resistance to static, etc. Perhaps Which? could do an in-depth investigation into the reliability in general of eReaders, conducting scientific experiments on them and not just sending out questionnaires to members?The latter is never a good method of getting at facts!

@Mike0001 – I also got a PRS-505 that long ago and it is still working very well!
However, once I found the exorbitant prices that Watersons were asking I told them exactly what I thought of their blatant profiteering and sourced books elsewhere, in the UK and also in the USA, via on-line companies. You can even download a free App from Amazon that will allow you to read Kindle books via the Sony!!
As a result I have in excess of 500 eBooks, on SD Cards, that I use in my Sony!!

What REALLY p*ssed me off though was when I wanted to buy some fairly newly published James Patterson books from a USA website and was told that it was not allowed since I was using a UK Credit Card and companies such as Watersons had a ban on people buying books abroad if they could be obtained via a UK company!!
That I consider to be illegal protectionism and an obstruction to free trade!!

Yes, there was that experience too, of books available in the US but not here. None of Michael Connelly’s books were available here but all were in the US.

None of my Kindles have broken. (I have changed them regularly for newer models.) However, that is not to say that one day I will not be unlucky.

(PS Calibre will illegally remove DRM, so I hear!)

@Mike0001 – several times I have attempted to convert a DRM book using Calibre but I’ve not managed to get it to work!
It is, though, quite good at converting Formats into a version that can be used with virtually any eReader, simply by choosing the right Format to convert into!
However, I’ve got several eBooks that are ‘locked’ into a very tiny font size and no matter what I do I can’t convert them into a readable font size!

Incidentally, I was told of two possible ways round the import ban although I’ve not tried them.
One – get a US Credit Card, although this might not work since you’d need to Register it to a UK address.
Two – there are apparently US Companies who will act for you as a purchasing agent (obviously they have a US Registered address) and then pass along the item to you.

@jayprime It’s all to do with the plugins!

Apprentice Alf has a lot to say about DRM.

Alice says:
4 November 2013

For the second time, my Kindle keyboard has frozen within weeks of the end of its warranty period. First time it was replaced after going through all the things mentioned on here – refusal, followed by offer of replacement at a price, followed by my quoting sale of goods act etc. Repeated the process with my current device, again to the point of their agreement to replace – but now they’re saying it’s not available, they don’t know when it WILL be available and I just have to keep looking on the website. Plus they want a payment card (why?), delivery address, although they’ve been using the same address for years. I’ve been live chatting to them for about 90 minutes and I’ve just had enough. going to bed now and I will pursue tomorrow.

Jason says:
28 January 2014

13 months after purchase my Kindle screen has frozen. After 45 minutes on the telephone to them the best they would offer was a replacement for £50. I understand the warranty has expired but surely if this is a known design issue they should be more helpful. I offered to send it back to be repaired but they said they do not repair them Funny they sell “refurbished” ones. Well I for one will never use amazon again as this is the only option I appear to have

Megan says:
29 January 2014

Exactly the same thing happened to me, Jason. From the comments here and on other sites, I think a lot depends on who you speak to on any given day at Amazon – some people have had a replacement issued immediately, with no dramas, even if it is out of warranty. Others (like myself) have simply been told that “it’s out of warranty, tough luck”. It seems clear to me that there is some fundamental design flaw, for this to happen to so many people. It’s extremely frustrating, and really does make you re-think whether to use Amazon or not.

Joyce Davies says:
14 April 2014

I have a kindle keyboard which served me well until on holiday the screen froze and there is a small area on the screen where the ink looks smudged. I bought a new kindle paperwhite as there were a lot of books on my Kindle I had not read. It amazes me that Amazon do not offer a reasonably priced screen replacement service as it seems that a lot of people have kindles that they have no choice but to bin them. Surely a company that sells a product with their own name on it should provide an after sales service. Why have they never been taken to task on this?

Jacquie Bell says:
9 June 2014

I have now had 2 kindles fail without reason.
First was a Christmas present in December 2011 from Curry’s. Took it away in June 2012… a few lines of Far From the madding Crowd would not go away. ..Got replacement from Curry’s on 1/7/12.
Last weekend I charged it up. Now corner of screen saver will not go away. It has not been dropped or had anything happen to it. Just faulty. Time they made these things last longer as they are not cheap. Hve to try and take it back again but cannot find the replacement guarantee.

F Ingham says:
9 June 2014

After my first three kindled failed and so the warranty period was up, and having got short shrift from customer services I emailed the CEO direct. Got a very nice reply and replacement and was able to upgrade to kindle fire hd. Satisfied customer – eventually.

Pam H says:
10 June 2014

My second Kindle refused to turn on after being recharged. The kindle was a few months out of guarantee, I contacted Amazon services ‘online chat dept’ and was offered a discount price for a third Kindle. I declined the offer, but said I would contact the complaints department as the kindle has very little use. At this stage I was told that as a special concession my Kindle would be replaced.
From that point on, I have absolutely no complaints, and had excellent service.