Following a customer lawsuit, Amazon says it will replace Kindles that have been cracked by the cover the online retailer sells as an accessory to the electronic book reader.
The move marks a change in Amazon's previous position over the apparent flaw, which was to charge customers $200 to replace the device. Amazon had said the damage wasn't covered under the warranty.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by a Seattle customer who claimed that the Amazon-designed, $30 protective cover for the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX cracked the devices at the points where the accessory attached to the device. The cracks eventually caused the Kindle screen to freeze, according to the law firm Terrell Marshall & Daudt, which is representing plaintiff Matthew Geise.
Geise is asking a federal court in Seattle to make the complaint a class-action suit representing all Kindle customers affected by the alleged flaw.
Amazon Thursday refused to discuss the suit, but a spokeswoman said the retailer would replace damaged Kindles without charge.
"We do not comment on active litigation," spokeswoman Cinthia Portugal said in a statement e-mailed to InformationWeek. "Nevertheless, we encourage anyone who has an issue with the cover attachment mechanism to return the cover and device for a free replacement so we can investigate further."
However, Geise's lawyer Beth Terrell told the Seattle Times the lawsuit would go on. "If they would like to resolve the matter, I think the way to do it is through a court-approved process."
Amazon's decision to drop the $200 charge for replacing cover-damaged Kindles came after the problem was reported by many bloggers and major news companies. Amazon sells the Kindle 2 for $299 and the larger Kindle DX for $489.
Amazon launched its first Kindle in November 2007. The success of the device has been credited with proving there is a market for electronic book readers. Amazon includes with the device a free wireless connection for downloading books and magazine subscriptions from the retailer.
Amazon doesn't disclose the number of Kindles it has sold, but claims it accounts for 35% of book sales for those editions in which Kindle versions are available. Amazon's biggest rival in the e-book reader market is Sony, but Amazon could face stiff competition in the future from startup Plastic Logic, which is planning to start selling a device similar to the Kindle DX in the second half of the year.
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