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Amazon sued for cracks in Kindle

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An Amazon Kindle owner is angrily suing the online bookseller marketplace, alleging that his Kindle's cracks were caused by Amazon's own supposedly protective Kindle Cover.

How angry is plaintiff Matthew Geise? About $5 million worth of angry.

Yes, Geise paid but $359 for his now-deceased Kindle 2, but he's going for bigger game. His suit, filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeks to speak for "All individuals and entities who own or have owned an Amazon Kindle 2 or Kindle DX installed in a Kindle Cover designed by Amazon."

At issue in the class-action suit is whether the Kindle Cover, when clamped as directed onto the Kindle 2 or Kindle DX, causes the plastic body of the ebook reader to crack. Eventually.

Geise's spouse, one Alisa Brodkowitz, used her clamped Kindle "without incident for approximately 4 months," according to the complaint. Then the plot thickened.

"However, after approximately 3 months [sic]," the complaint continues, "Ms. Brodkowitz noticed that the Kindle was cracking at or near where the Kindle Cover attaches to the Kindle. The cracks grew over time. On July 6, 2009, the Kindle screen froze and the Kindle has not worked since."

An Amazon customer-service minion told Geise and Brodkowitz that the only way such cracks could appear would be if the cover were to be opened backwards. G&B didn't buy that story and took their grievance up the chain of command to a supervisor who stuck with the opening-backwards analysis.

And now the court - and a requested jury trial - is being asked to adjudicate the dispute.

Plaintiff Geise appears to have support for his claim. The complaint cites a number of forum posts that relate similar tales, among which are the following cries of distress:

  • "Cover CRACKED the face of my Kindle. The design of this cover is FLAWED!!!!!"
  • "This is garbage. The hinge caused a crack on the left side of my kindle, and Amazon has been horrible about helping with this issue."
  • "First they told me the problem was due to 'customer use patterns.' I asked, 'You mean, like, reading?'"

And the posting continues today on the Kindle fans' KindleBoards forums.

The $5 million figure is merely an estimate and may be judged to be greater if the suit prevails. Specifically, the complaint requests the court to order that Amazon pay for the defective Kindle Covers and damaged Kindles, plus unspecified "treble damages," costs, and attorneys’ fees.

And in a bit of legalese that borders on the poetic, the complaint ask the court for "A declaration that Amazon must disgorge, for the benefit of the Class, all or part of its ill-gotten profits."

Perhaps Steve Jobs should buy Amazon's Jeff Bezos a pity pint and offer a bit of advice. After all, Apple has had its share of experience with such plastic-prompted pain as MacBook cracks and discoloring iPhone 3GS smartphones. ®

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