The much publicized, much scrutinized e-reader from online retail giant Amazon.com, the Kindle, is now under fire from one of its users, who claimed the device is liable to break due to a design flaw in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
The plaintiff, Matthew Geise, wants the lawsuit to attain class-action status, which requires the approval of a judge, and represent all Kindle owners.
In the complaint, Geise charges that the cover for the Kindle, which is sold separately, can crack the grayscale E-Ink screen, which is used to read e-books and other documents on the device. An Amazon spokesperson told Reuters that although the company does not comment on active litigation, Amazon encourages "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."
Amazon recently (and quietly) dropped the price of its heavily promoted Kindle 2 e-reader, lowering the price to from $359 to $299-a $60 cut. Amazon issued no release announcing the price reduction, fueling speculation that the nascent e-reader market isn't reaching enough of an audience. However, Amazon spokeswoman Cinthia Portugal told The Associated Press the price cut was a permanent move rather than a promotional stunt. "We've been able to increase the volume of Kindles we're manufacturing and decrease the cost of doing so," she said.
According to the complaint filed by Geise, who bought the Kindle for his wife as a Valentine's Day present, Geise "understood that the Kindle Cover he purchased for the Kindle was, in fact, compatible with the Kindle and would not damage the Kindle as a result of ordinary use. Amazon never disclosed to Plaintiff that using the Kindle Cover with the Kindle would damage the Kindle."
In the suit, Geise alleges an Amazon customer service representative acknowledged the cracking screens due to the cover was a common problem but was told he would have to spend $200 to replace the screen. The complaint continues, "Because of the relatively small size of the typical damages, and the modest resources of most consumers, it is unlikely that most Class Members could afford to seek recovery against Amazon on their own. A class action is therefore the only viable, economical and rational means for members of the Class to recover from Amazon for the damages it has caused."
Although Amazon does not release shipping numbers, reports have stated that some 300,000 Kindle 2 units shipped by mid-April, nearly matching estimates of 400,000-500,000 units shipped for the first Kindle version.
A recent teardown of the manufacturing process by market research and consulting firm iSuppli revealed Amazon spends $185.49 on every Kindle 2. Some 41 percent of the materials cost come from the Kindle 2's $60 E-Ink display module, which supports 16-level grayscale images.