1200 12th Ave. S., #1200
Seattle, WA 98144-2734
Dear Mr. Bezos:
I am extremely disappointed with the inability of the Amazon Kindle to handle cold weather. I feel very strongly that you need to encourage your partners at E Ink Corporation whom I am copying on this letter to develop a technology that is more robust in colder weather. More important, I think your marketing of the Kindle needs to be much clearer in stating that the device will be impaired at temperatures below 45F, and will break down, die and become a paperweight below 25F.
I first noticed as far back as October that my Kindle started to suffer functional impairment in the low 40s. After twenty minutes outside, the Kindle would refresh with both pages visible for a brief period of time instead of cleanly flashing from one page to the next. Once it warmed back up indoors, functioning returned to normal. Since my assistant has a Sony Reader, I’ve been able to compare his PRS-700 specs which are at least honest in saying that their device functions from 41-95 degrees while the Kindle documentation claims a 32 degree minimum operating temperature which I would not consider to be correct. E Ink has to do better. A portable reading device should be portable and usable at lower temperatures.
In any event, I found out only after I purchased my Kindle that it wasn’t like my cell phone or an iPod and that I was going to have to have more old-fashioned paper reading for almost half the year to deal with outdoor reading in normal NYC temperatures from late October to late April.
So come November, I stopped use of my Kindle outdoors during colder days. This was a real and unexpected limitation on my ability to use the device.
But then I found out when I had my Kindle in my backpack while on a long walk during a wintry evening that the battery became so chilled that it wouldn’t take a full charge for two days. It was cold, but not as cold as the Kindle’s alleged storage temperature of 14 degrees. So then I realized the hard way that I would have to keep the Kindle in the part of the backpack that was up against my back instead of in the organizer pocket that was most exposed to the cold weather. Again, this is a serious limitation on the Kindle’s usability that I find out only after I’ve purchased the machine.
And then last Thursday I took the Kindle with me on a family trip to Hartford on the coldest day of the year. I tried very hard to tend to the Kindle’s needs. I didn’t read it outdoors. I tried to keep it in the warm part of my backpack while waiting for a bus from downtown to my hotel or walking a bit to the hotel. I believe I may have had it in a pants pocket for a 5-minute walk each way from my hotel to an old-fashioned book store when the temperature may have been near the 14 degree storage temperature. Maybe I shouldn’t have. I went to turn on my Kindle that night in the hotel and could tell even before I turned it on that something was wrong. It wasn’t dust in the pointer window on the right of the Kindle but rather the dead remnants of the pointer, and the Kindle screen was no longer usable or functioning.
Yes, it was very cold. But you know what? It gets cold in the United States for large parts of the year. Here in NYC we’ve had 12 days in the past month when the low temperature has been within ten degrees plus or minus of your storage temperature. It’s been weeks that the high temperature’s been at or below the 40 degree mark when the Kindle stops working well or the Sony Reader would say not work at all.
Another Kindle owner came up to me at the the theatre on the 11th, temps between 26 and 32 in NYC, and told me she’d left hers in the car. What if she’d left her Kindle in the car during a show a few days later when the high temp was only 18?
What if somebody came out into the cold at LaGuardia last Thursday and had a five minute wait for a cab while their Kindle was in a pocket or carry-on?
What if somebody came out of their office in Chicago last week with a Kindle in their attache and was waiting several minutes for the El? The average January low in Chicago of 18 is perilously close to a safe storage temperature for the Kindle.
Or was on the platform in Braintree waiting for the red line to Boston with a Kindle in their pocketbook?
Seattle is much more temperate, but even there the past week the Kindle would be off limits or impaired for use to your own employees waiting for Sound Transit at the Bellevue Transit Center to whisk them downtown because the morning temp woulds be in the low 40s.
I’m glad that Amazon will be sending me a replacement Kindle, but I’m not much glad beyond that. It’s common sense that you don’t use electronic devices in the rain, but it isn’t intuitive that the Kindle won’t function correctly below 45. It’s certainly not intuitive that you take the Kindle at your own risk from your home to the office or on a five minute walk to the gym if it’s one of those cold days that we get a few of each year in New York City and much more often than that in other parts of the country -- Minot, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, Detroit.
Now that I’ve had a Kindle, I don’t want to go back to being without, but I am extremely upset that I wasn’t able to make an informed decision on buying an expensive gadget that can be used on only a limited basis for as much as 6 months during the year when the temperate might dip into the low 40s or below, and might die if I put into my gym bag on a bitter cold day just to take five minutes from my apartment to the gym.
All best wishes,
cc: Russell J. Wilcox, E Ink Corporation