Which E-Reader has the Best Customer Service?

Amazon ranks last and the iPad comes in first.

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After the screen on my husband’s Kindle suddenly froze, he went in search of customer service on Amazon.com. As anyone who has gone on a similar quest can attest, it is not easy to find. The Kindle Support page simply told him to check his warranty, which had expired the previous week. His only option, it seemed, was to buy a new one.

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If his gadget had been made by Apple or Barnes & Noble, we could have just popped into our local store and asked for some in-person assistance. Perhaps there was a simple fix. But Amazon, of course, doesn’t operate local stores, so we were stuck. Our problem made me wonder: Which e-readers offer the best customer service, and which have room for improvement? Does customer service vary enough that customers might want to consider it when deciding which device to buy?

Here’s an overview of the support offered by four of the most popular E-readers:

Amazon’s Kindle: As with other Amazon departments, the customer service aspect of its Kindle department is limited to non-existent. A free, customer-service support forum online offers questions and answers from other customers, but that’s not going to help anyone in need of a specific technical fix that other customers can’t explain. (It does, however, help with more basic questions, such as how to share Kindle books.)

The Kindle support section also offers a troubleshooting page, which provides standard answers for a variety of common problems. But many of those answers end with the instruction to “contact us,” and doing so is not as straightforward as it sounds. Clicking “contact us” prompts one to enter an Amazon password, and it takes several more clicks to get to a phone number, which leads to an automated phone system. Finding an actual person with technical expertise is not easy.

Grade: C

Barnes & Noble’s Nook: Nook users can visit Barnes & Noble stores for basic questions, or they can reach out to customer service through the readily available email address, chat window, or phone number on the Nook support page. That page also offers a user’s guide, answers to common questions, and a customer forum.

Grade: B+

Sony’s Reader: Sony’s well-established customer service arm for technical products makes it easy to arrange for repairs (for a cost), get answers to common questions, or to look up information on specific E-reader models. Finding an email address, chat window, and phone number is also easy, although the call line is closed between midnight and 8 a.m. EST, which might disappoint night owls.

Grade: B

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Apple’s iPad: Consumers increasingly turn to this tablet for use as an E-reader, according to eBookNewser, which tracks digital publishing trends. According to a ChangeWave survey taken during the last holiday season, 3 in 4 iPad users said they were “very satisfied” with the device’s E-reading capabilities, while just over half of Kindle users said the same thing.

In terms of customer service, it’s hard to beat Apple, which operates local stores as well as a technical support phone line.

Grade: A

So what did we do to punish Amazon for its poor ranking? We bought another Kindle to replace the broken one. Customer service, after all, is just one of many factors that go into choosing an E-reader, and we like a lot of other aspects of the Kindle, including how easy it is to use (until it breaks, anyway). So we’re sticking with Amazon, for now.

Twitter: @alphaconsumer