Let's hope online bookseller Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) appreciates the meaning of irony. If so, maybe its legal department is getting a chuckle out of a $5 million class action lawsuit on behalf of disgruntled Kindle owners, alleging that Amazon's own protective covers are cracking open several of the company's electronic book readers.

Amazon sells the $30 protective covers for its $299 Kindle and the larger $489 Kindle DX. Now complaints are trickling in, from Kindle owners who paid as much as $359 for their devices and are facing $200 repair bills.

The $5 million sum is stiff, but isn't that the point? The lawsuit's attorney tells The Seattle Times that "scores, if not hundreds" of Kindles have been cracked as a result of the protective covers. Let's say that 200 Kindle owners have cracked readers. By Amazon's own math of $200 repairs or replacements, we're just talking about $40,000 with a little more for refunds on the covers.

So why would Amazon risk going to trial over this, when caving in and offering free replacements makes more economic sense? Why risk the damage that the Kindle brand will receive if this news spreads? Since Amazon's product pages offer reviews and customer discussion boards, the smackdowns will even take place on its home turf.

When Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360 consoles began breaking out in a wave of "three rings of death" failures, the software giant did the right thing. It took a $1 billion charge, by extending the length of its warranty from a single year to three. The sum was substantial, but Microsoft's video-gaming business is as strong as ever these days.

Sticking closer to Amazon's home of Seattle for the flip side, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) was brewing in hot water three years ago, after it failed to honor an email coupon promotion gone wrong. A lawsuit was filed. Maybe it was just a coincidence that Starbucks peaked shortly after that.

In any event, Amazon has to do right by its early adopters. We're also talking about people who are so committed to the Kindle that they were willing to fork over an extra $30 for an official protective cover.

What does Amazon gain by the escalation of this situation? Is it going to insult its shoppers, by suggesting that they don't know how to use a protective cover? Is it going to shoo away potential buyers, who may settle for Sony's (NYSE:SNE) rival reader instead?

Amazon slashed the price of its regular Kindle by $60 last week, so this is the worst possible time to frighten those sitting on the fence.

Get it right, Amazon. You're miles away from where Oprah can hear you.

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Amazon.com and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Microsoft and Starbucks are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.  

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Kindle owner since last May. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. Rick doesn't own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.