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Amazon backtracks, will offer $15 opt-out for ads on Kindle Fire tablets

After negative feedback on forced ads, the company reverses course and will allow users to opt-out of "Special Offer" ads -- for a fee.

Kindle Fire HD
The ability to opt out of ads is coming to the Kindle Fire tablets after all. James Martin/CNET

It looks like you'll be able to opt out of the ads on the new Kindle Fire tablets after all.

I just received this e-mail from an Amazon spokesperson:

I wanted to let you know that with Kindle Fire HD there will be a special offers opt-out option for $15. We know from our Kindle reader line that customers love our special offers and very few people choose to opt out. We're happy to offer customers the choice.

In answer to my follow-up question, the spokesperson specified that the opt-out will be available on both the Fire HD and $159 entry-level Fire model.

The clarification is a reversal from the "no opt-out" policy that Amazon confirmed to CNET (and other publications) yesterday.

Quick reversal of new policy
On Thursday morning, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced an updated line of Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets at a press conference in Santa Monica. By Friday morning, the Web was rumbling as it began to become clear that all of the new Fire tablets were "Special Offers" versions that included advertisements on the lock screen and (much smaller) on the main home screen. However, unlike past Kindle e-ink readers, there didn't appear to be an option on Amazon's site to purchase a non-Special Offers version of the Fire at a higher price.

The assumption was that users would be able to "purchase" an ad opt-out after the fact -- something that you can do with current ad-supported Kindles. And, indeed, Engadget reported that at least one Amazon support representative had said exactly that to a customer.

Kindle Special Offers opt-out
Kindle Fires will now get an ad opt-out option like this one. Amazon/screenshot by John P. Falcone

Since none of that was made explicitly clear at the press conference -- nor on the Kindle Fire product pages -- I decided to go directly to the source. I e-mailed my Amazon press contact, who promptly and succinctly confirmed: no opt-out.

The ensuing reaction on social media was, suffice it to say, mostly negative. Even though it's widely understood that the sponsorships help keep the Kindle prices low, the lack of choice struck a nerve with potential consumers:

It took Amazon just over 24 hours to reverse course and announce that the opt-out would remain in effect for all Kindle models.

By doing so, the company effectively removes a red flag from its promising new line of tablets which begin shipping next week -- just two days after arch-rival Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone and (possibly) its own smaller iPad.

Editors' note (7:32 p.m. PT): Expanded with the "Quick reversal of new policy" section.