CLOSE

Lendle: A Book Sharing Site for Kindle Users

I recently bought a Kindle -- something I swore I'd never do. There were so many reasons I didn't want one: I already owned too many print books I hadn't read; the screen was kind of crappy; Kindle books were too expensive; the device itself was expensive; and, perhaps most troubling -- buying a Kindle felt like giving up on the publishing industry as I've known it. The worst part of the ebook model offered by Amazon was the inability to have the same kind of ownership over an ebook that I have over a physical book -- I couldn't resell it, lend it, donate it, or burn it to survive the upcoming superpocalypse. And most of those issues are still not solved. But there was one clincher that swayed things in the Kindle's favor: after going on a business trip with a book that weighed more than my laptop, I really wanted the option to have a super-light, super-portable gizmo for plane trips. And a few of the other issues (like the screen quality) have gotten better over the years. So I took the plunge and bought the basic no-frills Kindle, which has been a great way to read massive tomes like the Song of Ice and Fire series. (Oddly, I find pressing the "next page" button very satisfying. There's a progress bar at the bottom of the screen showing your percentage of book completion -- nudging that forward is like a little game I can play: "I'll stop reading tonight when I get to 25%!")

Enter Lendle

After some frustration buying ultra-expensive ebooks (as well as some reasonably-priced ones, like the initial Game of Thrones book and some deal-of-the-day books), I came across a site called Lendle. It turns out that some Kindle ebooks (not most, just some -- just those where the publisher has opted in) have the ability to be shared. Once. For two weeks. Well, this is a severely limited flavor of "sharing," but it's a far sight better than nothing. So I signed up.

The way Lendle works is pretty simple -- you tell them which books you own and are willing to lend (and it proceeds to tell you that half of them are not lendable due to the dumb publisher not opting in); you go through their library of books and select the books you want to borrow; and the site performs an anonymized match-making process. Within minutes of signing up, someone requested to borrow the book OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word, and I approved. When the lending period is up, this will give me a borrowing credit (I have my eye on some Vonnegut books I haven't read in a while, and my print copies are falling apart). It felt really good to let somebody else read a book for free, and it gave me a taste of how this ebook world could actually have benefits beyond print books -- after all, it would be quite expensive and time-consuming to put together a similar service that relied on mailing books (rather than emailing codes). Full disclosure: in my newfound joy at finding this book-sharing site, I went ahead and upgraded my account to the "Patron" level, an optional thing where you PayPal them a one-time $25 fee. This unlocks various additional features, none of which I have used yet.

Lendle upsides: Lendle has book clubs; it's integrated with Amazon's API so you can look up any Kindle book and be sure it's the right one; you get paid tiny bits of money (delivered when you get to $10 via an Amazon gift card) every time you lend a book; and this is probably the only time you will use the Kindle's built-in sharing feature.

Lendle downsides: it only works in the U.S.; you need to create your own private email address to use with the service (unless you're okay with revealing your real email address to strangers); and most books are not lendable (although the hope is that, long-term, publishers may ease up on their restrictions -- I'm not holding my breath). The other thing I've noticed it that the Lendle site can be pokey, apparently because it's pulling info from the Amazon API (for example, when you search for a book), and that appears to be inherently slow.

How to Sign Up

It's free to join and use Lendle -- in fact, they pay you! (No, I'm not clear how this works; in their FAQ they mention advertising revenue from the site, and Patron fees. I also suspect that you have to be a super-lender to accrue $10, which is the minimum payment...so there probably aren't many payouts happening each day.) If you join the site and use my referral code WTKIF5QW you or I could win a prize! Or you could just join without the code; I ain't gonna be mad at ya (but if you don't use the code, you're not entered to win a Kindle Fire!).

Other (Legal) Ways to Get Free Kindle Ebooks

My local library supposedly has Kindle books available, but I haven't been able to make the system work yet -- the library website and the creepy third party ebook site don't talk together nicely. I'll have to sit down with some friends who have done this so that I may navigate the very 1998-style websites involved with borrowing library books. I also noted that the waiting lists were extremely long, and the selection pretty thin.

There are lots of classics and older books available on Kindle (and indeed all formats), primarily via Project Gutenberg. I read Jayne Eyre in a free edition, and can't complain. I was also surprised by the large library of free short stories by authors (including Vonnegut) that are in the Kindle store -- I have a pile of bite-sized fiction on my Kindle in case I find myself on an extra-long plane ride.

If you're an Amazon Prime member, there is a small lending library available. None of the big publishers are on board with the program though, so you're only getting titles from small houses and from authors who own their electronic rights. Still, I found several books that were on my wish list that are available from the Amazon program. This isn't "free," but it's free-to-me as I already paid for the membership.

Do you know of other ways to get free ebooks? (And I don't want to hear about piracy!) Share your tips in the comments! Also, please be aware that you don't actually need Kindle hardware in order to participate in the Kindle (and Lendle) ecosystem -- there is a free Kindle app that works on smartphones, tablets, and desktop PCs (this last one is handy when you're doing research and need to refer to the book onscreen while you're typing a report).

nextArticle.image_alt|e
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
arrow
literature
12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Dan Bell
arrow
Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios