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Lendle: A Book Sharing Site for Kindle Users

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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).

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This Harry Potter Candle Melts to Reveal Your Hogwarts House—and Smells Amazing
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As it gets darker and colder outside, the thought of lighting a candle in your room and curling up with a good book becomes more appealing. A sorting hat candle from the Muggle Library Candles Etsy store makes the perfect companion to whatever Harry Potter book you happen to be re-reading for the hundredth time this season. According to the Cleveland news outlet WKYC, the candle slowly reveals your Hogwarts house as it burns.

From the outside, the item looks like a normal white candle. But when lit, the outer layer of plain wax melts away, allowing the colorful interior to poke through. The candles come in one of four concealed colors: red for Gryffindor, blue for Ravenclaw, yellow for Hufflepuff, and green for Slytherin. The only way to know which house you’re destined to match with is by purchasing a candle and putting it to use. According to the label, the scent evokes “excitement, fear, and nervousness.” The smell can also be described as lemon with sandalwood, vanilla, and patchouli.

Due to its viral popularity, the Fort Worth, Texas-based Etsy store has put all orders on hold while working to get its current batch of shipments out to customers. You can follow Muggle Library Candles on Instagram for updates on the sorting candle, as well as other Harry Potter-themed candles in their repertoire, like parseltongue and free elf.

[h/t WKYC]

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10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

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