Kindle Book Lending Now Enabled

E-book lending (previously discussed here) is now in effet — at least if you are in the U.S. and the book you want to lend has been lending enabled. For details on how to lend Kindle books I’ll refer you to the Amazon.com web page, but a few details for those who just want to jump right in:

  • As mentioned above, currently, e-books can only be lent by and to people in the United States. (Sorry, international readers: blame the lawyers and publishers, I suppose — just don’t shoot the messenger.)
  • Look in the “Product Details” section of any Kindle book page on the Amazon site for the “Lending: Enabled” option to determine if a given book can be lent.
  • Lending can be initiated from the Manage Your Kindle page by clicking on the “+” symbol to view the details of a book in the “Your Orders” section, or from within the product details page of any Kindle book that you have purchased.
  • Once a book is so selected, the “lendee” will be notified by email and will have 2 weeks to read the book. During that time the lender will not have access to that book, automatically regaining access at the end of that period.

Welcome, New Kindle Owners

Welcome to eBookworm.usSince I know a lot of people have received Kindles as presents recently or bought them with Christmas cash or gift certificates, I thought I’d take a brief moment to welcome you to the wonderful world of e-books and Kindling. While I know you want to jump in and start reading the latest release from your favorite author or a free classic you’ve found on the web, I have a few suggestions for other things to read and do, with the possible side effect of helping you avoid any frustrations.

Firstly, read the User’s Guide that you should have found already loaded onto your Kindle. You don’t have to read the whole thing for now, but at least browse the table of contents and jump to the sections that sound interesting to you or which appear to discuss features you did not even know existed. (It may also help you avoid “RTFM!” responses on any less than friendly web forums.)

Secondly, please rest assured that Amazon’s Kindle customer support has a well established history of customer satisfaction. Do not be reticent about contacting them if you think you have any sort of defect in your unit. If, after troubleshooting your issues over the phone they cannot come up with a solution, they will almost always send you a replacement right away without waiting for you to return the original; and at least within the US you normally receive it within two days, and sometimes overnight. The best way to contact them seems to be via the link in the right-hand column of the Manage Your Kindle web page.

Lastly, if you have questions or concerns about something Kindle or e-book related, I highly recommend the KindleBoards.com forums. It is my favorite place both for seeking help and trying to help other Kindlers when I can. The “Tips, Tricks and Troublshooting” sub-forum there has a wealth of information to browse/search through, and if you post a question there it will likely be answered in minutes (or a few hours perhaps during the slower times of late night in the US) by one of the many helpful members. The moderators are active at keeping it a family-friendly place with no spam, and they and the active members have made it a fun place to socialize, too.

So happy holidays, merry Christmas, solstice salutations, and so forth; and enjoy your Kindle!

50% Off on EA Games for Kindle

According to a Facebook post, Kindle games from Electronic Arts will be 50% off from 20 December 2010 through 2 January 2011. As they are currently in the $3.99 to $4.99 range, this should just about make them irresistible to those who have been, well, resisting so far. The currently available games are SCRABBLE, Sudoku, Solitaire, MONOPOLY, and Texas Hold’em.

The only one I’ve played so far is SCRABBLE, which I really like. I expect I’ll be buying the others as soon as the sale price goes into effect. (I’m a game-player from way back — all sorts of games.)

Christmas Reading (sort of)

In the spirit of the season, I though I might take this opportunity to recommend my favorite novel centered around the winter solstice holiday season: Hogfather by Sir Terry Pratchett. It takes place in Pratchett’s alternate reality, the Discworld, and combines a number of western fables and myths together, including Father Christmas/Santa Claus (here known as the Hogfather) along with the Tooth Fairy and the incarnation of Death. It includes Sir Terry’s typically facile combination of humor, satire, parody, and drama; all tied together with warmth and an obvious love for his characters. From the blurb:

Who would want to harm Discworld’s most beloved icon? Very few things are held sacred in this twisted, corrupt, heartless — and oddly familiar — universe, but the Hogfather is one of them. Yet here it is, Hogswatchnight, that most joyous and acquisitive of times, and the jolly old, red-suited gift-giver has vanished without a trace. And there’s something shady going on involving an uncommonly psychotic member of the Assassins’ Guild and certain representatives of Ankh-Morpork’s rather extensive criminal element. Suddenly Discworld’s entire myth system is unraveling at an alarming rate. Drastic measures must be taken, which is why Death himself is taking up the reins of the fat man’s vacated sleigh . . . which, in turn, has Death’s level-headed granddaughter, Susan, racing to unravel the nasty, humbuggian mess before the holiday season goes straight to hell and takes everyone along with it.

There is also a decent movie version which is faithful to the book, though it does drag a bit at times. It features Michelle Dockery in an excellent depiction of Susan (Death’s “granddaughter”), and Death himself is effectively voiced by Ian Richardson, while Mark Warren provides a suitably disturbed Mr. Teatime (tee-uh time-uh, please).

Read Entire Kindle Books on the Web

Amazon announced today that readers will soon be able to read entire e-books via their web browsers via their Kindle for the Web application (see “Kinlde for the Web (Sort of)“). This will provide a means to read e-books without any device or dedicated application, other than a reasonably modern and full-featured web browser. It will allow anyone with a web site — whether author, blogger, or just an avid reader — to provide a means for their users to have instant access to books they would like to feature or recommend. From the press release:

“Kindle for the Web makes it possible for bookstores, authors, retailers, bloggers or other website owners to offer Kindle books on their websites and earn affiliate fees for doing so,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. “Anyone with access to a web browser can discover the seamless and consistent experience that comes with Kindle books. Kindle books can be read on the $139 third-generation Kindle device with new high-contrast Pearl e-Ink, on iPads, iPod touches, iPhones, Macs, PCs, BlackBerrys and Android-based devices. And now, anywhere you have a web browser. Your reading library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights are always available to you no matter where you bought your Kindle books or how you choose to read them.”

This announcement came in conjunction with Google’s opening of its Web app store for its Chrome OS, for which Amazon says “Kindle for the Web” will be compatible.

I guess I’ll start adding Kindle for the Web links on books I review feature here, and then I’ll be curious to see how much they get used — assuming I figure out how to track it.

Insert On Duplicate Key Update and Last_Insert_ID()

A useful MySQL trick I just learned tonight is using the “INSERT…ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE” query syntax along with the LAST_INSERT_ID() function in order to populate the mysql_insert_id() function or the mysqli->insert_id attribute when the record is a duplicate.

At first I had tried using the REPLACE syntax, thinking that would be easier. The problem was that the auto-increment primary key field values kept changing whenever I REPLACEd a duplicate unique value, which was surprising — to me. So then I read the manual and found out that…

REPLACE works exactly like INSERT, except that if an old row in the table has the same value as a new row for a PRIMARY KEY or a UNIQUE index, the old row is deleted before the new row is inserted.

That explained why my keys were changing, so I figured I’d have to use INSERT…ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE. Well, that didn’t seem to work, as I only got an insert_id value if it was a new entry. Amazingly enough, returning to the manual once again answered my question:

To make LAST_INSERT_ID() meaningful for updates, insert rows as follows:

INSERT INTO table (a,b,c) VALUES (1,2,3)
ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE id=LAST_INSERT_ID(id), c=3;

So, now I can do what I wanted, which was to read some data in from a CSV file, insert the records while not getting an error if there is a duplicate unique field, and get the insert_id value to use in subsequent queries.

REPLACE works exactly like INSERT, except that if an old row in the table has the same value as a new row for a PRIMARY KEY or a UNIQUE index, the old row is deleted before the new row is inserted.

Bargain E-Books

With the continuing slow economy, we’re all interested in finding bargains these days. In that spirit, and perhaps in the Christmas spirit, too, here are a few of the web resources I use to try to keep my e-book spending under control.

The Frugal eReader is a blog which provides daily recommendations for bargain e-books. By subscribing to the RSS feed, I get automatic updates in my email application for each new posting there. While the preponderance of recommendations tend to be outside of my favorite genres (sci-fi, fantasy, and science fact), it’s still worth it to me to keep an eye on it.

eReaderIQ is a price-tracking web site. It has a free Kindle books section, and perhaps more interesting is the Kindle price drops section. Here you can enter an Amazon ASIN ID or product page URL along with your email address, then get email alerts whenever the prices drops below the threshold you specify. I’ve only just discovered this site, so I have not yet actually received any updates on the handful of titles I entered. I’ll follow up with a comment here if/when I get some action.

And, since the best bargain price is $0.00, one of my favorite sites is the Baen Free Library. It includes free e-book downloads for multiple formats from dozens of the science fiction and fantasy authors they publish. Most of the freebies are older items in their catalog, which is fine by me as I’ve discovered a number of new authors (to me) and books I’d never read yet by old favorites.

“Rainbow Magic” Children’s Books on Kindle

Rainbow Magic on Kindle Amazon.com announced today that they have signed a deal with HIT Entertainment and RosettaBooks to provide the entire Rainbow MagicTM collection of books (nine 7-title series, plus one 10-title special edition series, and future series and special editions) exclusively in e-book form for the Amazon Kindle and Kindle apps. These books are targeted at pre-teen girls, focusing on the interactions of two girls, Rachel and Kirsty, and the assorted denizens of fairyland.

It will be interesting to me to see how well (or not) this works: will children in the targeted age range (5 to 9) be reading e-books and/or will their parents be reading to them from their Kindles? Not being a parent myself, it is hard for me to know, other than knowing that if I found it to be a good way to get my children to read, then I would be behind it 100 percent.

“We hear from our Kindle customers that they love to read to their kids on their Kindles,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. “Series, including the ‘Rainbow Magic’ series, are hugely popular in our Books store, and we’re thrilled to be able to add ‘Rainbow Magic’ to the Kindle Store for children to enjoy on their own or with their parents. And because Kindle books are Buy Once, Read Everywhere, parents will never be without reading material to keep their kids entertained when they leave their Kindle at home.”

Here’s a screen-shot of a sample page from Holly the Christmas Fairy viewed on my Kindle for PC app:
Rainbow Magic sample

Amazon Announces Giving E-Books as Gifts

Give Kindle eBook Amazon has announced today that you can now give Kindle e-books as gifts — just in time for the Christmas shopping season, of course. The press release says that Kindle books can be given to anyone with an email address. No Kindle device is required by either party, as the books can also be read on the Kindle for PC application as well as the numerous Kindle apps for various mobile devices.

To give a Kindle Book as a gift, customers simply choose a book in the Kindle Store, select “Give as a Gift” and send their gift to anyone with an email address. Notifications of Kindle Books gifts are delivered instantly via e-mail and the recipient redeems the gift in the Kindle Store to read on any Kindle or free Kindle app

Amazon provided a short FAQ, as well:

Frequently Asked Questions about Giving Kindle Books

  • Do I have to own a Kindle to give or receive a Kindle book as a gift? No. Kindle books can be given and received by anyone with an e-mail address. Kindle books can be read either on Kindle or on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android Phone using one our our free reading apps.
  • What if the recipient doesn’t like or want their gift? Kindle books received as gifts can be exchanged for Amazon.com gift cards.
  • Are all Kindle books eligible to be given as gifts? All Kindle books available for purchase in the Amazon.com Kindle Store can be given as gifts.

So, if you need my email address so you can give me a book, just leave a comment here and I’ll get in touch with you. 🙂