While there has always been the option to send Amazon.com(NASDAQ:AMZN) gift cards to friends and family around the holidays in hopes that they will get that Kindle book that you think they just need to read, it has rarely been a very satisfactory solution to the problem. There’s no certainty that it won’t just be used toward some bizarre hunting supplies or unexpected science-like things. I know that when I’m trying to give a gift, I like it to arrive as intended!
Well, the problem has finally been addressed. If you want to get a book for your favorite (or even not-so-favorite) Kindle owner, now you can! The Kindle Store is now advertising the ability to gift an eBook to anybody with an email address. At first glance, there are obvious problems with this, of course. What if I mistype the email address? What if they don’t have a Kindle? What if I want to send to somebody in Canada, where I’m told Amazon doesn’t believe in selling most ebooks? What if the book I send them is actually really, really bad? Ok, that last one isn’t really Amazon’s problem.
The process is this: You click on the big friendly “Give as a Gift” button and the site takes you along to the next screen where you get to log in, assuming you hadn’t already. You pop in the recipient’s email address(which you DO seem to have to spell correctly, so be careful), attach a friendly gift message for the email, and place the order. Simple as that. If they don’t like the book idea you came up with, they can exchange the eBook for an Amazon gift card. If the eBook isn’t available, presumably because it is difficult for some publishers to imagine their books in the hands of crazy foreigners, then the recipient gets that same Amazon gift card. The best part is, literally every Kindle book is available through this service. For once, no silly new exclusions or restrictions so far.
Incidentally, I was honestly planning to address the problem of the person you want to send a gift to not having a Kindle. It occurred to me, however, that at this point there are so many Kindle Apps floating around for various platforms that it is extremely unlikely for somebody to have a device they can access their email on that cannot also display a Kindle book. Sure, I personally don’t think the experience is anything near satisfactory on a cell phone, but presumably you have a good idea of what the intended reader will have available anyway.
Overall this is definitely a great thing for consumers. I know that it’s often been a problem for me to try to handle gift distribution for people I know who no longer prefer physical copies of books, or who only read on a Kindle while traveling, and this should go a long way toward solving that problem. It’s also an excellent way to offset the limitations of the book lending situation which, in spite of being something you can’t hold Amazon exactly accountable for, is rather disappointing. At least now if you have something you want to share, you can do so without extensive collaboration with the intended reader.
I’ve already used this service to send out a couple of my favorites to friends. The one complaint that I do have, though I can understand the motivation behind the decision, is that you cannot “gift” free Kindle books. I would love to be able to just send along a free copy of something that’s being given away anyway as part of a promo or just for the heck of it. Maybe we’ll see something like that in the future.