So I’d searched the Kindle store for a free version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – and I couldn’t find one. Amazon showed me six pages of search results, all offering different versions of Jules Verne’s classic adventure story – with each one costing at least 95 cents. But since the book was published in 1869, why couldn’t I find a free version?

And then I figured it out. I’d typed in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” — using a comma in the number 20,000. Strangely, if you type Verne’s title without the comma, you pull up an entirely different set of results. (There’s 36 versions if you spell the title with the comma, but you’ll get what appear to be 35 more versions if you spell the title without the comma.) And yes, I finally located the free version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

It’s currently #66 on Amazon’s list of the the top 100 free eBooks, so obviously there are lots of people who are finding it. But in my case, I’d had to drag myself out of my beloved armchair, and use a desktop PC to access the Kindle store, so I could sort those results by price.

But then it felt like I’d finally located Captain Nemo’s elusive submarine…

What a nice moment. I’ve been reading Around the World in 80 Days — Jules Verne’s original novel. In the next chapter Phileas Fogg launches his trip, so I pick up my Kindle, but its screen-saver’s on.

And it’s showing me Jules Verne!

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. One of Verne’s other books is #46 on the Kindle best-seller list. (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – written in 1870.) It’s been in the top 100 for 268 days.

But I’m guessing that’s not the reason Amazon included his picture as a Kindle screensaver. Jules Verne is one of those authors who symbolizes the reach of literature (since he famously wrote about submarines and space travel before either of those things was actually invented!) I’m guessing Amazon chose his image as a Kindle screensaver before they’d realized just how popular Verne would be for their digital editions.

But also, Jules Verne just looks like a novelist. (Wild French hair brushed back like he’s facing a gale — plus an old-timey bow tie and a classy 19th-century suit.)

But it got me thinking about just how exactly does Amazon pick the authors for their screensavers. So far I’ve also seen Emily Dickinson. I felt kind of sad. I remembered that she’d lived a lonely life — never left the village where she lived, and often never even leaving her house. (And I was surprised they’d used a picture of young Emily Dickinson. Or maybe she just looked young…)

And, yeah, when Oscar Wilde came up, I just assumed that my Kindle was haunted…

Sometimes it’s not an author — sometimes it’s just a cool image And sometimes, it’s a tip – which are actually pretty useful. (I didn’t know I could type my way to selections on the home page if I sorted the books by title…) 

And yes, there is a way to change your Kindle screensaver