Buying an e-reader
• E-readers are a very popular product for book lovers, as they offer a number of advantages over paper for some. These lightweight devices can store hundreds (even thousands) of books on something thinner than most magazines; you can buy and download books 24-7; prices for e-books are generally lower than for paper books; you can adjust the font size of the e-books; and most models can provide dictionary definitions.
E-readers aren't for everyone or every scenario -- if you're heading to the beach, toss a paperback in your bag, instead -- but if you're lounging around at home or travelling on planes and trains, you might welcome the benefits of digital technology.
• Each e-reader has its own pros and cons: The Amazon Kindle (from $109), for example, has a keyboard for easy shopping and a feature that reads books to you in a human-like voice; Kobo eReaders (from $110) let you borrow books digitally from your local library. E-readers with touchscreens typically cost about $20 more than nontouch models.
Books for tablet computers
• Tablets are also great as e-readers but are typically more expensive -- up to $500 for a tablet, compared to about $100 to $150 for a black-and-white, six-inch e-reader.
• Book prices vary. New York Times bestsellers usually cost $10 to $13 each to download, while older "back catalogue" titles cost less. You can download more than a million free "public domain" books, too.
MP3 and other digital music players
• Now that smartphones have more or less replaced MP3 players, there isn't the selection of digital music players there once was. That said, the Apple iPod family is still the most popular -- and a more affordable pick for those who simply want a music player, not a phone.
MP3 players are ideal for younger kids or for those who like to exercise with a small, clip-on player to keep them entertained while working out. You shouldn't need to spend more than $50 (before tax) on a music-centric MP3 player, but models with big screens for games and video can cost well over $200.
Tech gadgets to record video
• Finally, many cameras and smartphones today can record high-definition (HD) video, so it's no surprise sales of camcorders are on the decline. But those in need of a pocket-size video recorder might consider small digital video cameras that have a flip-out USB connector to plug into a computer for easy transfering, editing, storing and sharing.
Kodak, Sony and Samsung make these tiny, under-$200 video cameras that have small screens, USB connectors and enough memory to record a couple of hours of HD video (some let you expand the memory via SD cards, too). While they're handy, and in some cases waterproof, keep in mind they don't have good zoom lenses like conventional camcorders, so their usefulness is limited.
Shopping for the latest in gadgets and technology? Let tech expert Marc Saltzman help you decide what to buy. Find the best smartphones, computers, digital cameras and other tech toys to suit your family's needs with our home electronics shopping guide.
|This story was originally titled "Holiday Tech Shopping Guide" in the January 2012 issue. |
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