PALO ALTO, Calif —
Why am I telling you to pay $70 more for a small lamp inside your reader? Because I think illumination makes e-readers perfect. For years, my main beef with these devices was that I couldn't read them in the dark. I've heard the same complaint from readers. Sure, you can always use a book light, but I've noticed they create a distracting glare around the e-reader's display-defeating the main feature of these devices' E-Ink screens, the fact that they're easy on the eyes. The illuminated Nook and Kindle provide a beautiful, glare-free, even light that appears to emanate from within the page. The light is just bright enough to allow you to read, without being so bright as to cause eyestrain (as LCD screens do).
If you can't shell out $119, you can always wait-illuminated e-readers are sure to be cheaper next year. But if you buy a cheap, unlit e-reader to save a buck, you're sure to find yourself in the dark.
Do not buy an iPhone/iPod dock.
This year, Apple created a new dock connector for its phones, tablets, and music players. The connecter is the little plug that you use to hook up your device to other things. In 2003, Apple created a big, wide connector for the iPod, and it became ubiquitous, sparking a boom in iPod-enabled accessories like clock radios. The new connector is smaller and like the original connector, it's proprietary-you won't find it on non-Apple phones and tablets, and accessory makers have to pay Apple a licensing fee to make stuff that works with iOS devices.
In September I howled at the injustice of the new dock. (I argued that Apple should have gone with an industry-standard connector). Because I love the new iPhone, I'm resigned to living with the connector. But I've vowed to minimize the chance of getting burned by Apple's arbitrary dock policies -which means I'm never ever buying a device that relies on Apple's proprietary connector. I think you should do the same.