What you need: A broadband connection of at least 2Mbps, plus the ability to run an Ethernet cable from the Vudu Box to your router. HDMI input is required for HD playback. The Vudu Box costs $399.
Amazon.com Kindle wireless e-book reader
Why you must have it: E-book readers have always sounded like a great idea. But until now, they've generally fallen short. The Amazon.com Kindle is the first e-book reader you might actually want to use in real life. What makes Kindle different from predecessors such as the Sony Portable Reader and various PDA-based software readers is that it doesn't need a computer. Instead, it uses Sprint's EvDO (evolution, data optimized) 3G cellular connection to download the books you buy or the magazines, newspapers, and blogs you subscribe to, such as the New York Times, Le Monde, Time, Atlantic Monthly, and the Huffington Post. About 88,000 titles are available. You don't pay for the wireless access, just the books you buy or publications you subscribe to, as their price covers the wireless charges.
The reader is about the size and weight of a paperback book, with search capabilities, adjustable text size, and a nonbacklit screen, so it can be read in daylight. We didn't get our hands on a Kindle in time for this piece, but its resolution is similar to that of e-book readers that have gotten good marks for readability. It has a few bells and whistles such as free (that is, no data charges) access to Wikipedia, a built-in copy of the "New Oxford American Dictionary," and some annotation capabilities, including bookmarking and notes. Each Kindle has a customizable e-mail address through which you can receive HTML, ASCII, and Microsoft Word documents and pictures in a variety of formats for 10 cents each. With its USB port, the Kindle lets you transfer Audible.com audiobooks from your PC; it should be noted, however, that the audiobooks are too large to send over the EvDO network.
Your chances of having the first one on the block: High, as the Kindle was released just before Thanksgiving, and the $399 price is offputting to many people.
What you should know: The biggest issue for most tech-savvy buyers is that the Kindle does not support the Adobe PDF format. The battery life is good for about two days of "normal" use, and it takes two hours to recharge The Kindle holds about 200 titles (books cost about $10 each), so you're not likely to run out of reading material in a hurry. The inventory of books is relatively low, though Amazon says it is adding several dozen a month. Books and publication subscriptions can be purchased through Amazon.com's Kindle Store only. Books with images that are complex or that require color reproduction, will not be made available, given the Kindle's 167-pixel, grayscale display.
What you need: A PC with a USB 2.0 port if you want to transfer audiobook files. The Kindle costs $399.
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