If you’re like me, you’ve got a fair number of family and friends who don’t quite share the same level of enthusiasm for technology as you. But the thought of buying someone a gift that wasn’t a gadget? Insanity. Pure insanity. In that spirit, here’s a list of products that ought to make easy-to-use gifts for the technologically ambivalent in your life.
For the Information Junkie: WikiReader ($99)
The WikiReader is a handheld device loaded up with every Wikipedia article available. It uses two AAA batteries, requires no data connection whatsoever, and features a power-sipping monochrome screen that works in direct sunlight. It’s the perfect gift for your yarn-spinning know-it-all grandpa, except now he’ll actually get his facts straight.
When it’s time to update the WikiReader to the latest articles, Gramps can have a new microSD card sent to him twice a year for $29 (just pop it in behind the batteries) or you can download the update yourself for free and load it up for him.
For the First-Time Computer User: Litl Webbook ($699)
As the resident computer expert in your family, to hear that someone who’s never used a computer before wants to “see what all the fuss is about” and wonders if you can teach them how to use it should send chills up and down your spine (and up and down again).
The new Litl Webbook removes an entire layer of the traditional operating system, providing direct access to music, movies, photos, the internet and more. Everything is kept “in the cloud” and all system updates are pushed to the device automatically. Think of it as a smartbook.
There’s a two-year return period, a 12.1-inch LCD with a 178-degree viewing angle, and the device flips over into “easel mode” to double as a digital photo frame.
For the Music Lover: SanDisk slotRadio ($79.99)
Take the portability of an MP3 player, strip out the hassle of loading music onto it, and you’ve got SanDisk’s slotRadio player. Once you’ve grown tired of the 1,000 popular songs included with the player, pick up another card preloaded with 1,000 additional songs for between $30 and $40 apiece and spread across genres such as Classical, Rock, Oldies, Country, and more.
Pop out the old card, pop in the new card. Boom. Simple like tapes and CDs, newfangled like an MP3 player.
For the Bookworm: Amazon Kindle ($259)
You’ll probably want to drop some hints before you gift an e-book reader to someone, just to get an idea about whether or not they’d actually use an electronic gizmo for reading. Our own Devin Coldewey is in his late twenties and he won’t touch an e-book reader with a ten foot pole, opting instead to throw on a cardigan, light up an academic-looking pipe, and read a book the old fashioned way. He likes the smell of paper or something weird like that.
If you’re able to plant the e-book seed successfully, though, the Kindle should be easy enough to use for just about anyone. And it doesn’t require a computer, so there’s that. You could go with one of the other wireless e-book readers, but the Barnes & Noble “nook” is sold out and there’s loose talk that Sony’s Reader Daily Edition might be waylaid until after the holidays.
For the Neatnik: iRobot Roomba (starting at $129.99)
It’s a strange world when a robot is a vacuum and the entire combination is as simple to operate as hitting a single button. That’s Roomba for you, though. Perfect for the compulsive cleaner in your life, the Roomba series gets into corners and around furniture, finds its way back to its charging base, and makes the mundane chore of vacuuming a thing of the past. Truly anal neatniks may complain that Roomba misses a spot here and there but, hey, that just gives them something to clean by hand – and that’s the gift that keeps on giving.