Now that most free holiday shipping deadlines have passed and there are lineups just to enter mall parking lots, what are stressed out shoppers to do with the tech geeks that have all the latest gear on their list? Why not turn their well-rounded collection of hardware into an advantage by giving them digital content this holiday? From e-books, games, movies to gift cards, most content is delivered electronically so you won't even have to leave your desk to wrap up your shopping.
Amazon's Best of 2011 Content
You don't really need a Kindle device to enjoy all the digital content that Amazon offers, thanks to a variety of apps for various platforms that Amazon supports. (From the Amazon MP3 app for your Android smartphone, to the web browser on your PC with Kindle Cloud Reader.) Not sure which e-book, app, movie, TV show, software, song or game to purchase? Amazon has put together a list of the Best of 2011 Digital content so you practically can't go wrong with your purchase -- unless your recipient already has a copy.
If you're concerned your geek will be getting too many digital copies of Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson, your safest bet is to give a gift card this holiday. Gamers will always appreciate cash to buy downloadable games and or online memberships; tech heads are bound to use up the digital dollars at retailers for pre-orders and other purchases in the new year. You can load and send most gift cards via the Interweb these days. Amazon's Entertainment Gift Cards even give you the option to print them out so you have something physical to give your recipient come Christmas morning.
Steam Games for PC Gamers
Since Black Friday, there have been few deals that PC gamers can get excited about -- until now. Steam's annual holiday sale on downloadable AAA titles is an event onto itself, with a new roster of heavily discounted games going on sale each day (Mass Effect 2 is just $5 today, a whopping 75-percent off, for example). If a single game is not enough for your geek, then how about getting a Pack Deal like the Paradox Interactive Pack with 105 games at 90-percent off? Stay on top of Steam's sale on its website.
Steam's holiday sale for downloadable games is meaningless if your geek doesn't have the machine to handle the AAA titles. That's where OnLive's cloud gaming service comes in handy. With all the processing and rendering done remotely on OnLive's servers, you only need a fast 2 Mbps (5 Mbps+ is recommended) broadband connection and average hardware (PC/Mac; HDTV with the OnLive MicroConsole and wireless controller; iOS devices; Android tablets and smartphones) to play the latest titles. For gamers with a steady and speedy Internet connection who live close enough to one of OnLive's servers, a $10 per month or $99 per year unlimited subscription to OnLive's growing game library will keep them entertained without breaking the bank. (The MicroConsole and controller for your HDTV plus a one-year subscription is only $159.99 for a limited time.)
Some gamers are very selective about the games they will play so to err on the side of caution, why not give them a Netflix subscription that they can enjoy on their consoles (Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) and home theater gear, or even on-the-go on their iOS devices and Nintendo 3DS? From $7.99 for a single month to $95.88 for a one-year subscription, gadget enthusiasts can geek out on an endless pipe of streamed movies for less than the cost of the Star Trek: The Next Generation The Complete Series box-set.
Downloadable content and streaming services make practical sense for mobile and eco-conscious geeks, but let's face it: Some trilogies and shows just deserve a place on the bookshelf. Star Wars fans with a Blu-ray player and fancy HDTV will probably cherish the recently released Star Wars: The Complete Saga box-set, so don't discount the tangible pleasure of receiving physical media just yet. You may even find some unexpected deals in discount bins at your local retailer.
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