5 eReaders Every Book Lover Should Own

5 eReaders Every Book Lover Should Own

Although the line between full-fledged tablet PC and eReader is becoming more and more blurry, vacationers, business travelers and students alike continue to flock to handheld devices which primarily focus on providing vast libraries of books at the touch of a fingertip, but provide just enough individual features to justify the purchase.  Here are the 5 best eReaders and eBook-playing gadgets for anyone on the go. Needless to say, all make great personal purchases or gift-giving options.

Amazon Kindle Fire  

With a full-color display and Amazon’s dedicated app store offering millions of entertainment options like TV shows, music and more, the Amazon Kindle Fire is sort of a souped-up eReader or stripped-down tablet, depending on how you want to look at it.  The 7” touchscreen is not only bigger than other eReaders, but also in full-color.  The Kindle Fire connects easily to Wi-Fi networks to provide for web browsing via Amazon’s Silk browser, and also offers enhanced features for Amazon Prime members, offering free books and streaming capabilities from select items from Amazon’s vast catalog. Priced at just under $200, the Kindle Fire quickly became the second-most popular tablet device (after iPad) when it debuted in 2011. 

Sony Reader

Sony’s dedicated eReader, the Sony Reader, is a lightweight and elegant device, designed to maximize battery life while providing crystal clear and paper-like displays.  Priced at $129, it’s less expensive than the Kindle Fire, and is a great choice for travelers who need to unplug for a bit – a single battery-charge with the wireless turned off can last up to five weeks.  The Sony Reader also boasts unprecedented and simple access to borrowing eBooks from public libraries, it’s as simple as pushing the public library icon.

Nook with GlowLight

Barnes & Noble’s Nook with GlowLight focuses on getting the light just right, no matter what the light situation.  The soft, glowing light is optimized for low-light situations and designed so that it’s just bright enough for the reader to see, but not so bright as to distract others.  Switching brightness is as simple as adjusting an onscreen slider and fonts can easily be made bigger and smaller, depending on your preference. The Nook also comes with built-in social features that allow you to easily connect with other Nook-using friends over Facebook to compare and recommend books you’ve read.  The Nook retails for $139 and boasts a comfortable exterior and a battery that can last up to a month on a single charge.

Kobo eReader Touch

The Kobo eReader Touch is designed to provide an eReader that is simple and comfortable to use.  Taking a cue from Apple’s iPad, the eReader Touch has one physical “home” button and uses the touchscreen for all other user input.  You can spot a Kobo eReader Touch by its distinctive soft-quilted back, which makes it comfortable to hold with one hand or set in your lap.  For non-English speakers, the Kobo is a great choice as the first eReader device to be available in multiple languages.  It’s a great value too, with a $99.99 price tag that makes it the most cost-effective choice on the market.  And if that’s not inexpensive enough, you can buy a Kobo eReader Touch for $79.99 that pushes ads or offers to you in exchange for the lower price.

Apple iPad

Although the iPad is much more than just an eReader, its overwhelming popularity, sleek design and high-resolution Retina display make it great for taking books on the go.  Sure, it’s got a high-resolution camera, hundreds of thousands of apps, and even the ability to take HD-quality videos, but as an eReader you can download apps from all the other competitive eReaders and enjoy access to their library books straight from you iPad.  If cost is no object and you have an iPad anyway, you’ll probably want to consider using it to access the eReader libraries of all the other products we mentioned, whether by an official app or through other apps that let you access your libraries for devices like the Sony Reader via the iPad.

Hottest New Video Game Gear

Hottest New Video Game Gear

It was more than just games on display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles – there were also tons of the hottest new video game gear, gadgets, accessories and devices designed with gamers in mind to sample. Looking to give your playroom an upgrade in 2012? Here’s a look at some of the best controllers, headphones, joysticks and more that we could find.

Afterglow Wireless Headphones – PDP– The Afterglow wireless headsets provide 10 hours of wireless use, with high-fidelity surround soon and bass-boosting capability.  The devices also feature multi-colored lights, and are a great complement to the company’s popular line of Afterglow controllers.

AV8R Arcade Flight Stick – MadCatz – With a design based on historically accurate WWII aircraft, the AV8R Arcade Flight Stick is designed to accompany the aerial combat game Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII.  The game actually marks MadCatz’s first foray into the world of video game publishing, so you can be sure the AV8R Arcade Flight Stick will be a perfect complement for the Damage Inc. game experience.

Dice + – Dice + – This real-life six sided die is seemingly blank, but when it comes close to your smartphone, tablet, TV or other BlueTooth device, it can be used to play a variety of game apps which come free with purchase.  There are a wide variety of custom-made and traditional games, such as backgammon, that will have you gathering around your screen like a gameboard with friends or family.

Fusion Controller – Power A – Billed as the controller that “built for gamers by gamers,” Power A’s Fusion line of controllers feature interchangeable soft-touch and regular grips, an ergonomic design that’s been refined down to the millimeter by pro gamers, and buttons that have been machine-tested to withstand millions of presses. With its own hard carrying case, it’s sort of the equivalent of a baseball mitt or personal bowling ball for those serious about video games.

Inflatable Tablet Case for Kids – CTA – Here’s something that’s simple yet brilliant: an inflatable cube with a pocket for your iPhone or tablet computer that will allow your pre-schoolers to play with it without fear of it falling and breaking.  Measuring about two feet on each edge, the cubes are currently available in licensed versions featuring Dora or SpongeBob, or in a more generic design.

Moga –Power A –This mobile gamepad hooks up to any Android device and can also be used with any tablet computer, giving gamers on the go access to more traditional home console game experiences using their mobile device.  Developers are eager to create games that utilize this additional functionality, as it can allow for deeper game experiences created with more than just touch and swipe inputs.

Power Grip Pro – Nyko – This 3DS attachment promises to triple the battery life of the 3DS while also providing another circle pad on the right side of the screen, just next to the buttons.  Although it makes the system’s profile about 25% wider, the proposition of longer battery life and better control is something that makes the larger size worth it.

Razer Taipan – Razer – This ambidextrous mouse from the pioneers in precision gaming is comfortable, lightweight and incredibly precise.  Pro gamers helped design it, and you can customize everything from pointer speed to a personalized lift off range for the ultimate PC gaming edge.

Sphero – Sphero – If this glowing orb were simply a customizable and programmable toy device that can be controlled with your mobile phone, that would be cool enough for us to recommend it. But it also can be used with a number of free apps ranging from those that allow easy video-taking and sharing to games that have you put Sphero in your hand on a table to be used as a controller.

Turtle Beach Headphones – Turtle Beach – With designs for nearly every level of gamer, Turtle Beach’s headphones come in nearly configuration available. Gamers can find the design that’s right for them, whether it’s wired or wireless, stereo or surround sound, Xbox or PS3 and more.

How Much Screen Time is Enough?

How Much Screen Time is Enough?

Even before their first birthday, most kids these days are intimately familiar with images and entertainment presented to them via screens.  Whether it’s the TV, a tablet computer or a smart phone, screen time is almost an inevitability for youngsters, especially if they have older siblings – hence the reason parents need more information and tips on kids and screen time, including answers to the #1 burning question about it: How much is enough?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under age two, and limiting an older child’s use of TV, movies, video and computer games to no more than one or two hours a day. While this system may fit into the lives of preschoolers, these guidelines must be adjusted as kids grow older. And this isn’t even to touch on the debate about “bad” screen time vs. “good” screen time, although certainly a case could be made that a toddler watching Signing Time DVDs or a middle schooler watching a documentary about healthy eating habits is more valuable than time spent watching meaningless cartoons.

Looking to better manage the role of high-tech devices in your kids’ lives? Here are five tips to help your family keep an eye on screen time

Establish Ground Rules

Kids need to understand that time spent in front of high-tech toys shouldn’t be provided as an inalienable right, but rather earned as privilege.

Specify the exact days, times and circumstances when it’s okay for your kids to be on the computer , using the smartphone or playing video games.  Are homework and chores done?  Is their usage interfering with a family event?  Establish these guidelines ahead of time so there are no questions as to what is acceptable in your family.

 It’s also a good idea to start your quest to limiting screen time at a young age.  Allowing a half hour a day of tech-related screen time for preschoolers, separate from TV watching, works for many of the modern parents we’ve spoken to.

As kids grow older, many families push the daily screen time allowance up to one or two hours and add or subtract time as a reward or punishment for good or bad behavior.  Some families choose to lump all screen time together, while others may specifically call out TV time, computer time or video game time.  Beginning at a fixed base level, such as an hour per day, can make a good starting point, giving you some wiggle room to add or subtract time based on children’s behavior.

Consider Common Areas and Curfews

Where possible, make sure all devices and Internet connections are located in common areas of the house.  Doing so not only allows you to keep abreast of online interactivity, usage patterns and who kids are interacting with as well as how. It also lets you be present when devices are used, monitor playtime and keep kids (or Dad) from secretly sneaking online to play World of Warcraft at 3AM on a school night.

Setting an electronic curfew in your house may also help curtail late night use and improve your family’s overall health by encouraging everyone to sleep when they should.  Choose a time such as 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., depending on your kids’ ages,  after which there’s no more use of electronics.  Create a common docking station for all devices in your bedroom, where all digital devices must be checked in before bed time, and assign a curfew for each one of them. 

Set Device-Free Times

Also, make sure to set aside device-free times that the entire family can spend together.  Parenting experts such as Richard Rende, PhD, associate (research) professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, suggest that the use of technology isn’t necessarily what’s dangerous for kids as an impediment to healthy development.  Instead, problems can arise if all the technology and connecting is done at the expense of other proven developmentally healthy and necessary activities.

Many parents require kids to experience one hour of outside time for every one hour of video game or screen time. We encourage you to experiment and find what’s right for your family. 

 Set a Good Example

Setting a good example is potentially more important than establishing these rules.  Make sure you don’t get caught up dedicating your focus to your phone or other screens over your kids.

Whether it’s at the dinner table, or during a weekly Friday night movie or game night, being present and engaged for your kids will ensure a more engaging and rewarding family activity, and show them that it’s okay to disconnect from their screens and connect with others.

Translate Screen Time into Real Life

Play along and engage with your kids about the activities they’re doing on-screen.  They’ll love telling you about what they’re watching, and treasure the time you are able to play together.  Many parents would love to chat with kids about books, but fail to see how games, apps and TV shows also engage their imagination.

If possible, translate the games and activities kids are doing in real life.  If they are enjoying an alphabet tracing app, prepare some worksheets that highlight the same skills.  If they’re playing Angry Birds (or watching you), set up your own Angry Birds course in the house.  If they’re watching Dr. Who, consider working on a project based on a theme of the show.  Screen time’s positive or negative effects are often all what you make of them.