Updated November 2013: After a year of living with much of this tech, I have some new insights that should help you decide if you want to settle for slightly older hardware at cheaper prices when shopping for the 2013 holiday season. I have also provided links to the updated versions of the devices that were listed in 2012 as alternatives to the standard Apple/Amazon/Google/B&N devices.
Free. Everybody likes free. I mean, what’s not to like about free? It’s free! Free, free, free - use the word often enough, however, and it begins to lose its meaning. “Free special offer (some rules and restrictions apply)!” “Free entree (with purchase of equal or greater value entree)!” “Free ski trip (after we badger you into investing in a timeshare over the course of an eight-hour 'seminar')!” Free just isn’t what it used to be, and nowhere is this more evident than the world of electronic games. Users are steeped in phrases like “free-to-play” and “freemium” to a degree that free really does start to sound like a four-letter-word. Free they say? Nonsense, we say. Let’s take a look.
An observation worth noting: I have recently been approached by a growing number of people wanting to build a web site for their business. This would have been a much more daunting process even a few years ago. However the Web has evolved to meet these needs more easily. There now exist many online storefronts through which small businesses can be run. Though I am unable to recommend one service over another, either through direct experience or secondary knowledge, here are a few of the more popular selections that can help anyone get started.