You procrastinated. You waited. The weather was bad. You were buried at work. Whatever your excuse, you need to get gifts for friends and family -- and time is running out. Well, don't worry: thanks to the wonder of digital gifting, you can send an e-book, movie, or virtual gift card to someone right up until the last minute. We've rounded up the best options on the pages that follow.
Amazon offers electronic gift cards in three forms: sendable via Facebook, e-mail, or printable at home (so you can, say, add it to a greeting card you're presenting in person). They’re available in any amount up to $2,000, and you can can personalize them with your own photos (or even videos). And yes, the electronic ones can be set to deliver instantaneously or at a date in the future. (The credits can be used toward pretty much anything in Amazon’s massive store.)
Music and e-books are also giftable via e-mail on Amazon. Just note that, for whatever reason, MP3 deliveries (full albums or single songs) cannot be scheduled for specific dates in the future, whereas e-book deliveries can be scheduled. What’s really cool, however, is that the recipient can choose to accept the e-book or MP3 music or exchange them for a credit of the same value. That means you don’t have to worry whether your recipient already owns the latest from Stephen King or Katy Perry.
For $79, you can give the gift of Amazon Prime to someone. That entitles the recipient to free two-day shipping on most anything from Amazon’s online store, plus unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows available on Prime Instant Video (the company’s Netflix-like service), and access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (one free book a month, from a pre-established list that includes the entire "Harry Potter" series). Just make sure your giftee has a compatible device for watching the videos, and/or a hardware Kindle to get the free books -- the Kindle apps aren’t compatible with this feature. (The gift can be scheduled for a specific date, and if the recipient is already a Prime member, he or she will get an Amazon credit instead.)
If you want to get someone money to put toward hardware at an Apple store, you’ll want to invest in an Apple gift card -- not an iTunes gift card, which is only for music, videos, apps, and software. The cards are available in any amount from $25 to $2,000, via e-mail (sent within 24 hours of purchase) or as mailed cards (standard shipping through December 12, express shipping through December 23).
If you’re getting someone a new iDevice or Mac -- or he or she already has one -- an iTunes gift card is a great stocking stuffer. Available to be mailed to your giftee (standard shipping through December 12, express shipping through December 23), the cards are available in increments of $25, $50, or $100. (You can also find these in nearly every major drugstore in the country.)
B&N gift cards can also be delivered via e-mail. Fair warning, though: unlike Amazon, they can’t be scheduled for future delivery; they’re delivered instantaneously. You can gift anything from $10 to $350, and they’re accepted at Barnes & Noble brick and mortar store (including college bookstores) and at bn.com. Nowadays, that means your giftee's buying choices go beyond books, including toys, DVDs and Blu-rays, and Nook e-books.
If you want to broaden the purchase possibilities from hand towels to coffee makers to duvet covers -- and everything in between -- Bed Bath & Beyond is a great choice. You can give from $5 to $300, and the gifts are deliverable via scheduled e-mails or printable versions for snail mail or hand-gifting.
Best Buy gift cards are available in amounts from $5 to $500, and can be used in store or at the company's Web site. You can e-mail them (with the ability to schedule for delivery on a specific date) or print them for mailing or in-person handover.
If your giftee owns an Android phone or tablet, a Google Play gift card is an easy win; it’s redeemable for apps, videos, books, and music in Google’s online marketplace. Amazingly, though, you can’t e-gift Play credits -- you’ll need to hit your local drugstore, big box retailer, or supermarket.
The leader in video streaming makes it easy to give 1 to 12 months worth of online video via e-mail, right up to the last minute. The recipients choose if they want the gift credited to a streaming package, DVDs by mail, or both. And if the gift recipients already have Netflix, the gift will just be credited to their account. Hint: the gift will really be appreciated if your delivery message mentions that they’ll be able to use that Netflix credit with the new Roku or Apple TV that’s arriving in a few days.
Getting a gift for the type of person who likes to build his or her own PC? Get 'em a Newegg gift card, so your giftee can buy anything from a hard drive to a stick of RAM. Gifts are deliverable via e-mail, and available from $10 to $2,500.
Yes, Spotify has a "free" component, but to fully enjoy the on-demand features on a full range of devices, the premium version is the way to go. You can gift 1, 3, 6, or 12 months of Spotify Premium electronically -- so they’ll have something good to listen to on that new iPad, Android device, or Sonos (to name just a handful of the compatible devices).
The perfect gift for a caffeine junkie is a gift card to Starbucks -- and the coffee house makes it easy to gift via e-mail in amounts of $5 to $100. You can schedule the gift to arrive on a specific date, too.
The world’s largest retailer may not be open on Christmas Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get an e-gift card that day. E-mailable gifts are available from $5 to $200, but take note: Walmart specifies that they’ll be delivered “via e-mail within 48 hours (usually immediately).”
Because of the late Thanksgiving holiday, the Christmas shopping season is a week shorter than usual. There’s still a few days before you start to hit shipping deadlines. (After December 20, things will start to get dicey -- or pricey, as you’ll be forced to go with next-day shipping premiums). Of course, if you’re shopping in-store, you can go right up to the bitter end. Either way, we have plenty of great gift ideas for you: check out CNET’s complete holiday gift guide, which includes a huge selection of tech gifts at every price point (including the $15 Philips MP3 player shown here).