Last-minute gifts

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.
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Amazon gift cards

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.)

Give an Amazon e-gift
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Amazon MP3 albums or Kindle e-books

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.

Give Amazon music: Click "Wish List and Gifting" on any MP3 song or album in Amazon's catalog

Give Amazon e-books: Click "Give as gift" on any Kindle e-book in Amazon's catalog
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Amazon Prime

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.)

Give the gift of Amazon Prime
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Apple gift cards

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).

Get an Apple gift card
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iTunes gift cards

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.)

Get an iTunes gift card
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Barnes & Noble

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 Nowadays, that means your giftee's buying choices go beyond books, including toys, DVDs and Blu-rays, and Nook e-books.

Give a Barnes & Noble e-gift card
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Bed Bath & Beyond

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.

Send a Bed Bath & Beyond e-gift
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Best Buy

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.

Give a Best Buy e-card
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Google Play

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.

Find a local retailer selling Google Play gift cards
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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.

Give the gift of Netflix
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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.

Send a Newegg e-gift
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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).

Give the gift of Spotify
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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.

Send a Starbucks e-gift
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Target lets you deliver gift cards in amounts from $5 to $1,000 via mail, e-mail, and even to a mobile phone. Note, however, that Target's e-gift cards can only be used at -- not in stores.

Send a Target gift card
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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).”

Send a Walmart e-gift
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Plenty of other gift ideas

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).


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