Truly brilliant gadgets are more than just useful chunks of wiring and silicon -- they're companions. Little electric companions that we feel emotionally tied to, that we trust to do their job and that we pine for when we accidentally leave them on the bedside table.
Not many gadgets make this near-spiritual connection, but the Kindle is one of them. And the 2013 Kindle Paperwhite is the best model yet.
With a speedier processor for faster page turns, a brighter built-in light and some natty parental controls, Amazon's newest flagship E Ink reader improves on what was already the best literary device out there -- a machine with staggering battery life, a display that's supremely easy-on-the-eye and a price tag of £109 that's half-way reasonable.
The Kindle still isn't perfect though. It doesn't support the widely used .epub file format (used by many ebook sites and UK local libraries) for instance. I also worry that Amazon will phase it out in favour of its Kindle Fire tablets, which lack crucial features in the UK and, compared with their E Ink brethren, have all the charm of a daddy long legs that's died in your fridge.
The Kindle singlehandedly got me back into reading, however. When you tot up all the imagination-sparking adventures I've enjoyed on my commute or on holiday, or when you add together all the times I've seen the 'low battery' warning and known I still have days before I need to find a charger, there really isn't much to moan about.
Indeed, when people talk to me about their Kindles, my most frequently-heard complaint is "I lost mine", which I think is telling -- this is a device that travels, that people are happy to lug around, and who's biggest technical weakness is that it's operated by clumsy meatbag humans, who leave them on planes and drop them in swimming pools.
I lost a Kindle last year -- one that I'd managed to get signed by the sadly since-departed Iain M. Banks. It was in a bag packed with other personal possessions, none of which I even vaguely remember, or miss. But there's a bit of my brain (a primitive, ape-like, anthropomorphising bit) that feels like I let that Kindle down by losing it.
So, for continuing to be one of the very few gadgets that makes a real emotional connection, the Kindle is once more my favourite product of the year. The Paperwhite is the top-of-the-line model, but there's nothing wrong with the cheaper options, either. If you find one stuffed in your stocking this year, I suspect you'll grow to love it too.
Which is your favourite gadget of the year? Stick your thoughts in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.