In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I almost feel guilty thinking about whether I might buy an iPad mini. But my worrying about my neighbors isn't going to do any good; I can't repair the electricity on my own, so I'll be giving blood and donating some cash to the Red Cross. And feeling really grateful.

But thinking ahead, as I downsize my life a little more each year, I keep running up against the same problem: books and magazines. I love to travel, and am slowly-but-surely making my way towards a life where I carry all that I need with me (I'm planning several years on the road for 2014 and beyond). But marry that ideal with my bookworm tendencies, and there's a problem. There's just no way I can sensibly combine my voracious reading habits and my love of living light without some kind of e-reader.

When the iPad first came out, I thought it was fairly useless. Why would I need an oversized phone? But now that my boyfriend has bought one, and has been reading away quite happily on it (as well as taking easily saved and retrieved notes, watching videos, and more), I started to wonder if maybe I could really use it. He says the retina display on his device delivers what it promises; hours and hours of reading time with little or no eyestrain. That's important for anyone who likes to read long articles or books.

And now the iPad Mini has debuted, and its smaller size (.28 inches thick, as well as shorter), and lighter weight (only .68 pounds) than my boyfriend's iPad2 means that it might well-complement my downsized life in the future. One caveat: the mini doesn't have a retina display (that's so that all the apps available on the full-sized version are compatible with the mini), like the iPad2 — which means I'll probably wait to buy until it does. But it does have a great camera and stereo speakers, which is great for movie-watching and using the tablet as in impromptu music player.

At $329, the iPad Mini is $129 more than the similarly equipped Kindle and Nook readers (both of those with color screens and connectivity are $199), and for that you get a couple cameras and speakers thrown in, which can be a boon if you're using the device to FaceTime or otherwise video chat with a friend or co-worker. There are also all those great apps, which for some of us can make it or break it. The iPad Mini also looks great (the design has thus far retained its status) and Apple has made some significant strides in greening its components and labor, though has come under fire for manufacturing in China.

It's a tough call; I'll be reading on paper for the next year or so, but after that, I'm just not sure.

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Should I buy an iPad Mini?
Is the new Apple device a good investment? As I downsize my life each year, I keep running up against the same problem: books and magazines. I love to travel, a