As if your Christmas list weren't long enough, Apple is rumored to be about to announce a smaller, lighter iPad that may or may not be called the iPad Mini. It's expected to have a little 7-inch screen, making it a sort of entry-level mini tablet in the iPad family.

According to the rumors - and there are plenty - the new gadget will launch this coming week on the 23rd. While we initially expected to see this unveiled alongside the new iPods and the iPhone 5 earlier this fall, it makes sense that Apple waited on this tablet as the company usually saves these sorts of products for the holidays.

The question, then, is whether or not you're going to want to pick one of these things up.

First, expect the Mini to cost about $299, which is solidly below the iPad's $349 starting price. A 7-inch tablet is a great e-reader, and given that the Kindle Fire HD is $299, it makes a lot of sense for Apple to pop into this space for the same price.

Google is also very interested in the 7-inch space, recently launching the Nexus 7, a smaller tablet designed for game-playing, reading, and light Internet use. Expect an upgrade to this model this coming week, as Google rolls out a 32-gigabyte version.

So why a 7-inch tablet and which one? Well, if you're a reader, 7-inch tablets are great. The Kindle Fire is an excellent one, and the HD version is spectacular. The Nexus is also a top-notch device, although it does take more of a learning curve to figure things out.

Apple needs to get back into the e-reading space. After the launch of their iBook store, the company has done little to push the state-of-the-art in ebook technology. The 10-inch model, sadly, is still a bit too heavy and large to use as a "bedside" reader, which makes light devices like the Kindle and Nook far superior.

So think of the iPad Mini as a smaller, cheaper iPad for the reader in your life. While you may not want to invest in a large 10-inch model, the 7-incher is sure to please. I've been using a Nexus 7 for a while now and I'd run - not walk - to the Apple store if I had an iPad small enough to lift over my head for a few hours while I read in bed.

Whether you should add it to the Christmas list depends on what ebook store your favorite bookworm uses on a regular basis, and whether he or she is a big Apple user ... or just interested in picking up a few books over the next year or so. Ebook devices will keep getting cheaper and cheaper, but if you're looking for quality and design, I suspect the iPad Mini is the right choice.

Would you consider buying the iPad Mini this holiday season?

 

Image via Apple