Given a choice, Jay Gorman would rather shop online for tech gear. An IBM employee who works amid whirring mainframes in Lake Katrine, New York, Gorman estimates that he buys 90 percent of his gear online, including camcorders, computers, and MP3 players.
He's not opposed to brick-and-mortar stores--he frequents Best Buy, too--but he thinks sites such as Buy.com typically offer better prices--and more convenience. Says Gorman: "I live out in the boonies, and the only two places close by are Best Buy and Circuit City."
The appeal of online shopping is growing. Between August 2006 and the same month a year later, 14 percent of the $159 billion that U.S. shoppers spent on consumer electronics was spent online, up from 5 percent a year earlier, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Yet brick-and-mortar stores--including consumer electronics emporiums Best Buy and Circuit City, discount retailers Target and Wal-Mart, and warehouse clubs Costco and Sam's Club--clearly aren't going away anytime soon.
Add online vendors to the mix, and it's evident that retail competition for tech customers is as fierce as ever, which is good news for savvy shoppers. The Web's selection of vendors is particularly deep. You'll find popular online-only shopping sites like Amazon, Newegg and TigerDirect, as well as the Web counterparts of brick-and-mortar stores, and vendor-specific sites for Apple, Dell, HP, and others. And don't forget auction sites such as eBay and uBid, which can be good sources for tech-gear bargains.
Which stores on the Web or in the city or town where you live offer the best prices, service, and selection? Is online shopping better than offline, or vice versa? To find out, we polled thousands of PC World readers, most of whom shop both on the Web and at brick-and-mortar stores.