Thursday, September 27, 2007

Amazon MP3 Store

Kudos to Amazon on their new MP3 store. This is the first (mainstream) iTunes competition that has been of interest to me. I don't like subscription services and I am immediately turned off by DRM that is even more restrictive than FairPlay. The prices (especially on albums) are nicely competitive with iTunes, and in fact the user experience is really nice for circumstances when you don't have an iTunes install near-to-hand. Offering plain MP3s at double the bitrate is nothing to sneeze at, either!

Unfortunately the Amazon Downloader, which is required for album purchases, is Mac/Windows-only. Clearly since I use iTunes to purchase music this isn't an obstacle for me, but I certainly hope that they realize how well-suited their store is to freedom-loving Linux users, and provide a native client. Amazon is a huge consumer of free software, so I'm sure they have the development expertise to port the Downloader.

For now, Amazon trails iTunes when it comes to customer reviews of their MP3 downloads, but I fully expect this trend to reverse itself in short order (come on, this is!). Also, the selection on Amazon is currently not as complete as iTunes. Does anyone know if Amazon offers tracks not available on iTunes?

So thanks Amazon for saving me US$4 on my copy of Josh Joplin's Jaywalker album, with no pesky DRM to remove and superior audio quality!

(Unfortunately it doesn't seem quite as good as The Future That Was...available on iTunes but not at Amazon...purchased by Ellery in CD format a few years back)

UPDATE: Thanks for the informative comments! In the Lame category we have Amazon charging $0.10 extra for the "Explicit" version of a track. In the Rock category we have a promise from Amazon in their FAQ to provide a Linux version of their downloader, and info that Radiohead is available on Amazon but not iTunes (much appreciated!). In the Self Defense category, I definitely support Magnatune and indie labels, but I'm not going to boycott artists I like just because they're signed to an evil label. And although I love the freedom given to me by Magnatune, the purchasing experience on Amazon is superior IMHO. I'm confident that Amazon's offering will force competitors to innovate in turn, which should only benefit consumers like me. ;-)


tim b. said...

Amy Whinehouse

Me & Mr Jones Back To Black

Me & Mr Jones Back To Black [Explicit] $0.99

$.10 more for naughty words.

Anonymous said...

Maybe for a whole album (dunno; I've not tried it), but not for an individual song at least. Quoth Amazon when I tried to buy a track:

"Get the Amazon MP3 Downloader
You have selected to purchase:
I Want None Of This (War Child) by Radiohead
(Amazon MP3 Purchases are limited to U.S. customers.)

Before downloading this song, we recommend installing the Amazon MP3 Downloader application. (learn more)

* It automatically adds your music downloads to iTunes or Windows Media Player
* It takes just a few clicks and less than 30 seconds to install

Download Windows XP/Vista version | Download Mac OS X version

If you would rather not install the Amazon MP3 Downloader, you can purchase individual songs without it.
Skip installation and continue | Cancel purchase"

Anonymous said...

Confirmed: Quoth amazon about a whole album:

"[Buy Album]

Requires Amazon MP3 Downloader"

([Buy Album] is alt text for the "Buy MP3 Album with 1-Click" button at upper right).

You can still download individual files without the installer, so the only thing you lose is the (admittedly convenient) ability to download a whole album at once. Arguably, this is also just fine because often one just wants a few tracks from the album anyway; the album serves to give them more money. So if they want to make it less convenient to buy tracks I don't like, it's no skin off my nose. ;)

Anyhow, there's still Magnatune which will give you FLAC as well as OGG and MP3 (for a price you can set yourself!), so my music tastes are starting to diverge from the mainstream. :)

Anonymous said...

If you look in the downloader FAQ, they claim they're working on a Linux version. Be nice if they'd just forgo all that and let us download a zip file though.

Wade said...

Regarding artists on Amazon MP3 and not on iTunes, probably the the most mainstream is Radiohead. since Radiohead only wants to sell complete albums and not individual tracks. It's their choice, but Apple doesn't agree.

Sandy said...

Updated post to include info from ya'all.

@Tim: Okay, that's lame, but at least they offer the explicit version at all!

@anonymous #2: Magnatune is awesome and I love their model. I wish the purchasing experience was a little better, though, especially when integrated into Rhythmbox/Banshee. I'm not picky enough to care about FLAC, but OGG would be a great option. Realistically I don't expect to see it as an option from the big players any time soon. Stupid patents...

@anonymous #3: Yeah, they never do a very good job of explaining why you need their special downloader to get the full album. And since I'm an album junkie, this is a Big Deal for me. Thanks for pointing out that FAQ!

@Wade: Awesome! I can finally pay for my Radiohead tracks! :-D

NoWhereMan said...

I was just wondering if the win version will work under wine.

Btw, no real problem for me. I don't live in US, so no Amazon for me :(

Anonymous said...

Hi, more fun on mp3 storage and
sharing at
. i got my bossa nova and indie rock fix from there!
iPod lords it over 2007; Creative and iRiver duke it out for no. 2; where's Zune?

karter said...

Those downloaders and registrations are really boring, when I am in hurry and looking to download a song right now wherever it is. But bitrate matters of course...all star mp3 download