Amazon's MP3 Store
Any venture by Amazon into digital music downloads would be a big deal in the music business, but this one is also DRM-free--every track is sold as a 256-kbps MP3 file without any copying restrictions or controls. You can play them on the hardware and software of your choice.
So far, I've seen songs selling for 89 or 99 cents each and albums going for $5.69 to $9.99--in each case, a decent discount over the prices at Apple's iTunes Store, and in particular the $1.29 Apple charges for DRM-free iTunes Plus song downloads. As at iTunes, some songs are only sold as part of a complete album: To get Travel-section anthem "I've Been Everywhere," you need to buy a Johnny Cash greatest-hits collection.
The weakest part of Amazon's store--available at amazonmp3.com instead of the address I'd expected, amazon.com/mp3--is its selection. The advertised two million songs sounds like a lot, but only two major labels, EMI and Universal, are represented, because the others refuse to sell their work unencumbered by DRM controls.
On the other hand, Amazon's inventory includes works from independent labels that wanted to be in on iTunes Plus from the start but whose work remains DRM-bound on Apple's store. If I can choose between paying 89 cents a song for a MP3 I can use as I wish or 99 cents for a DRMed file, guess where I'll shop?
Amazon's store only requires you to use a Web browser, although the company also provides Windows and Mac download-helper software to add just-purchased songs to an iTunes or Windows Media Player library. You don't need to install this Amazon MP3 Downloader if you're only buying individual songs--album purchases require it--and know where your downloads land, but if you do the store will throw in a free download (in my case, "Energy," by the Apples in Stereo).
Both that download and one I purchased without the help of Amazon's downloader software (the Dismemberment Plan's "The Ice of Boston") played in iTunes like any other MP3, complete with embedded album art. Neither download, unlike my iTunes Plus purchases, appeared to include any data identifying me as the purchaser.
Have you bought any MP3s from Amazon? Share your experience in the comments!
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