Well, Amazon introduced their online MP3 store in beta this week. I just purchased my first album using the service. There are some pros and cons…
- No DRM lock-down on downloaded tracks, allowing you to move the music where you want.
- 256KB stereo bitrate on the MP3 files, ensuring a very-near-CD sound quality (I use the same 256KB bitrate when ripping CDs from my collection, although I create AAC files rather than MP3 files)
- Better prices than iTunes in most — if not all — cases (I got a complete album for $7 vs. $10)
- Automatically adds downloads to the iTunes library for you
- Leaves an additional copy of the MP3 file in an additional folder on your Mac, so you know which tracks to back up without having to think about it (this is a big bonus)
- Album art (nice, big images) integrated into each MP3 file
- Requires special downloading application (Windows and Mac versions available)
- Can’t add albums to a cart — must buy via “One Click” — which means that the purchase went to the wrong credit card in my case
- Just like iTunes or any other non-physical service, you have to backup your music yourself because you get no physical backup (original CD)
- Limited selection — quite limited so far, and some of the exclusions are weird as they’ll include one album from an artist, but none of the other 4 or 5 albums
- Search function inside Amazon is not so clean — I searched for an album title with the exact spelling and it said it couldn’t find it, but then presented the album in a list of “did you mean?” results. Huh?
In short, the store works and the prices and quality are good. It’s not as smooth as iTunes, but for $3+ I can sweat the details.
In any case, I still prefer buying physical CDs. Our collection is quite large and I rather like the collecting aspect — lots and lots of CDs all lined up and on display. Downloads don’t display on a shelf well.
So far, so good. I don’t mind that Apple has competition now. But the playing field is not yet level, as Universal has turned over the goods to Amazon but has locked out Apple intentionally, at least for now. In theory they are trying to squeeze Apple for some sales concessions (variable pricing, album-only sales, etc.). At least EMI is being a responsible new media player, providing the same un-DRMed tracks to both stores.
I look forward to seeing how this plays out. Ironically, this new service comes out in the same week I received three CDs from the old mail order BMG Music Club — CDs I ordered… wait for it… three months ago. Three CDs, three months delivery time. What are they doing… shipping quarterly? Morons.