My last post, on whether non-geeks care about DRM (short: they will), focused on the Apple iTunes Music Store. In it, I mentioned that I've purchased plenty of music via the iTunes store. I also explained the various hoops I have to jump through to get that music into a standard format (MP3) for use elsewhere (Tivo).
What I didn't mention is that my most recent several purchases have been much easier to deal with... not because Apple's making it easier for me, though. In fact, it's Amazon.com that I've been using recently when I look for music. The Amazon experience is really very nice... and while it's not as integrated and seamless as the whole iTunes/iPod world, it's pretty easy to navigate nonetheless.
- First, you download and install the Amazon MP3 Downloader.
- Next, you shop for music. When you find something you want, you choose the "Buy" link.
- Once you confirm the purchase, the Downloader starts running and downloads your tracks in the background. As an added bonus, it will automatically add the new songs/albums to iTunes for you.
The Downloader seems to be a pretty well-behaved piece of software. It runs well and has options for iTunes integration (that auto-add feature), where to store music files that are downloaded, and more.
Ok, so it's nice... but is it better? I actually think it is a better place to buy music for a few reasons.
- The first, most obvious reason is that you're getting MP3 format files -- they'll play anywhere.
- Second, the audio quality (bit rate) of those files is higher than with the files you get from iTunes.
- Finally, the prices are cheaper. Most songs are $.89 each and albums are typically $8.99 (some are even $7.99).
When I first looked into it, the selection on the Amazon store seemed pretty slim. There were a lot of artists that it simply couldn't carry because they hadn't yet worked out deals with the major record labels. Within the last month or so, though, Amazon has signed the remaining "Big Four" companies and the selection has grown considerably.
Now, the only challenge is to remember that I need to check Amazon first before I click "Add Album" in iTunes!