Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Well, I hate to say it, but this Mac fanboy has actually purchased two albums from Amazon MP3 that I could have purchased from iTunes. The reasons? First of all, songs and albums are cheaper from Amazon than from iTunes, are better quality (256 kbps vs. 128 kbps) and are DRM-free, meaning they don't come with built-in copy protection. Secondly, competition is good for everybody. If Amazon can do well in their venture then that will encourage iTunes to improve the quality of their encoding and continue to lower prices. That leads me to my final reason. Since Amazon is selling their music for less and without copy protection, their success will send a big message to the music industry that this is what consumers want and if they want to discourage piracy then more labels need to agree to selling music for less and without DRM. That will give other vendors like iTunes more leverage to be able to convert more of their library to DRM-free tracks with lower prices.

Now for my review. When it comes to user interface and sheer volume, iTunes is the clear winner and I don't know of any online music service that can even come close. But, as I said before, Amazon does sell their music at a higher quality, DRM-free, for less per song ($0.89) and album ($8.99 on average). Amazon does have lists of most popular songs and albums, like iTunes, and also lists of featured artists. Browsing isn't quite as user-friendly as in iTunes, so you'll have a better experience if you already know which artist or album you want, as was my case. Once you find the song or album you want, you'll want to set up your Amazon account for 1-click buying for the most convenient download experience. The first time you go to buy a song or album you'll have to download Amazon's stand-alone program for downloading mp3's. I must say the application is very well written except for the fact that it does not allow simultaneous downloads of multiple tracks; tracks are downloaded one at a time, which takes longer, whereas iTunes will download up to 5 tracks at a time, I believe. The best feature of Amazon's downloader application, to me, is that it automatically adds your purchases to your iTunes library. That saves a lot of time and to me is a pretty big deal. So like a lot of people are doing now, when I want to buy an album I find myself checking the iTunes store and then checking Amazon to see if they have it, cause if they do it will definitely be cheaper.

So I hope this encourages the record labels to let iTunes lower prices and offer more DRM-free tracks, and I hope it encourages iTunes to offer higher-quality, 256 kbps encoded tracks.

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