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Amazon MP3 store: better than iTunes?

updated 07:45 pm EDT, Wed September 26, 2007

Amazon store bests iTunes?

The first reviews of Amazon MP3 store , which offers DRM-free tracks at prices that are generally cheaper than the iTunes Store, are in, and most have come down in favor of the new service relative to Apple's offering. MP3 tracks sold through the Amazon store are encoded at 256 Kbps in MP3 format, as opposed to 128 Kbps in AAC format on the iTunes Store. Most tracks are also priced at $.89 on the Amazon store, while Apple charges $.99 for FairPlay DRM tracks and $1.29 for a smaller selection of DRM-free tracks. Over 20,000 independent labels are onboard, while major labels include previous holdout artists such as Radiohead, Amazon says.

Machinist says that the Amazon transfer-to-device experience nearly matches iTunes, despite its Web-based nature. "The store is on the Web, but after you download a small companion program -- works on Windows and Mac -- you can reproduce the same one-click experience you've come to love in Apple's store (the app automatically adds purchased files to iTunes or another favorite music player). Amazon's store also lets you search for and preview music just as easily as in iTunes."

Selection is a point of contention, however. The iTunes Store offers about 6 million tracks, while Amazon has about 2 million. That's not the whole story, however, as Apple's selection of DRM-free media is much smaller than its selection of FairPlay-restricted tracks.

Also worth considering is Amazon's track record in selling items online, which predates Apple's efforts considerably. The Motley Fool, commenting on Amazon's chances for success in the digital music download space says "Amazon sold $10.7 billion worth of merchandise last year -- $7.1 billion in the form of media -- but at issue here is more than just respect for Amazon's girth. Amazon is a trusted source in music. Now it also happens to offer the better deal. If you have a choice of paying $0.89 on Amazon for a higher-quality track with no DRM, or $0.99 for a lower-quality track with portability restrictions, where will you turn?"

by MacNN Staff




  1. eggman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    AAC vs. MP3

    When you look at the numbers, one could be mislead into thinking that 256K MP3s are twice as good as 128K AAC files. In truth, they are of comparable quality.

    Although there are more devices that support MP3 playback, there's also the fact that it requires twice the storage on such a device to hold an equivalent amount of music of similar quality.

  1. PBG4 User

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re:aac vs. mp3

    You may not thing 256kbps mp3 files encoded with LAME 3.97 (as evidenced by mp3 file metadata) are not 'twice the quality' they certainly are of higher quality than a 128kbps aac file.

    Add in the fact there's no pesky DRM on the files and they are cheaper than iTMS songs and Amazon probably has a smash hit on their hands.

    Apple finally has some competition in the online music sales space. How will they respond? This will be interesting as Apple seems to have been sliding back into their arrogant ways of the early 90s as of late.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I would stay away...

    So let me get this straight, the record companies so hate apple 99 cent pricing and liberal DRM, that they are going with 89 cents and no DRM instead.

    No, they are going to take a loss to break the competition and then raise prices...which happens to be entirely illegal, but only if you get caught.

  1. ender

    Joined: Dec 1969



    But when will the big boys be on-board? And will their stuff sell for the same 89 cents? Or will Amazon succumb to the bundling and variable pricing that they keep trying to get on iTunes? I actually hope Amazon sees some moderate success. Competition is healthy, and if there are two big players who can stick to their guns against the labels, it will be better for everyone.

  1. umijin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Would be, but...

    It would be better, except that it won't work for me in Japan, even with a US credit card. GRRRR.

  1. trevc

    Joined: Dec 1969


    what gives?

    If it's too good to be true? I can always Encode as AAC in iTUNES to save space (not an issue anyways). I think I'll go with Amazon until they either change the licensing, raise the prices or the sun never sets.

    As they say, the lowest price is the law.

  1. slider

    Joined: Dec 1969




  1. MiMiC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Competition :D

    I like competition as it keeps everyone on their toes. NO DRM is great and this might send a message depending on how many DL from Amazon. I've already DL two CDs. They also rent movies, but only through PC. I've wrote them and asked if their downloader can handle importing MP3s into iTunes, then why not rented movies?

    Better, less restricted, and cheaper is great for consumers!

    NOTE: My first burn on one of the CDs did not turn out. I'll try again in the morning. The songs could not be read (CDDB) nor played. It actually locked up iTunes the first time i put the CD back into my Mac after burning.

    I'll post an update tomorrow.

  1. Brocktoonn

    Joined: Dec 1969



    There's a lot of it here. First of all, most tracks on the Amazon store are NOT priced at 89 cents. MANY of them are, but most seem to be at 99 cents (and, in fact, some of them are substantially higher than that).

    Next, and this my be subjective, but it's not as easy to search the Amazon store and find what you're looking for. They have a ways to go in that dept. to catch up with the iTMS.

    I've purchased two songs from the Amazon store the first was not added to iTunes, even though I had downloaded and installed their downloader application and configured it to do so. The second song was added to iTunes, but it got downloaded twice. I'm not sure why, and as far as I can tell I only got charged once, but it wasn't comforting.

    I will download from Amazon again if I find what I am looking for at a lower price than iTunes, but it's not as convenient or solid ... at least not yet.

    Most of the music I've purchased from iTMS was stuff I stumbled upon while browsing. The Amazon store is not very conducive to that. I'm hoping it gets better.

  1. petsounds

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: misinformation

    brocktoonn, I think you hit the nail on the head. The major labels are getting from Amazon what they've tried to bully Apple into doing for years now: flexible pricing. Although "flexible" always sounds like a word that would benefit the consumer, in this case it does not. Although you might get some songs that aren't that appealing for $.89, you'll pay more for songs that are hot (or whatever reason the labels decide to charge more for).

    I would like to see what kind of artist revenue-sharing the Amazon plan nets the bands versus what iTunes is doing though.

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