Tuesday September 25, 2007 6:25 pm
Amazon launches DRM-free MP3 download service
The e-commerce giant Amazon.com has launched their own music service: AmazonMP3. AmazonMP3 now offers DRM-free tracks in the MP3 format from a variety of artists on their website. Amazon has chosen the widely supported MP3 file format which ensures comparability with iPods, Zunes, most modern cell phones, and virtually any computer or digital audio player users wish to use.
The MP3 files weigh in at 256kbit so they won’t sound quite as good as iTunes 256kbit AAC files, but certainly will sound good enough for anyone but the most golden-eared audiophile. The fact that the MP3 files are DRM-free ensures not only broad compatibility, but also that users won’t ever have to worry about authentication or license revocation. It is currently unknown if Amazon will be adding audio fingerprints or other watermarks to the music to tie an individual file to the downloader to help cut into piracy.
Amazon’s album prices go as low as $4.99 for older releases and EP albums, and on the high end are similar to iTunes pricing in the $9-13 price range for an album. Most individual tracks match iTunes price at $0.99 each, although some back catalog works slip down into the $0.89 range. The Amazon library is bit smaller than iTunes with only 2 million tracks, although Amazon is promising to increase their catalog of music available for purchase soon. Currently the Amazon MP3 downloader software is required to take delivery of the tracks you have purchased and the software is only available for Microsoft Windows and Apple’s OS X so Linux users are out in the cold just like with iTunes. Unlike many competitors the AmazonMP3 service is currently only available in the United States.
So far AmazonMP3 does not look to be the next iTunes killer, but being all DRM-free combined with Amazon’s already trusted brand and pageviews might just help it gain a foothold in a market currently controlled by iTunes: the 700 pound Gorilla in the music downloads world.
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