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News : Say Hello to Amazon MP3
Amazon MP3 launched in the UK last week offering individual tracks from 59p and albums for as little as £3, all in 256kbps mp3 format. This DRM-free (Digital Rights Management - copy protection to you and me) offering is the same as Apple uses for iTunes plus and means that you are free to move your music library as many times, between as many devices as you'd like. The mp3 format also ensures almost universal compatibility across the many players available.
Amazon has been offering the same service in the US for over a year now and has joined the already crowded UK download market relatively late, with everyone from  Napster to Tesco already jostling for a slice of the action. Of course the one to beat is iTunes, who hold the lion's share of the world's legal music downloads.
So how can Amazon hope to make inroads?
1. The price: Not all songs are the bargain 59p but most are 69p and there are plenty of popular albums for £3, which compares pretty favorably with the £7.99 price you're likely to find elsewhere.
2. The format: DRM-free mp3 seems to be the way the music industry is heading (we're now including 256kbps .mp3 copies with all the masters we produce) and the record companies are happy to offer iTunes rivals like Amazon a wider selection of tracks to help break Apple's grip on the market.
3. The brand: Amazon is massive in online retailing and massive in online physical music retailing. Music downloads are a natural addition to this ecosystem and there are great opportunities for cross-sell.
But what's it like in use? Well the web-based browsing experience isn't quite as slick as iTunes, but it's by no means bad, and if you know the track you're after the search works just fine. If you have bought stuff from Amazon before then chances are it already has all your relevant details so you're then only a couple of clicks away from download. If you install the Amazon MP3 downloader desktop application you can then get your tracks delivered straight to iTunes or Windows Media Player. All in all it was a pain-free experience and I was able download and install the downloader, buy and start listening to my first track in under five minutes.
Although for many the convenience of the seamless iPod / iTunes integration, coupled with a lack of awareness about DRM, will mitigate the price difference. For those who prefer their music restriction-free and don't mind jumping an extra hoop to get it, Amazon MP3 presents an easy way to get the music you love legally for less than ever before.
Amazon’s Downloader app (Mac and PC) can automatically add new MP3 purchases to your iTunes of Windows Media Player music library.