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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Amazon MP3 is the best thing to happen to me since bacon!

DRM-Free. A smattering (686 at the moment) of price-free songs. Huge selection. And a native Linux version of their downloader? And it's simple, clean, and just works? How have I not known about this before? A status is just not enough to express the awesomeness of it. Now, if you're not rushing to find out what this Amazon MP3 thing is right now, let me elaborate. Because you should be. Why is Amazon MP3 so great?
  1. DRM-Free. Okay, this one's a bit geeky, but only on the surface! DRM is the copy protection on songs that, in reality, is only inconvenient - it's why you can't play the songs you buy on iTunes anywhere except your (Windows or Mac) computer, your iPod, and whatever else you pre-approve. This can all, of course, be circumvented by burning it to a CD and re-ripping it. Which is why it's ridiculous, and pointless. Amazon MP3 just gives you...MP3s. Plain and simple, no DRM, play them where you like. Like, say, on Linux.
  2. Free Songs. At the moment, they have 686 songs available for free. And the best part? They're not all worthless songs either. My favorite is Elf's Lament, which is fantastic ballad about an elf and his vision for a life beyond his current miserable, anti-union job. I found some Michael Buble, Sixpence None the Richer, Heart, Flecktones, and Jars of Clay - and that's just the first page!
  3. Cheap songs. A lot of songs are just cheaper than iTunes, and definitely cheaper than the $1.29 iTunes charges for their smaller selection of DRM-Free songs. Their albums are also generally cheaper, and they also have a deal a day where they deeply discount an album - and again, not just worthless ones. They had a Muppets Christmas album for $0.99 the other day, and when Coldplay's latest album came out, they sold X&Y for $1.99. Not only that, but they advertise them on Twitter, so I can know what they are every day on my phone. Right now they even have a free Holiday Sampler and Jazz Sampler.
  4. Selection. I don't have the most obscure music tastes, but they had just about anything I was looking for. This tends to be an issue for iTunes competitors, but supposedly they have 4.5 million tracks to iTunes' 6 million - very impressive when stacking up against the de facto, household-name market leader. This is where the weight of being Amazon comes in very handy.
  5. Great User Interface. This is one thing that was a problem early on - they must have vastly improved it, because I love it! It's all very clean and well-put together. They have a simple, no-nonsense flash previewer that works flawlessly, AND if you don't have flash, it gracefully degrades to a simple m3u preview download - no "You don't have flash" nag box, it just uses another way. The download process is also brain-dead simple, and clean - just click buy, and downloads a small file with the info in it that opens with the downloader client, which downloads the song, puts it in the right folders and such in your music library, and keeps a record of all the songs you've downloaded. If you don't want to use the downloader (not can't, since it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux), you can just click the "I want to download the MP3 straight-up" link, and it will. How cool is that?
  6. They're not iTunes.. I don't have to use iTunes to download songs - they have an optional, very small and inobtrusive client - and it works on Linux, natively, easily, and beautifully. Huge plus for me. It works nicely, is convenient, and - on top of it all - is entirely optional. If you want, you can just download the song like anything else.
  7. They're not Wal-Mart. Okay, I'm not terribly principled on this, but if it's this easy and convenient, it does make me happy to not be giving Wal-Mart more money. Additionally, they were DRM-free MP3s from the start. Wal-Mart has since shifted away from DRM-Laden WMAs (aka Windows-only), but they did start there.
Here's a good comparison - from a year ago. They've since vastly improved their user interface, and no longer require the download of the client app, which were the main problems. If you're still not super-excited, or at least a little interested, you need to have your head checked. Or you're an Apple fanatic. Either way, please, help me help you, and let me know of your issues. As for me, I'm asking for an Amazon Gift Certificate for Christmas. Take that, iTunes.

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