Back in May, Amazon announced an online music store selling DRM-free MP3s and today they launched a beta version:
Amazon.com, Inc. today launched a public beta of “Amazon MP3,” a new digital music download store with Earth’s biggest selection of a la carte DRM-free MP3 music downloads. Amazon MP3 has over 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists represented by over 20,000 major and independent labels.
Every song and album on Amazon MP3 is available exclusively in the MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM) software. This means that Amazon MP3 customers are free to enjoy their music downloads using any hardware device, including PCs, Macs, iPods, Zunes, Zens, iPhones, RAZRs, and BlackBerrys; organize their music using any music management application such as iTunes or Windows Media Player; and burn songs to CDs.
Most songs are priced from 89 cents to 99 cents, with more than 1 million of the 2 million songs priced at 89 cents. The top 100 best-selling songs are 89 cents, unless marked otherwise. Most albums are priced from $5.99 to $9.99. The top 100 best-selling albums are $8.99 or less, unless marked otherwise.
Every song on Amazon MP3 is encoded at 256 kilobits per second, which gives customers high audio quality at a manageable file size.
Buying and downloading MP3s from Amazon MP3 is easy. Customers can purchase downloads using Amazon 1-Click shopping, and with the Amazon MP3 Downloader, seamlessly add their MP3s to their iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries.
At this point the only major record labels playing along are EMI and Universal, but that’s clearly enough to provide a critical mass of content although it is only about one third of iTunes’ total selection. Joe Wilcox’s early review suggests that Amazon MP3 truly is easy to use and he likes the 256kbs MP3 encoding although other aspects have not been as well received.
Amazon MP3 certainly seems to be worth a look, but with the bulk of content on most MP3 players coming from ripped tracks from personally owned CDs, I’m not quite sure it is a revolution. It may, however, be a glimpse of the future.