Amazon MP3

Author's note: Welcome to another edition of "From the Archives", where I post some crappy, half-finished thing that's been sitting in my drafts folder for the last 10 years!

This articles is one I started on September 14, 2008, and apparently made some edits to on October 4, 2016 (don't ask me what they were). It's about Amazon Music, or as it used to be called Amazon MP3. Nobody cares about MP3 or any other specific format anymore, though. In fact, at this point I think most people just stream music through some app that doesn't even tell them what format it's in.

But back in the 2000's, it was all about MP3s. The only other format going was AAC, and only because that's what iTunes used. People would download these files and copy them to dedicated music playing devices. Yes kids, that was a thing. I had a bunch of those devices. They were fine at the time, but it's important to realize that this was in the days before high-speed data was ubiquitous and phones had tens of gigabytes of usable storage available.

Anyway, Amazon MP3 has since become Amazon Music and now focuses more on streaming than downloading. Fortunately, you can still download MP3s from Amazon Music, you now just have to do it through their desktop app. It's not too bad, but I actually don't like it as much as the download experience for the old AmazonMP3 version of the service. The app isn't really focused on that and they keep changing the interface.
And yes, I do still care about downloading the music I buy - that's why I have a Plex instance. I like to feel like I have some measure of control over digital products I buy, even if much of it is an illusion these days.

But anyway, that's enough from now. Back to 2008. Enjoy!

I've really gotten to like Amazon's MP3 download service. I've bought a number of songs and albumns through it in the last couple of months, and it's quite nice. In fact, it's what a music download service should be.

The big win for Amazon, of course, is selection. They might not have everything, but they come damn close. Nearly every other download service I've seen over the years had a limited selection. Great if you're into discovering new artists in particular genres, but they never had mainstream stuff.

The other main selling point for Amazon is price. You can buy individual songs for $0.99 or $0.89 (just as cheap as iTunes) and entire albumns at a discount. No subscriptions or other commitments required.

Aside from those obvious issues, the service is actually very well designed. For starters, it's web-friendly, which already puts it ahead of iTunes in my book. The searching and browsing works well and they have the usual Amazon suggestions and reviews. There's a nice little Flash app for song previews and Amazon's trademark one-click purchasing. It even works well in Opera for Linux, which is notorious for questionable Flash support.

The one non-web-friendly thing about AmazonMP3 is the download app. Instead of an actual MP3, you download a .amz file, which is handed off to this download app. It queues up the files for download and drops them in appropriately organized folders. Apparently it can also import them into iTunes and WMP too. That's about it, though. It's invoked by the browser as the file handler for .amz files and, really, that's the only way you'd ever run it. I mean, other than download files, it really doesn't do anything.


On the up side, the download app is widely supported and failry inocuous. It's available for Windows, Mac, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and Open SuSE, so Linux people aren't left out in the cold. It's a small program, too. The Ubuntu package is a grand total of 772KB uncompressed. Hardly the massive 60MB iTunes package.

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