Amazon MP3 Service – Apple shouldn’t ignore this one recently launched an MP3 music store, promising DRM-free 256kbit mp3s for less than the cost of an iTunes download. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention, but over the weekend I took the time to browse the service. Apple better not ignore this one.

First, let’s talk about the reasons that I normally ignore non-iTunes stores. First off, prior to this (and eMusic, but eMusic lost me years ago) the alternatives were all reliant on DRM-wrapped Windows Media. That meant no Mac playback, no iPod playback, and therefore, no Colin.

Additionally, most of the other stores have been strictly web-based, which compared with the all-in-one nature of iTunes is cumbersome and obnoxious. Amazon still suffers here, but they’ve done some clever things to work around it. By installing their download-helper application, you can purchase an album with one click, have the files downloaded in a batch and then automatically added to iTunes, with proper cover art and everything. That’s incredibly slick and makes the service far less clunky than having to click a whole load of “download now” links and then drag the files into iTunes.

The selection isn’t at iTunes levels yet, but they’ve got plenty of mainstream artists. Prices are almost universally better than iTunes – most singles are $0.89 and albums are $8.99 or less. I can’t help but wonder whether there’s any profit in this for Amazon.

Yes, buying still takes an extra couple clicks versus iTunes, and the web interface isn’t nearly as slick as iTunes, but saving a few bucks and getting DRM-free music is a pretty nice advantage. For the first time since I gave up CDs, I’m going to consider looking outside of iTunes for music – and I’m a fanboi! So Apple: don’t ignore this one…

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