Calling all you audiophiles out there: Amazon has finally launched its new digital music offering called Amazon AutoRip, which provides free MP3 versions of all CDs purchased since back in 1998. This move gives consumers the ability to bypass the manual file ripping process to convert WAVE and AIFF files of CDs to the more compressed MP3 format used on portable music players like the iPod and most smartphones.
Amazon is looking to cut into the direct MP3 download market dominated by Apple’s iTunes and redirect attention to its Amazon Cloud Player music download and storage service. Digital versions of purchased CDs will automatically be accessible via the customer’s cloud player account moving forward. The option has been made possible by deals made by Amazon with record labels and music publishers. According to Steve Boom, Amazon’s VP of Worldwide Digital Music, the company now has deals in place with the three major labels — EMI (now a part of Universal), Sony and Warner — as well as hundreds of independent labels.
This news was originally leaked by CNET and reported by TechCrunch in a strategic move that is thought of as somewhat analogous to a recent Hollywood movie studio partnership to promote digital movie distribution in the cloud through UltraViolet.
Today, Amazon’s service works with more than 50,000 albums on Amazon.com. According to Nielsen Soundscan, CDs are still the dominant medium for listening to music. But with the rise of the digital MP3 format, CD sales fell 12.8 percent last year while digital album sales increased 14 percent and digital tracks rose 5 percent.
“What would you say if you bought music CDs from a company 15 years ago, and then 15 years later that company licensed the rights from the record companies to give you the MP3 versions of those CDs … and then to top it off, did that for you automatically and for free?” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO. “Well, starting today, it’s available to all of our customers – past, present, and future – at no cost. We love these opportunities to do something unexpected for our customers.”
If you are like me, you still have a pile of old CDs and jewel cases collecting dust in storage somewhere. You can’t beat the convenience of carrying your entire music collection on one portable device , but there is something comforting about knowing you have a hard copy as a backup somewhere in your house.
Many are wondering if Amazon will also offer the same type of service for the books it sells — if it will automatically provide Kindle-ready digital versions on portable devices in the future. To date, no such plans have been disclosed.