Amazon squares up to iTunes with launch of ‘free’ MP3 music

The CD may be getting a shot in the arm with the launch of AutoRip, a new service from Amazon that gives customers buying CDs a free MP3 version – including any music bought since the company’s Music Store started up in 1998.

When a customer makes a purchase, the MP3 version is automatically and immediately placed in Cloud Player – meaning, amongst other things, that it’s possible to listen to your new purchase right away, witout having to wait for the CD to arrive.

“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?” says Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

“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.”

More than 50,000 albums are covered by the AutoRip service. Music can be played instantly from any Kindle Fire, Android phone or tablet, iPhone, iPod touch, Samsung TVs, Roku, Sonos and any web browser. AutoRip MP3s have a bit rate of 256Kbps, giving the same sound quality as tracks from iTunes Match.

Importantly, all AutoRip MP3s are stored for free in customers’ Cloud Player libraries and don’t count against Cloud Player storage limits. Customers can buy music and know that it is safely stored in Cloud Player and accessible from any compatible device.

In many cases, says Amazon, customers can buy an AutoRip CD, including the free digital copy, for less than they’d pay for the digital album alone at iTunes.