It looks like Apple’s iTunes Store finally has some competition. As has been rumored for some time now, Amazon has released a beta version of Amazon MP3 to the public. Amazon MP3 sells their music in MP3 format using either a 256 kbps variable bit rate or a 256 kbps constant bit rate. According to GigaOM, songs sell for either $0.89 or $0.99, and albums sell for between $5.99 and $9.99. The iTunes Store has DRM free AAC files at 256 kbps, but they cost $1.29 per song. Most of the albums still cost $9.99.
Amazon has a slight advantage as far as price is concerned if you can find the music you want to buy. The selection is still skimpy compared to the iTunes Store, but I’m sure this will change soon enough. I’ve also never been a big fan of how Amazon displays its product information, but it’s not bad enough to turn me away from shopping with them. Apple definitely has the ease of use advantage over Amazon MP3 because everything is contained in the iTunes software although Amazon provides the Amazon MP3 Downloader that will automatically add purchased files to your iTunes library.
Based on the beta version of the store, Amazon has a very promising product here. Apple will soon find themselves with some work to do to either either lower their prices to match Amazon or prove to consumers why they should pay a $0.30 or $0.40 premium for the DRM free songs. Apple, it’s your move.