Well… after looking into this quite a while ago already, I finally did it and used the German version of the amazon.com MP3 online shop in order to do my first-ever music purchase not involving any kind of actual “physical” medium. And… yes, it feels kind of strange: On one side, if you “just” want to listen to music, it’s next to perfect – browse the album list, search whatever you’re looking for, eventually find it, buy it, download it – that’s it. No waiting for the CD to be delivered right to your mailbox, no additional shipping fees, plus (which used to finally make me actually go for it) the chance of finally getting hold of music which ceased to be availble on “physical media” (in other words: CD or vinyl…) years ago ( leaving second-hand stores aside).
On the other side of course, buying music digitally online gives you an arcane feeling of actually being “left with nothing” in some way: In the end, a collection of bits on your hard drive or music player is all you get from that. Buying a CD at least “feels” like getting more “value for money”, at the very least talking about cover artwork, packaging and all this kind of stuff.

But let aside this, I was surprised to see the amazon.com MP3 shop being a rather friendly thing. Overally, first and foremost, knowing that the music they offer is not polluted protected with DRM (and, thus, usually bound to special player software and devices) was an important thing.

Then, downloading the actual files you’ve bought there is done using a proprietary piece of software called amazonmp3, which is available for download and installation on virtually all important operating systems. Getting this piece of software to work on my Ubuntu 9.04 installation was as straightforward as downloading the .deb file, resolving a few additional dependencies and launching the application. Good. Doing the actual purchase of any MP3 music, while in there, basically works the same as purchasing anything else via amazon.com, which is a good thing if you’re an amazon.com customer anyway, as, in terms of payment and billing, it works just as you know it, keeping you from having to provide your accounting information to one more online shop. After completing the purchase, you’re left with a .amz file which, opened using the amazonmp3 application, automatically starts downloading the files that belong to your purchase (with the files being downloaded one by one, preconfigured to $HOME/Amazon MP3). This worked pretty smoothly as well and, overally, something like two minutes later the “album” I just bought was stored on my hard drive. At the very least it’s rather convenient…

… but the strange feeling remains, especially after burning this music to CD-ROM, ending with a blank, hand-labeled representation of it. Oh well… I surely will not do that every day, especially given that, looking at how fast it overally works, this seems the perfect way of wasting vast amounts of money rather quickly. But if occassionally buying a (rare?) piece of music not offered on CD or by its original author for download anymore, this seems a way to consider.