I haven’t purchased an actual music CD in years; I had all but forgotten they existed. And then, yesterday, I was pleasantly reminded of 14 CDs I purchased from Amazon.com. The giant online retailer informed me via email that high-quality MP3 versions of my discs are now available in my Cloud Player library. No extra cost or effort on my part is required.
Never mind that, like most people, I ripped my CDs into music files years ago. It’s a nice move by Amazon. And I hate to sound ungrateful, but here goes: The gesture is too late to be of real value to me. And Amazon’s Cloud Player apps for iOS and Android need tune ups.
On Thursday, Amazon announced a new service, AutoRip. When you buy an AutoRip-compatible CD, you automatically receive the album as free MP3 files (256Kpbs) in your Cloud Player in addition to the physical media you purchased. Amazon customers who purchased AutoRip-compatible CDs since 1998 automatically receive MP3 files of those discs, too. A caveat: CDs you purchased from Amazon as gifts aren’t eligible for your Amazon Cloud Player music locker.
You can listen to your MP3 files in several ways: Stream them through Amazon Cloud Player on your Windows or Mac; download them to your computer and listen through iTunes or other software; stream the tunes to mobile devices using the free Amazon Cloud Player iPhone app or the free Amazon MP3 Android app; or, after downloading the files to your computer, transfer them to a mobile device for offline listening.
The Amazon Cloud Player iOS app lets you create playlists and search for songs; adjust volume; shuffle tunes; and stream songs to an Apple TV or AirPort Express connected to your stereo system. My only complaint: The app isn’t optimized for iPads.
Unfortunately, I’ve had nothing but trouble with the Amazon MP3 Android app. In fact, the Android tablet app won’t let me sign into my Amazon account at all. And the app on my Android smartphone won't open. I uninstalled it and attempted to reinstall it to no avail.
App issues aside, does Amazon’s AutoRip service really matter? We live in an age in which most new computers lack optical drives, consumers use tablets more than computers, and they largely already switched to downloading and streaming music files anyway.
AutoRip’s biggest beneficiaries, then, may be those who bought music CDs years ago, never got around to ripping some of them, and now don’t have a CD drive to rip them with. People who lost all their MP3 files as a result of a hard drive failure or people who want physical copies of the music files they buy for backup could also see value in the service. But something tells me there aren’t legions of people who fit these descriptions today, and there will be even fewer tomorrow. Thanks anyway, Amazon.