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Amazon AutoRip: Not iTunes Match, but Still a Time Saver

Buy a CD today, and what are you going to do? Rip it to MP3 or AAC right away, of course, so you can play it from your computer, phone, or tablet. I’m sure plenty of people still have physical CD players, but I found it difficult to continue with the disc-swapping once I became accustomed to the ease of choosing music from a large digital library. That’s much of the allure of buying music from the iTunes Store or the Amazon MP3 Store, since there’s no need to go through the effort of ripping the CD in the first place, nor do you have to find space for it on a shelf or in a box.

But don’t count CDs out entirely. They’re far more satisfying to wrap and toss under a Christmas tree than iTunes gift cards, they’re a built-in backup (less of a concern now that both Apple and Amazon let you redownload purchased music), and they can make for interesting artifacts, thanks to the album art and liner notes. And I’m sure that there are plenty of people who just prefer a solid bit of plastic to the ephemeral digital download.

Amazon has just announced a new service, called AutoRip, that aims to let those who want to buy CDs get the best of both worlds. If a CD purchased from Amazon is among the 50,000 albums that are eligible for the service, when you buy it, you’ll automatically receive MP3 versions of the songs for immediate download. No ripping necessary. (The AutoRip logo appears under the Add to Cart button for eligible albums.)

The AutoRip MP3s appear in Amazon Cloud Player, a Web app that stores and plays music purchased from the Amazon MP3 Store along with music you’ve uploaded (see “Amazon Puts Your Music in the Cloud,” 2 April 2011). You can also play stored music using apps for iOS, Android, Sonos, and Roku.

Taking advantage of AutoRip is merely a matter of buying a CD that’s included in the program, but Amazon has sweetened the deal by including CDs purchased as far back as 1998. So, if you log in to the Cloud Player site, it will tell you if it’s giving you music from previously purchased CDs, and it marks them with a special blue-green icon. I have no idea how many CDs I’ve purchased from Amazon since 1998, but only four showed up in Cloud Player for me.

Before you ask, no, CDs purchased as gifts are not eligible for AutoRip, since then two people would be getting the music. Of course, Amazon has no way of knowing that you’re purchasing a CD as a gift unless you pick the CD from someone’s wishlist or indicate during the checkout process that it’s a gift. Also pay attention to the terms surrounding returns; if you return a CD after downloading the MP3s, you’ll be charged for them, but if you return it without having downloaded the MP3s, they’ll disappear from your Cloud Player library and you won’t be charged.

How does AutoRip compare with Apple’s $24.99 per year iTunes Match service? Only peripherally. Both services give you high quality, DRM-free digital copies of music, but iTunes Match works with all your existing ripped music and AutoRip works only with music from CDs purchased from Amazon, and only a subset of those. But AutoRip is free, so if you like getting physical CDs, it’s another reason to purchase from Amazon rather than some other retailer, which I’m sure is precisely the point.


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Comments about Amazon AutoRip: Not iTunes Match, but Still a Time Saver
(Comments are closed.)

Steve Nicholson  2013-01-12 21:00
I had 345 albums show up. (I have just publicly disclosed my addiction.) I saw a complaint in a comment somewhere that someone's albums didn't include all the tracks but a quick scroll through my list showed that they all look complete. But I don't imagine I'll use this since all the albums are in iTunes and in my iPod classic. But I was impressed to see that many albums show up, including some relatively obscure artists like Alela Diane. My band's album didn't show up but that might be because I only bought used copies.
Anonymous  2013-01-14 05:19
I too had a lot of albums show up. I don't recall the number. I like having the less compressed CD for listening on my stereo particularly for classical music.

I did not check all that closely, but I noticed that one album, The Last Waltz by the band, the match for the standard album but I own the expanded edition with the outtakes and extra songs. So, I wonder if some "mismatches" are due to remasters like that.

This was a nice surprise though. I also noticed that albums that I had previously uploaded and then became AutoRips automatically adjusted my song count of uploads vs. purchases.
Kenneth Simon  2013-01-14 18:17
I gave this a shot with about 10 CDs that I'd purchased in days gone by. I can confirm that you can't always get the whole album: two of the ten albums I downloaded were missing one or two tracks. It's a shame that the albums aren't all-or-nothing, as that would greatly simplify things and leave me feeling a little less like Amazon had glossed over limitations of AutoRip. Still, not a bad feature and it did enable me to get the music back for one or two CDs that got scratched to oblivion in my car!
Peter Vamos  2013-01-15 04:57
I am in the UK. Tried to login. Whichever link I tried took me to the German Amazon site login page. Does this work in the UK at all? In Germany?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-01-15 06:33
Sorry, no... Found this in the terms of service>

AutoRip is available only to customers with billing addresses in the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who have a U.S. bank-issued credit card associated with their account.

This isn't really surprising - very few licensing-related services have international stories, since the licensing requirements tend to vary by country.

Peter Vamos  2013-01-15 12:17
Thanks Adam. You write that very few licensing related services work internatinally. Well, iTunes Match works in the UK.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-01-15 13:25
Yes, but I'll bet that it's not exactly the same songs.
This is the answer to the question no one was asking. If you have the CD, rip it yourself - better quality most likely, and it takes what, 1-2 minutes? Probably less time than it takes to download it, assuredly.
Steven Oz  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-01-15 10:04
Of course, you can buy a CD on Amazon as a gift and give it away, shrink-wrap intact... yet you are able to have the music yourself too.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-01-15 13:24
Yes, as I noted in the article, as long as you don't pick the CD from someone's wishlist or indicate that it's a gift during the checkout process, there's no way Amazon could know. They're obviously aware of this.