When I got the iPod I also had to get Apple’s iTunes (well, not really; I wound up sticking with Windows 98 and using Ephpod to get songs onto the iPod, but I did set up a Windows 2000 hard drive and load iTunes on it).
After a number of weeks I finally got all the security patches in place for Windows 2000 and felt like I could take iTunes for a spin on the internet and download some songs. 99 cents per song is really pretty reasonable. I’ve bought entire albums before because they had 3 good songs. The problem with downloading is you don’t actually have something to hold. I think that tangible ownership is an important part of having music, but maybe I’m just old fashioned. Cover art used to be giant and double albums (and plenty of single albums) would open up to even bigger artwork in the middle. CD covers just aren’t as impressive though some of the disc graphics are kind of neat.
I digress. I have a dial-up connection to the internet so it took me over 2 hours to download 11 songs. But that gave me a whole CD of great songs for only $10.89. Apple uses a format it calls AAC but the file extension is .m4p. Supposedly it is better quality but seems to take up about the same amount of disk space as a .mp3 ripped at 128 kbps or about 1 MB per minute. Somehow they can tell how many machines the song is loaded on and you are limited to five. However you can burn the song onto CD which converts it to a .wav file taking up 10 MB per minute but then I’m guessing you could rip that CD back to .mp3. Anyway, I used iTunes to burn a CD of my 11 songs and it sounded great (though the recording levels seemed to vary) and played without a problem in my car and my home stereo. It didn’t even need to use the CD Writer software, it’s just built in to iTunes.
Anyway, it was overall a very satisfying experience. Much cleaner and easier than searching for things on the internet and downloading bad versions or getting disconnected in the middle of a download.
They still don’t have everything. I wanted to get Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon, but all iTunes had was a live version that I wasn’t interested in. And there you have to be careful because artists often change a song when they put it on a compilation album or “re-mix”. Because all sales at iTunes are final you have to do some research and find out which album has the right version. I guess they had about 75% of what I was looking for.
See a follow-up entry.