Report: The Amazon UK Mp3 Store On Linux… Actually a positive experience :O

Hey Folks, been a while since I updated you on my open source shenanigans but there is something Linux related that I’d like to tell you about. Now first off apologies to those International readers who don’t live in either the US or the UK because this may not be of much interest to you. Feel free to move along and mutter under your breath about my small minded English ways if you like but I thought this was an interesting development. That well known online retailing behemoth Amazon has finally released a version of their mp3 music download service for the UK. It’s been available in the US for some time but we finally get a chance to try it on these shores. As I alluded to before it hasn’t been rolled out any other countries yet as far as I know and I can only assume this is because of licensing issues in different regions, that and the recording industry still having it’s head up it’s ass when it comes to the Internet. It seems to me that the Internet is a truly global market place and it should be treated as such, it’s not as if there are extra shipping costs if I order a download from China or somewhere instead of the UK. Many companies are clinging to their old business models and even fighting change through the courts and the likes of the RIAA. It’s not going away guys sorry, you’ll have to deal with it. The genie is well and truely out of the bottle now so why not give us legal avenues to buy your music without DRM and make some money out of it instead of bitching and crying over the past.

Anyway, enough ranting sorry I went off on one there. One great thing about the Amazon Mp3 store is that all the music is completely DRM free so you actually own it once you’ve paid your money and you can do what you want with it. What a novel idea that is in the current climate. I decided to check out the store for myself and see what kind of experience I’d have as a Linux user.

Being inherently pretty cheap I noticed there was a promotion on offering quite a lot of decent albums for £3 each (at the time of writing it’s still on so get over there quick). They all come as 256kbps mp3 files without any DRM as I’ve mentioned but the really surprising thing for me was the quality of the Linux support. I was a bit apprehensive at first when asked to install some software called Amazon Mp3 Downloader, I thought to myself “why do I need some software just to download a few files?” and it all smelt a little too much like iTunes for my liking, I hate lock ins… unless they’re in pubs which of course I approve of. I made some enquiries and was told that you don’t have to have the software to download but the advantage is it makes automating the process easier and you can pause and resume downloads. I decided to install it and see how it went.

The truly pleasing thing as a Linux user was to be offered supported packages for a variety of distributions. As you can see from screenshot they have packages prebuilt for Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and openSUSE. This is refereshing and it seems that Linux support hasn’t been treated as an afterthought like it is by so many companies, if it’s even considered at all. Sure this doesn’t cover all the Linux distributions out there by any stretch of the imagination but it’s still a good selection of arguably the most widely used distros I think.

I’m running Linux Mint at the moment and installing the Ubuntu 8.10 .deb package worked quickly and easily. A couple of clicks and it was done. It appeared on my menu with all the other Internet apps and it seems pretty well made I must say, simple but effective. It’s a basic Gtk app which queues up your downloads and stores them in a folder within /home/#username/Music so they are immediately picked up by most media players. You simply download and open a .amz file from Amazon which works as a trigger for the download. I downloaded The Killers “Sam’s Town” album in a couple of minutes and I’ve been really pleased with the quality and service. I’ve even been back and bought another one of their £3 albums since and something tells me this won’t be the last time. Overall I think Amazon have done a good job of supporting Linux users and it’s really encouraging to see, does this mean we’re finally a market large enough to warrent attention from retailers? I hope so, that has to be a positive thing.

Unfortunately the software isn’t open source which is a shame but I’m not sure how they could do that considering the payment elements of the process and so on. Maybe something to look at in the future. So all we need now is for Amazon to open this service up worldwide, this is probably due to legal restrictions and old International trade agreements but we can only hope it’s fixed soon. If you live in the UK or the US you can enjoy this service now and I’d recommend it to music loving Linux fans in these countries. I’m sure there must be plenty of you out there.

Edit: It was just pointed out to me by Iboy in the comments that there are no x86_64 packages. I never even thought of this so apologies to any 64 bit users out there 🙂


  1. It does look like they did a good job here. One can only hope that they will do something about the non US/UK costumers, it’s only their best interest…

    I wonder if there is a difference between the Ubuntu and Debian packages (my guess: no).

    About the open source issue: I don’t think there is any problem in making an open source program that handles payments. With proper use of encryption it will be as safe as a closed source program, probably even safer.

  2. I am struggling to resist the lure of the Amazon music store.

    Normally I like to have and to hold the CD case and burn it as many times in as many formats (call me a Luddite) as I please but at these prices, I will have to take the plunge next year.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys 🙂

    @hezy You’re probably right there’s little difference between the Ubuntu and Debian packages. As I said in the article I doubt it’s Amazon who don’t want to sell worldwide, their infrastructure is already there. It’s legal issues with the record industry blocking them and like I said way outdated trading laws that were never made for our new networked world. They need to scrap them and start again but you know what governments are like it takes two years just to agree what colour the curtains in the cabinet office should be 😀

    @andy I’m usually a CD guy myself (make your jokes now :P) but this has won me over a little, I don’t think I’d be buying albums for £8, I’d get the CD delivered free for that price probably. This is an interesting model though

  4. @Iboy Wow, you’re right! I didn’t even think of that, thanks for pointing it out. Is there some way to install the 32bit package on your 64bit system? I know people used to do it with Firefox a lot to get plugins working but I’m no expert as you can tell. I stick to 32bit mostly. I’ll add an edit to the article right now

  5. Yeah I’m suffering without the x86_64 support and according to Amazon you need to downloader to buy whole albums.

    I might just spend the extra cash and use where I can just use my browser 🙂

  6. @daz Really? That’s a shame I was told you could download without the software so that sucks. is pretty good as well though, they have DRM free music too 🙂

  7. Oh.. I forgot to mention, I emailed Amazon support and got a quite helpful reply back saying I can install the 32-bit libraries and make it run. They also provided a link to a Ubuntu forums page where someone has provided a script.

  8. @lboy That’s pretty good, a lot of companies wouldn’t have replied or just sent a generic “sorry” message. They obviously had someone who was a bit knowledgeable and interested on the other end. Good to hear 🙂

  9. Hi,

    I wrote to Amazon asking on their stance on truly open source initiatives. This would include allowing the possibility of downloading in the lossless FLAC format, or even opening up the client downloader.

    Their response was surprisingly honest!

    I’ve posted their response in an article:

  10. Thank you so much for this post. I use the reviewazon plugin. Reviewazon is the easy and simple way to add amazon affiliate product to your website.

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