Saturday, August 16, 2008

Amazon MP3 Denies Consumer Access to Previously Purchased Content

Download purchased MP3s from Amazon more than one time? Not without intervention from tech support.

I began trying Amazon's MP3 download service recently, and was initially pleased with the results. After purchasing a track I could visit the 'Your Media Library' section of the site and download my previous purchases, even if I was at another computer.

Not anymore.

Amazon will let me pay for the same track twice(albeit with a recently added warning), but there is no longer an option on the site to "redownload" tracks already purchased, _unless_ you contact Amazon's technical support. The following video screenshot displays the warning without any option to download content previously purchased.

This is further complicated by a lacking website implementation of the Amazon MP3 Downloader application, which only works if the Amazon MP3 site sends an 'AMZ' file to download cover art and create Artist\Album folder directory trees. If the site sends you an MP3 file instead of an AMZ, you get the pleasure of creating your Artist\Album folder directory trees manually!

Should you choose to cancel the download after purchasing, the site will not let you try to download the track again unless Customer support triggers a magic bit. And should you receive an MP3 file download prompt instead of an AMZ file that works with the Amazon MP3 Downloader, the whole cycle repeats itself.

At the very least Amazon could allow users an option to default to downloading AMZ files instead of a manual MP3 download.

Allowing users to choose to download AMZ files would have prevented me from attempting to download files to the same computer twice. But there was not a choice. After initiaing a purchase, the MP3 download was initiated, and that was it. I tried leaving the Amazon MP3 Downloader running, reinstalling it, and modifying the browser settings to force AMZ files to open in the Amazon MP3 Downloader instead of the default associated AMZ app(which was already the Amazon MP3 Downloader). Again, if an .MP3 download is already started by the Amazon web site, it's too late to try a second time to get the AMZ file to launch.

This also means accessing your purchased tracks on another computer is no longer a feature. It's been recently yanked.

Amazon was pretty quick to respond to my inquiry, but could they do more?
Here's the text of their response:

Hello from

Amazon MP3 files are only available for download at the time of purchase. We display information about the items you've purchased from the Amazon MP3 Music Downloads store in Your Media Library so you can keep track of what you've bought and discover similar items that may be available. However, the files are not stored there and cannot be downloaded again after purchase without intervention from Amazon MP3 Support on an exceptional basis. This has always been the case with our downloads.

Because you can only download an MP3 file once upon purchase, we encourage you to make back-up copies of your MP3 Music files to ensure you will always have access.
[info about browser/cookie config removed]

Amazon claims this functionality has never been available. Methinks it has been removed in the last month, because I was able to download tracks more than once that I had purchased via the 'Your Media Library' without contacting support.

Amazon could do more to ensure that their customers receive the digital media purchased. Amazon's customer service has been handled well in other areas... why put the burden on the consumer, when the site can allow multiple downloads of previously purchased content?

Is this a digital iteration of forcing consumers to buy media more than once, similar to moves from VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray?

Nope. It's worse. In this case the consumer's second purchase does not include any additional value. The burdens of data integrity and recoverability are placed upon the consumer. Don't be concerned, because Amazon has a service that can be used for backups, too.