Support DRM Free Music

In a departure from my normal stance on the subject, I think it is time people put a little money where their beliefs were and supported Amazon in its foray to DRM-free music downloads.

Amazon is selling MP3 music, free of any digital rights management crap, for as little as 59p a track. Now, for those of you who are used to music being free per track this might seem expensive, but it is cheaper than most of the services like iTunes – and more importantly this sells you the music in the right way… you are allowed to play it on your iPod, your Laptop, your old mp3 player etc. One of the things that used to constantly infuriate me (and ensure I would never actually pay for music there) on iTunes was the problem with how portable the music was.

I have an iPod, I have a phone that plays MP3s, I have a laptop, I have a car MP3 player, a windows PC, a linux PC and an MP3-enabled music station. If I buy a peice of music I am the person who chooses which device can play it, not Apple. When I had various CD or tape players, it was down to me as to which device was going to play the music. I didnt have to contact EMI for a new licence every time I bought a new cassette player so why should I start now?

None of this is meant to suggest the only reason people pirate MP3 tracks is to have more portability, but it is an element. It is important that companies like Amazon show iTunes et al., that giving the users choice can be a profitable business model. Is the brand name of iTunes really worth an extra 20p a track when you can only play the track on your iPod?

If you like the idea of DRM free music and if you think that 59p is close to a reasonable sum of money to pay for music you like, then please go to Amazon and download a track or two. It doesn’t have to be many! Unless people make the effort to purchase DRM-free music over DRM’d music, the industry will never change.

By the way – I am sure Amazon is not the only source of DRM free music at a reasonable price. Please feel free to advertise any other sources here. Play.com springs to mind, where are the others? Find one you like, and buy some music. Then tell your friends to buy some.

Footnote: I gain nothing by you buying things from Amazon. There is no affiliate-ID in the link. This is actually something I think is a good idea to support.

Ebay and pay more

Now, given that this blog has an amazingly technical readership (who often put Heather and me to shame) it will probably come as no surprise to most of you that Ebay is actually a more expensive way of buying things. However, it was a bit of a shock to me.

Today, I was looking around for books on the CISSP course and out of idle curiosity I did a search for CISSP for dummies (yeah, yeah). On ebay today, the cheapest I could find was £13.99 plus £2.75 postage (visit auction page – auction ends 12 May 08 so the link might die).

Compare against Amazon.co.uk where the same book costs £13.49 plus £2.75 postage (here).

Now this is a trivial example, and most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid over saving 50p (I would but that is because no one ever makes donations here and I am poor). However, if we look at it a bit further…

Ebay has the CISSP Exam Cram 2 book available as a Buy It Now for the discounted price of £21.37 plus £2.75 postage. Can Amazon beat that?

Well, yes. On Amazon, the CISSP Exam Cram 2 is £14.99 (postage seems to be a grey area here but I think it will be £2.75). That is no mere £0.50 saving, that is a whopping £6.38.

There is a change in the balance of power over the CISSP all in one exam guide (Ebay, Amazon) where Ebay is actually about £3 cheaper, but by and large you actually pay for the privilege of using Ebay. It strikes me, from talking to all the ebayers I know, that people have a strange attitude towards Ebay. When people go to shop there, the idea of checking prices becomes alien.

For some reason, people seem to get caught in some weird mindset when they are faced with an auction and apparently regularly pay prices close to, or in excess of, the market rate for an item. I have experienced this a bit in the past when I’ve been bidding on cameras or camera parts – I have never won a single auction because almost every one of them has gone over the price you could buy it from a camera shop.

Why on Earth does Ebay have this effect on people? Great for sellers but, methinks, not so good for the buyer…

Comment Awards

We have a new winner. Not just one winner but several. Plus, an introduction to the most enticing product you have ever seen: The Playmobil Security Checkpoint.

If you’ve never seen them, Playmobil are sort of like cuter and better-designed bendy Lego figures. They are usually dressed for work, directing traffic, on construction sites or fighting fires. At the more esoteric reaches of the Playmobil world, you can find them doing more interesting jobs as knights and pirates. Now you can find their busy plastic bodies scanning your luggage….

This new set of toddler role models was first spotted in the Register, from which we’ve borrowed this picture:
Security Check point image from the Register

The comments are on Amazon, The product sadly isn’t available. (Well, yes, pedants, they are reviews rather than comments, but I reserve the right to define “comments” as whatever I choose the word to mean, in an Alice in Wonderland style way. It’s my ceremony.) There are a few and they are all brilliant.

Snips from Amazon’s featured pro and anti reviews are:

Educational and Fun!
Thank you Playmobil for allowing me to teach my 5-year old the importance of recognizing what a failing bureaucracy in a ever growing fascist state looks like. Sometimes it’s a hard lesson for kids to learn because not all pigs carry billy clubs and wear body armor. I applaud the people who created this toy for finally being hip to our changing times….. (By zampano)

Great lesson for the kids!
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up…. (by loosenut)

Read the rest on Amazon, plus the other comments, most of which will have you giggling helplessly and/or will restore your faith in human nature.

No fancy icons for today’s winners, just another picture, taken from the Playmobil site.
Another view of Security checkpoint

Well done, all round.

Well Done Amazon.co.uk

Now, in the past I have been very quick to rant here about the slightest customer service infraction – mainly this is because Ebuyer and Pipex are terminally bad companies – so it is only fair that I try to re-dress the balance at least occasionally.

So, with this in mind, I need to say a big well done to Amazon.co.uk. They have an actual understanding about customer service and appear able to maintain their promises.

A few months ago I was sent £20 in Amazon vouchers, so eventually I decided to spend them. Not really having anything in mind, I spent quite a while searching Amazon looking for the right combination of things to hit the £20 mark exactly and not incur any P&P charges (yes, I am that cheapskate). Eventually I found some filters for my camera so I ordered them. Everything went smoothly and the order was processed then confirmed.

A few hours later I glanced over the confirmation email and, to my horror, I realised I’d ordered the wrong size filter (52mm instead of 67mm if anyone cares) and panicked trying to cancel the order. In previous dealings with e-commerce sites, this is normally where everything goes wrong, however with Amazon it was painless, quick and effective. They were even able to refund the gift voucher without any problems at all.

Being unable to find any suitable filters of the correct size, I cracked and bought a few books (history, Pratchett and the like), going over the £20 but not by much. As I live a few miles more remote than the middle of nowhere, I was expecting the delivery charges for this (heavier) bundle to be painful. When I have bought from other suppliers (who also use Royal Mail to deliver) postage charges have been astronomical but no, Amazon offered the normal range of options, including the free “standard delivery.”

Despite the site being littered with warnings about the Royal Mail strikes causing problems to post etc., I decided I was in no hurry and standard delivery (estimated 5-7 days) would be fine. This was during the evening of 10 Oct 07. I placed the order, got all the confirmations (and this time there was no panic over the thread sizes…) and all was well.

Today (13 Oct 07), I get home from work only to discover the parcel has arrived. So, in effect, the standard delivery took less than 3 days to complete. To be honest, this is pretty good going. If some one posts me a single page of A4 it normally takes that much time to get here, if not longer. When I have ordered from other companies, I have had to pay a fortune (often as much as 20% of the cost of the total order) for items which have taken a week or two to get here from the centre of England.

I realise it is strange to say well done to a company for doing what they should do (i.e. serve their customers), but sadly it has become a rare thing in my experience. Companies no longer care about negative opinions, because largely they are all rubbish. In this instance though, Amazon have exceeded my expectations and, in doing so, have greatly increased the chances I will shop there again. Will they care? I doubt it. But I will.

(Note 1: Interestingly, in this instance, Amazon exceeded my expectations by ensuring they were low to begin with. Amazon emphasised how the parcel could take up to a week, longer with the postal strikes. This meant anything less was a bonus to me. Too many e-commerce organisations try to boast about getting things to you before you even realised you wanted them that disappointment is sure to follow.)

(Note 2: One negative point. Despite the books being supposedly “brand new” all four show distinct signs of wear. One is pretty dog eared and all smell of stale tobacco. If I was planning to sell these on eBay, I would never get away with calling them new… The parcel used to wrap the four up was open at both ends, so I am amazed nothing fell out and was lost. I think this includes a well done to the local postie. )

[tags]Amazon, e-commerce, society, culture, raves, Good Shop, Postal Strikes, Royal Mail, Books, Shopping, eBay, eBuyer, Pipex, Customer Service[/tags]