I don't usually buy albums online. So far my best option here has been the iTunes Music Store, but most songs on iTMS are of the low bitrate, DRMed variety, and I just can't abide by that. Why pay for music that assumes I'm a criminal when I get better, unfettered results by stealing? Generally, however, I try not to steal music either, so my preferred method has been the purchase of the tried and true CD. I'm an adult. I make a decent living. I certainly don't mind paying for music that brings me great enjoyment. Case in point: Elvis Costello's Taking Liberties. My girlfriend owns this excellent album of early, unreleased tracks. On vinyl. And I've been looking for an updated, digital version for my own collection for a while. But the record's been out of print, until now. Taking Liberties is now available, digitally. Via download. Only.
You can get the album on iTunes, or, as my girlfriend pointed out, on Amazon. After checking out the Amazon Store, I decided to give it a whirl. Particularly once I realized that the Amazon tracks are all DRM-free, and all feature high quality 256kbps bitrates, all for less money than iTMS equivalents, which are only available for certain tracks.
Buying music on Amazon for the first time is slightly more painful than via the iTMS, because you need to download and install the Amazon MP3 Downloader software. This is a fast download, and the installer takes no time at all. And once it's installed, downloading whole albums is a simple matter. Just go to Amazon's site, find the album you want and buy it using your Amazon account. The Amazon software will take care of the rest, downloading the files and importing the music into your iTunes library.
While the Amazon process is slightly more convoluted, requiring a separate install and a secondary application, there are advantages even beyond the high quality, DRM-free tracks. For one, I'm saved the trouble of reverse engineering said DRMed tracks when it's time to back up. In fact, never mind backups. I'll just use Time Machine for that from now on. Also, my music isn't tethered to one machine. And I can buy music from any web browser anywhere.
Overall, my first Amazon music purchase experience has been extremely positive. Amazon may just bring me smiling into the age of digital music downloads.