So Amazon launched their own online music store this week to much fanfare, its big claim to fame being that it’s specifically an MP3 store – that is, they sell unprotected, DRM-free surprisingly good quality MP3’s, and even better, most of the tracks are only $0.89, 10 cents less than iTunes. This is huge news – iTunes has been selling their unprotected tracks in iTunes Plus for about $0.20 more than their protected tracks.

Now Amazon doesn’t have quite as extensive a library, to be sure. Something like 2 Million tracks versus Apple’s 8 Million(?) or so. But it’s a pretty impressive selection – I’ve managed to find a bunch of stuff I wanted from there, all for 10 cents less than iTunes, and with none of that icky Fairplay DRM.

I’ve only recently come around to buying tunes online. Call me old-fashioned, but for a long time I always just preferred owning the album – and as DJ, much of what I bought would likely make it into my sets at some point, and burned discs are just not always as reliable as the real deal. And of course I went through the whole Napster (and beyond) phase, and of course I know that the law in Canada is pretty ambiguous when it comes to downloading, so when I’ve felt inclined to download, I’ve been known to partake.

But a little while back, I was getting sick of the mess that were my usual sources for single tracks online, and I thought I’d give iTunes a shot. And as much as I hated giving up my hard earned cash to buy music in a restrictive DRM-protected format, I had to give it to them – they’ve got the experience down. The iTunes music store experience is dynamite. But there’s that whole DRM thing again. Just on principle, it bothers me.

So this week, along comes Amazon MP3 – a store so dedicated to selling unrestricted music, they put it right in their store name! Cheaper than iTunes, less restrictive, and surprise surprise, their store experience is pretty decent (go figure – Amazon has figured out a thing or two about selling stuff online!). It’s no iTunes, but it’ll do. Of course, they know exactly the market they’re after – their downloader software automatically loads your songs in your iTunes playlist – that’s a nice touch.

Only downside is that it’s only (technically) open to U.S. residents right now. But hey fellow canucks, good news – their ordering system doesn’t confirm that your address matches the address attached to your credit card, so just pop in a US zip code and shazam, you’re downloading. Of course, I wouldn’t count on this loophole being open long… so give it a shot while you can, if you’re so inclined.

UPDATE:  The store is no longer working for me – so I guess Amazon caught on to the zip code trick.  Bummer.