>Thoughts On HMV Digital

>I finally got around to trying out theHMV digital downloads storeIwroteabout last week, and the verdict is that aside from a couple of problems, it’s pretty great. Here are a few observations.

we’ll start with the selection. It looks good. to test it out I went searching for some of the albums that I either haven’t been able to find on CD at any of the stores online or otherwise that I usually buy from or things that I would have to be insane to buy at the prices those places were charging. Everything I’ve looked for so far has been available at reasonable prices. The most expensive thing I’ve found would set me back $10.99. Not too shabby.

Since we’re kind of talking about pricing already, let’s officially start its paragraph. The store will let you buy either singles or entire albums. Every individual track I’ve come across so far is 99 cents, which is pretty standard and fair. I assume that at some point there may be more or less expensive ones since albums seem to be priced variably. The usual price for a whole album looks to be $9.99 no matter what the bitrate is. I can see this perhaps pissing some people off and justifiably so, because it’s kind of not fair to pay the same cost for something encoded at 320 as you do for something in 192. fortunately for me that’s not been one of those things that’s ever bothered me too much. As long as it sounds decent, I’m fine. But it might be nice to consider a pricing scheme based on quality. the higher the bitrate, the more you pay.

The site, at least with JAWS 10, is quite easy to use. The layout is simple to understand and in no time at all I was getting the hang of it. Previewing a track or an album is easy if you want to hear clips before you buy. All you have to do is push a preview button. I know that might sound stupid to a lot of the sighted folks, but you’d be amazed what a dickdance it can be to hear previews on some sites when the cute little speaker icons aren’t labelled “cute little speaker icon.” The only problem I found with this is that there appears to be no way to make it stop, so if you’re previewing something loud, you’re waiting until the music is done before you can keep shopping because there’s no hearing JAWS over some of that stuff.

My only gripe with the layout isn’t even really a gripe with the layout, and I’m not quite sure how widespread it is. Sometimes when you search for an album, you get multiple results that appear to be identical and you have to click through to the album page and scan the information there looking for details about what makes this one different from the one right above it. If there’s a graphical clue, it doesn’t translate. Alt tags or some other kind of description that tells you that X is the deluxe edition and that Y is the one with all of the cursing removed would make things so much easier. buying the wrong version of a CD is one of those things that annoys me to no end when it happens, so a way to prevent it from happening would be appreciated.

The order process was also amazingly simple. I was a little nervous for a second when I tried to add the first album to my basket and the screen didn’t look like it changed, but then I figured out that unlike most shopping carts you aren’t taken to a new page when you add something, you just stay where you are. If you want to make sure something added, there’s a basket heading that has all of your stuff listed under it. Once I got what I came for and created an account, I was able to check out super fast because they didn’t need my full address. All I needed to enter was my name, my postal code and my credit card number. Nice to see a company not taking more info than they need. I was also pleasantly surprised to find no sales taxes added to the purchase. Maybe I’m not up on my Canadian tax law, but that was pretty damn cool and I hope it continues. Not holding my breath, but hey.

Another cool feature is the ability to gift an album to somebody during checkout. I can see myself using this a whole lot over Christmas. Everybody wants to turn their CD’s into mp3’s anyway, so why not skip the middleman? Plus I have a few friends who I sometimes end up mailing presents to and essentially paying shipping twice on the same thing is stupid, so this rules the earth. You can set dates up to a year in advance and the site will email the recipient to let them know that they’ve got a present waiting and how they can collect it.

Now we get to my one major complaint. The HMV download manager is utterly useless access wise. I see unlabeled buttons and a few menu options I can’t figure out what to do with and nothing more. Unfortunately if you want to download all of your stuff at once, that’s the only way to do it. There’s no zipped copy of full albums like onCDBaby,so unable to use the manager, I was stuck downloading my songs 1 by 1 into folders I had to make. Click, save, repeat. At least I was able to do it that way unlike some places where the manager software is the only way to go, but that irritated me. I made sure to mention that in the feedback survey I filled out at the end, and if any of you use the site I’d love it if you could please do the same thing.

I think that’s about everything. Over all it looks like a fantastic service that’s going to make me go broke, and I would most certainly recommend it to all of our Canadian readers.

If any of you buy things, I’d love to know what you think,and I’d love to know about any tips or tricks you discover that might make things even better.

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