According to practically every form of media we’re in the age of digital downloads and online content. I do legitimately buy downloadable content, but the problem I have, in the UK at least, is there’s a complete lack of choice. There are some subscription and walled-garden systems, like Xbox Live, or Sony’s equivalent, and rent only options like Lovefilm, but if I’m talking about media you can download and transfer onto any device that supports the format.
For MP3s I try and avoid iTunes and use Amazon, although sometimes I’m forced back if they don’t have something. There’s also the likes of Play who do MP3 downloads. Of the main media types this is probably the best catered for.
TV and Films
When it comes to TV and films though, I’m limited to one choice: iTunes.
It means being locked into their DRM, the formats they decide (no HD for example) and the prices they dictate, which is often more expensive than buying the DVD.
These are a strange one. The biggest supplier of downloadable audiobooks is Audible, which is owned by Amazon. The problem is they want you to sign up for an ongoing subscription and force you to buy a book a month whether you want one or not. I don’t like being signed up to ongoing costs.
Ironically, they also license content to iTunes, so I can buy the same content (usually it starts with ‘this content is brought to you by Audible.com’) for less money than at Audible and without having to sign up for a subscription. It means being back at iTunes again though.
Another area that is fairly well supported (I don’t buy them, but have looked around). Outside the duo of Apple and Amazon there are a number of other suppliers and because most work are in standard formats (even if they have DRM) you can use them on your reader.
All of these areas could do with a lot more competition, though film, TV and audiobooks seem to be the sole preserve of one or two players. It’s not a simple solution for a company to roll out I grant you and maybe the technical challenges (supporting users, broadband speeds) are stopping more companies rolling it out, but come on!