Amazon MP3 Downloader: Bad News / Good News

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Amazon MP3 Downloader

Originally uploaded by sogrady

Given that I’ve been waiting months for its release, you’d think that I’d be more excited about the availability of the Amazon MP3 Downloader client for Linux. And I was, initially.

For the one or two of you that don’t track the availability of Linux clients for non-DRM music stores in minute detail, here’s the short version: Amazon made clients available, Adobe AIR-style, for Mac and Windows only. The poor unwashed masses were informed that “a Linux version of the Amazon MP3 Downloader is under development,” but provided with no real timetable.

The importance of the Amazon offering, for me, was the major label support. While largely content with my current DRM-free music vendor – eMusic – there are occasional major label acts that I’d like to buy from that are unavailable on the subscription music service. Enter Amazon.

In spite of the lack of a client, it remained possible to buy from the store. But you had to purchase track by track, and pray that your browser didn’t die in the transmission (Amazon only lets you download once). Worse, album pricing was limited to those able to run the client. Those on Mac or Windows, in other words.

But credit to Amazon, they kept their promise and last week released a downloader client for the Linux operating system. In multiple distribution friendly flavors, no less. All of which is terrific.

Less terrific is the fact that it doesn’t work. At all. In trying to purchase a Working for a Nuclear Free City track yesterday, the browser triggered the client as it should, and then…nothing. No download, no activity within the client, nothing.

Customer service eventually reinstated access to the download so that I could bring it down manually using a machine which has not had the client installed yet, but it took four individual exchanges. Nor was there any word on what the problem might be: the only emails I received were form letters, nothing more.

Initially I thought it might be an isolated problem, possibly unique to my distribution (Ubuntu Gutsy), but I heard today from three other folks that had the exact same problem. Two of those folks were running different distributions (Fedora and Debian).

From which I conclude it’s a problem with the software, not my installation or distribution.

So for the folks out there eager to buy from Amazon while running Linux, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that there is a client for you. That bad news is that it just doesn’t work at the moment.

Update: While I’m not alone in my issues, the overwhelming majority of commenters seem to be experiencing no issues with the client. So maybe it is my installation. Still, I’d love to know what.


  1. Why is a download client needed? I guess that sounds a little naive, but when you think about it, it is a file — just like a program (zipped). Seems to me that if the music is DRM free it should be able to be downloaded directly just like a program or pdf book. The cynic in me suspects that Amazon is playing games and I don’t want to be part of this.

    The other angle is that the file is an mp3, which is not at all the quality of the tracts on a CD. I really question why anyone would pay for an mp3 unless it is just for an over-priced mp3 player (aren’t the all?). In all cases I would prefer an DRM-free CD and I’ll rip my own MP3 (or other format) file. Of course that assumes the CD contains enough tracts to be worthwhile, which is often NOT the case.

    Overall, it just seems like more music industry gamesmanship, and I’m not interested.


  2. You can manually download individual MP3s without a client. Amazon only allows purchases of an entire album with the client. Hence, all Linux users must pay more for the same tracks because the album price is not an option for them.

    As to CDs, there are many reasons to prefer MP3s. Space on a hard drive is considerably less expensive than physical storage in my home. Buying an MP3 lets me choose one song or an entire album (ahem) and have it within moments without the clutter of the CD, which I would never transport.

  3. I tried to install the client on a Mandriva PC using the rpm and ran into dependency hell. Maybe that is a part of the problem?

  4. Please let us know if/when you succeed, Sr. O’Grady. I’m not succeeding myself either.

  5. Hi,

    It works great for me on Ubuntu Gutsy. I was actually waiting for this program for a long time.

  6. I worked just fine for me running Ubuntu Gutsy.

  7. Worked fine for me on a single track with Gutsy. It was my first purchase from the Amazon MP3 store.

  8. The downloader worked fine on my Ubuntu Gutsy. I have to wonder why we must pay the same for a download of an album as if we bought the CD. The CD has many additional costs: 1. the CD, 2. artwork, 3. case, etc. Then there is shipping. Yes if you download you don’t pay shipping but it seems that if the record company really wants to stop (or at least reduce) piracy they should make downloads cheaper than buying the CD. I would think maybe $2 to $3 for an album, not $9 and up.

  9. Works great for me as well using Ubuntu Gutsy…

  10. It works fine under Ubuntu 7.10 for me. I’ve bought albums and individual tracks with it.

  11. Works perfect for me under Ubuntu 7.10. Intentionally purchased multiple songs and albums to test.

  12. My experience was different. As soon as I learned of the availability of the client, I downloaded the Ubuntu version and installed it on my machine. I then went to the store and bought the latest album of the Lebanese singer Elissa and it worked like a charm!

  13. Worked fine for me, entire album (four actually), first try in Ubuntu Gutsy.

  14. If you cant get it to work in Ubuntu, go to your “usr/share/applications” folder and find the program “amazon MP# downloader” (this is where the package manager places it) move it to the desktop and run it prior to buying a album it will work then.

  15. Wait a sec. I installed it, purcheased an album, & got all the tracks?! (Rushes off to make sure I got them all….)

  16. I had installed the Amazon MP3 downloader a couple of days ago, and had yet to try it. So, after reading this post, I thought I would try it out. There were a couple of tracks that I was interested in anyway.

    Well, I’m happy to report, that it works perfectly for me. I first launched it from the Applications->Internet menu, and it started fine, and open a new tab in Firefox in the Amazon.com MP3 store. On that page, it gave me a congratulations for successfully installing the MP3 downloader, and gave me the option of downloading a free song. Which I was able to do successfully. I also preceded to purchase an additional track, and it worked flawlessly. The default download directory is even within my Music directory, so the tracks are automatically added to my Rhythmbox library.

    All in all, I have to say, this works beautifully.

    By the way, I am running Fedora 8, and I installed the Fedora 8 RPM.

  17. I had problems on Debian Etch 4.0, but eventually got it resolved. Two key steps: (1) make sure that www-browser actually loads your real browser, not lynx; (2) if amazonmp3 gets confused, blow away the contents of subdirectory ~/.amazonmp3. This second step was critical, and the Amazon tech support guys didn’t know to suggest it.

  18. Dude, I am so glad I did not read your blog about Amazon before I download a full drm free album, which I really wanted. It did work great for me. I installed it on my Kubuntu Gutsy. At first I noticed that the Amazon software wanted to do something with my default web browser. By default I had Konqueror, but I went to system settings under kmenue and chose Firefox as my default web browser. I downloaded a whole drm free album in seconds. 🙂 As you can tell I am extremely happy :-P.

  19. It works great for me on my vanilla 7.10 system with Firefox 2. It didn’t work for me on my other 7.10 system with Firefox 3.0b3 though. I am not sure the exact difference but I think it is the differences in the Firefox download.

    With Firefox 3.0b3 the .amz file is downloaded to the temp directory and set as read-only. Trying to load that file into the Amazon Downloader doesn’t work but if you change the file from being read-only it does. I think this is a “feature” as the downloader deletes the .amz file after you load it. I assume that is so you don’t try to download the album multiple times.

    My first experience with it: http://adventuresinswitching.blogspot.com/2008/03/amazon-mp3-downloader-for-linux-is-here.html

  20. Ah-ha. Forrest is right- chmod 777 on the .amz file gets me a ‘successful’ download. Well, sort of; it then says that the file is no longer available, presumably since I tried and failed to get it 24+ hours ago. I guess I need to speak to amazon customer support about that… :/

  21. Wow; how did they not email me about its availability – I complained in like 5 different emails. Awesome news – I’ll let you know if I get it working.

  22. […] Linux version. I just happened to learn this from reading Stephen O’Grady’s site where he mentioned it though it isn’t working well for him. For me, It works great. Thanks Amazon … […]

  23. Using debian lenny — almost gave up after the debian etch version failed (wanted to link with boost 1.33.1 but I could only install 1.34.1) and the wine version died a horrible death. Fortunately, the Ubuntu version installed and ran fine under lenny.

  24. Struggling with this in Hardy. Big time.

  25. The downloader installed and worked fine for me in Debian Etch, but after I used it I noticed all the desktop icons had vanished. I’ve run into this phenomenon before. All you have to do is delete the newest file in ~/.metacity/sessions, then kill and restart Nautilus.

    BUT, when I went back to browsing, the machine repeatedly locked up so tight I had to hold down the power button to gain control. I uninstalled the Amazon downloader and four libboost1.33 files that it depends on, and it looks like the problem is fixed.

  26. Anyone using a distro not covered by Amazons binary packages can check out Clamz it’s an open source command line alternative.


    You will have to compile it your self but I am running it on a Mandriva 2009 rig and it works like a dream.
    just run it from the directory you want your mp3 files to be downloaded into. with the command.

    $ clamz AmazonMP3.amz

  27. Thank you Blingin2Mingin for posting about Clamz! This is especially helpful for Mandriva users since Amazon does not provide a Mandriva version of its downloader. Clamz came with a readme that explained several required libraries, all of which were found in the Mandriva repositories. After installing those first, Clamz compiled fine. The first time trying to purchase an mp3 album, Amazon kept taking me to the installer page no matter how many times I downloaded the (unusable on Mandriva) Fedora rpm. You need to download the .amz file, but it never gets that far because it keeps telling you to install the downloader first. Finally I noticed a checkbox “If you have already installed the downloader, click here to enable it in this browser.” Then it let me download the .amz file.

  28. The clamz package is now available in the Mandriva mirrors (contrib section).
    I’ve just installed it and downloaded a whole album. Great !

  29. Personally I think its a good news.Amazon MP3 Downloads is becoming increasingly popular in the MP3 download market. Amazon is perhaps the most popular online retailer of the world, and now they are looking into getting a share of users from services like iTunes.

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