category: culture

Why Amazon Is Superior to the iTunes Store

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If you’re like me, you rarely watch live TV for your favorite tv shows. Several years ago, DVR’s and Tivo freed us of the need to watch in real-time (or have to suffer through commercials). The requirement of having to be in front of of the TV at 8 pm for a show? How archaic! Then, the Netflix age hit, the online clips age hit, etcโ€ฆ and we became less and less dependent on even DVR’ing, with many of us cutting our cable subscriptions altogether. Some friends of mine actually even wait until a series’s season has been released in full, in order to view it on their own terms, or in marathon sessions without the need to wait a week for a new episode, on whatever medium (laptop, DVD, desktop, tablet) and, of course, no commercials, at all.

But many of us also do what I do — buy single episodes online as-they-go, whether because we don’t have cable, missed the episode, forgot to DVR it, or just plain ol’ prefer the convenience of watching it sans commercial, on our own terms, but don’t want to wait for the studio’s release of the season in full. It is yet another example of the a la carte, ‘choose your own adventure’ approach to TV shows nowadays.

Let’s say I missed a Sons of Anarchyย episode. FX, like AMC (but unlike FOX and unlike the CW), does not show its episodes online. So if you miss an episode, you’re sh*t out of luck — the only way to catch it is to now pony up and buy it. (In contrast, some networks like FOX or the CW or NBC will air episodes of most shows on their website — commercials included, though, and one has to watch on one’s computer or tablet, plus the streaming can be glitchy.) Guess it’s up to each company to decide what’s best for their own business model — airing the episode for a few weeks online may create interest in the show, as well as online ad revenue, but you’re also missing out on forcing folks to pony up cash for the content.)

I can buy an episode of virtually any show on Amazon.com or I can buy it on iTunes (and then watch it on a computer, tablet, or on my TV via Roku, etc). So, which to choose? Amazon or iTunes? Both charge the same amount but I’ve noticed Amazon is far superior to iTunes, for several reasons:

1) You can see which company has a bit more integrity about pricing and isn’t trying to bait-and-switch the consumer. Amazon makes it abundantly clear that you have two options: purchasing the standard definition episode for $1.99 or the high definition version for $2.99. The choice is yours and either option is incredibly easy to access. In fact, when you search for a series or episode, Amazon’s default is to show you the cheaper, $1.99 option. Classy, Jeff. Classy. This is what you’ll get if you search for Vampire Diaries, Season 5 episodes, for example:

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(Apologies if you can’t see it clearly but it leads you to the $1.99 option, which kindly ย points out (the bold, blue) that it’s also available in HD (if you click on that, it’ll then take you to the $2.99 option).

In stark contrast, the iTunes Store’s default is to pitch you the more expensive, $2.99 option. Worst yet, it makes it quite tricky to find the $1.99 standard definition option, even if you’re looking for it, unless you are already familiar with the system. (This, aside from the quirky system that does not even take you to the most recent season if you search for a show and, also, displays ย the seasons in a non-sequential, random order.) This is what you’ll get when you go to Season 5 of Vampire Diaries in the iTunes Store:

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Notice this little bit?:

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Yeah, hmm, there’s nothing in that drop-down arrow (or even if you click on the $2.99) that offers you the less expensive, standard definition version. To find it, you’ll have to go all the way to the other side of the screen, look under the show’s picture icon, and switch from the “HD” tab to the “SD” tab in order for the Standard Definition prices to appear.

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Geeโ€ฆ nice, huh?

2) What about the timing? Well, I’ve also noticed Amazon has the episodes up and available immediately the following day. iTunes, on the other hand, lags behind. For instance, Vampire Diaries airs on Thursday evening. By Friday morning, the previous night’s episode is immediately available on Amazon (in fact, I’ve never searched for an episode and had to wait for it to appear in Amazon). But this Friday, it was almost 10 am and the previous night’s episode of the show, while readily available on Amazon, was not yet available on iTunes: (see below for two screenshots, both taken shortly before 10 am on Nov 8th – as you can see, the latest episode, “Handle with Care,” is up and ready for purchase on Amazon, while it is not in iTunes):

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3) As for passes (called TV Passes on Amazon and Season Passes on iTunes), both offer this feature but โ€ฆ don’t bother with the one on iTunes. The way these passes work is you pre-pay and buy all the season’s episodes in advance, save a bit on cost, and then the system notifies you and/or has your download ready to go when there’s an new episode. But in iTunes, it is quite unreliable and works on and off. I ย purchased a Season Pass of a show — the latest episode was, however, nowhere to be found anywhere in my Library, nor was it in my ‘available downloads.’ See below for a forum post noting the same problem.

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4) Then there’s the storage. Keeping track of one’s iTunes library — and the portability of one’s collection — has always been a constantly evolving challenge. Not so with Amazon. You go to your account, go to Video Library, and everything’s there, always. Simple, straightforward.

One last note, if you have a MAC computer: currently, Amazon purchases aren’t downloadable to MAC’s. But don’t let that scare you off. In fact, it’s mostly irrelevant. Unless you want to physically download the episode (and why would you want to clog up your hard drive? The only reason for downloading a purchase is if you plan to watch the video when offline), it’s perfectly viewable on a MAC.

5) Finally, there’s the appeal of ‘consolidation.’ If you don’t buy almost everything on Amazon, well, what the heck is wrong with you? (Hello — free two day shipping? Amazon Prime free videos? The selection? I’ve been an addict for over a decade and only getting worse.) Let’s face it — we all love Amazon. There’s something easy, simple, and streamlined about doing all of one’s shopping (books, electronics, etc.) in ย one spot — including videos.

Soโ€ฆ Happy Shopping and hope this helps those of us who live in a largely broadcast-free, oh-so-hipster-of-us world! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And a big salute and grateful-consumer-thank-you to, Jeff Bezos, for my fave company in the world. Apparently, it’s now going to even save the US Postal Serviceโ€ฆ I wouldn’t put it past them.

(NOTE: Before anyone asks, no, I’m in no way sponsored by Amazon nor is this post. I just freakin’ love the site.)

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