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Amazon's New Scratch-Resistant Marvel

By Rick Munarriz - Apr 4, 2013 at 6:30PM

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Amazon is giving vinyl music fans a new way to enjoy their purchases.

Amazon.com (AMZN 0.25%) turned heads in January with the debut of AutoRip, and now it's turning turntables.

The leading online retailer is expanding its popular platform that provides buyers of select CDs instant access to high-quality MP3s of every track on the record, through Amazon's Cloud Player. This week, Amazon is expanding the perk to include instant streaming access for all vinyl purchases, too.

One can argue that vinyl buyers are a thin niche of throwback music lovers. If they wanted digital copies, they would've bought CDs. Vinyl collectors treasure the sonic warmth of a needle dropping on a grooved disc.

However, vinyl buffs also have smartphones and PCs. This is a clear value-added product and, if you were nuts to buy CDs from any place other than Amazon -- if the disc you were set on buying was one of the more than 50,000 titles originally available -- the same theory applies to vinyl.

Amazon's cementing its leadership position in the realm of physical music media.

Apple (AAPL 0.17%) can't match that. It may be the country's biggest seller of music, but its transactions are strictly digital. It can't offer a CD -- that someone can, in turn, give as a gift -- without losing the tunes through Amazon's Cloud Player.

It's not as if the bricks-and-mortar chains can match Amazon, either. Sure, they sell CDs and occasionally vinyl, but some have retreated from the digital download space. Wal-Mart (WMT 0.11%) stopped selling MP3 downloads three years ago.

Digital lockers of purchased music as a concept isn't new. The original MP3.com did exactly that a decade ago, but it was sued into submission by the labels. Amazon's not going to let that happen. It has struck deals with the participating labels, explaining why the number of participating titles are still small in number.

AutoRip has probably helped grow Amazon's retail market share, as well as awareness of Amazon's Cloud Player. After all, we're not just talking about new purchases. Anyone who has bought a CD or vinyl dating back to the music store's launch in 1998, now has retroactive access to those songs digitally.

At a time when all of the tech titans are either rolling out, or rumored to be rolling out, new streaming music service, Amazon's taking advantage of the one thing that its peers can't -- physical retail.

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