Shift to Digital Downloads Helps iTunes and Amazon

iTunes remains on top but is still hampered by tracks with copy protection.

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New NPD data confirm that Apple's iTunes remains the country's largest music retailer, having displaced Wal-Mart some months ago. But more interesting is the ascendancy of Amazon, whose combined CD sales and downloads moved it past Target to fourth place.

NPD expects Amazon's climb to continue, largely because of the success of its online store. NPD had earlier argued that Amazon wasn't pulling customers from iTunes. Instead, Amazon is helping expand the market with customers that are largely new to digital downloads.

But I no longer shop first at iTunes. I look first at Amazon, knowing all its tracks come without copy protection. That means they'll play on any device, not just those blessed by Apple.

I love the iPod, but I don't want to be wed to it.