Beatles go digital via USB stick
The Beatles’ music has finally moved off the CD and into digital file formats, though the delivery system still requires physical media in the form of a USB stick.
Starting December 8, Apple Corps. and EMI will sell a limited-edition USB drive in the shape of an apple, containing all 14 of The Beatles’ stereo albums, for $280. The package will also include 13 documentary films about the albums, liner notes and artwork.
The files will come in both the lossless FLAC format and 320 Kbps MP3 files. According to the official Beatles shop, files will be PC and Mac compatible, presented through a “specially designed Flash interface.”
It’s not clear exactly what you can and can’t do with the files. The use of a “Flash interface” makes me suspicious that the files are bound to the USB device forever, but that would really defeat the purpose of owning it, especially with the entire catalog on CD selling for $60 less. Then again, this is a limited-edition set, so perhaps the aficionados buying the USB collection will be more interested in viewing the whole package on a computer instead of porting the files over to an iPod.
The bigger question is whether this signifies that The Beatles’ catalog eventually will come to iTunes, Amazon and other digital download services. When Apple hosted an iPod-centric event in September, there was speculation that the Fab Four’s catalog would go to iTunes, coinciding with the CD release of a Beatles box set and the video game The Beatles: Rock Band. Of course, those reports didn’t pan out.
I don’t think this USB offering should be interpreted as a step towards iTunes. According to a Billboard interview with Paul McCartney last year, negotiations stalled over disagreements between EMI and Apple Corps. But a digital box set for your computer and an online a la carte catalog are completely different things, even if the file extensions are the same.
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