January 10, 2013, 4:38 PM

Buy a CD from Amazon, get the MP3 file for free

The e-retailer ups its digital content game, again.

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It’s not exactly Bob Dylan peeving off the folkies and pleasing the rockers in ’65 by going electric, but Amazon.com Inc. today debuted a retail promotion that could be said to symbolize—and perhaps bridge—generational divides in music

Amazon says its new Amazon AutoRip will enable consumers to receive MP3 versions of CDs bought from the e-retailer, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. After a CD purchase, Amazon stores the MP3 files in consumers’ Cloud Player libraries. Consumers use Cloud Player to listen to music stored in their Amazon-hosted Cloud Drive accounts, just as many store music in Apple Inc.’s iTunes or Google Play from Google Inc. Music fans can listen to their Cloud Player songs on such devices as Kindle Fire, Android phones or tablets, iPhones, iPod touches, Samsung TVs, as well as via web browsers.

The offer also applies to CDs purchased from Amazon as long ago as 1998. Shoppers who have in the past bought AutoRip CDs will find MP3 copies of those releases in their Cloud libraries, Amazon says. The e-retailer says more than 50,000 music titles carry the AutoRip label.  The service lets consumers store for free 5 gigabytes of data, enough for more than 80 hours of music—though purchases from Amazon do not count against that total.

“What would you say if you bought music CDs from a company 15 years ago, and then 15 years later that company licensed the rights from the record companies to give you the MP3 versions of those CDs, and then to top it off, did that for you automatically and for free?” says Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO. “Well, starting today, it's available to all of our customers.”

This move represents Amazon’s latest push to extend its digital-content influence, and take on rivals like Apple and Google. Last week, for instance, Amazon announced a deal with A+E Television Networks that brings the e-retailer’s total number of streaming videos offered through the Amazon Prime shipping service to more than 33,000. For $79 a year, Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping plus access to that entertainment.

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