Tag Archives: itunes

Buying and Downloading….Anything, Really

In the next few weeks, we’ll switch from talking about online audio & video to discussing ebooks – a topic getting more popular every day. To bridge the gap between them, let’s look at how you can buy and any kind of media online. For a refresher, go back and read the LLO post on what downloading is.

Note: In this lesson, we’re going to focus on buying and downloading to a computer (either PC or Mac). Our upcoming lesson on ebooks will include buying directly from your ereader device.

The Basics

You might be looking for music in iTunes or Amazon, getting an ebook from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or purchasing directly from a band or an author using a site like Bandcamp or Lulu. The source really doesn’t matter, since buying from most of these services follow the same basic steps:

  1. Find the item you’d like to buy
  2. Click on “Buy Now” or “Purchase” or “Download,” or whatever button is the page
  3. Create an account with that service, if required. Enter your email address and choose a password that you’ll remember. Look for any ticky boxes that you can uncheck to choose not to receive special promotions or email from this service.
  4. Enter your billing information: credit card number, billing address, etc.
    Many of these tools will let you pay using PayPal or another online payment service. If you have a PayPal account, great! Use that and you won’t have keep entering your billing information. However, it’s not necessary – you can usually just pay with a credit card.

    Safety & Security Tip: If you are concerned, get a credit card to use just for online purchases. You can set a very low purchase limit – $200, say – to minimize any risk. This is especially good for buying from smaller, less well-known companies. You could also buy a Visa cash card or something similar, to use for very small purchases.

  5. Complete the order – you’ll usually get a receipt emailed to you
  6. Download
    If prompted, click on a “Download” link to start the actual downloading process. This might also start automatically.
    At this point, you’ll probably be asked to save the file(s) somewhere on your computer. You can save it to the Downloads folder or to your Desktop, or to a folder you’ve set up for media downloads. Sometimes, the downloader will suggest the right place for the file, but sometimes you’ll need to change the save location to the correct folder. Don’t be too worried by this – you can usually go back and fix things later if they aren’t quite right.
  7. Enjoy!
    Once you’ve downloaded the files, you should just be able to double-click on them to play or read them in the appropriate program. Sometimes you will need to save the files to that program (such as moving music files over to iTunes or your music library software). Just find the files you saved and drag it over the program folder, or whatever folder that program stores its files in. Drop the files into the program folder and you’re done.

Don’t worry – this is one of those things that’s confusing the first time you do it, but gets easier with practice. The most important step is to remember where you downloaded the files to. As long as you know where those are, you can sort out any problems later.

iTunes

iTunes is probably the easiest service to buy from, because it really does do everything for you. Simply open up iTunes on your computer, visit the iTune Store, find the items you want, click on “Buy,” enter your iTunes account information, and then iTunes does the rest. It will automatically save the files to the right places, and you can play them as soon as they’ve downloaded.

Amazon

Amazon is the next easiest service to buy from, because it does nearly everything automatically. Just visit the Amazon website, find whatever it is you want to purchase, click on the orange “Buy” button and enter your account information. The one difference is that Amazon asks you to set up the Amazon Downloader, a program that manages all your Amazon music downloads for you. The Downloader will save the files to the right place, especially if you use iTunes as your music library, and then you can play your audio from iTunes with no problems.

Amazon’s ebooks are designed to be read on their Kindle ereader, but you can also get a Kindle app to read them on a computer. Follow the instructions on the page to learn more about using this service.

eBooks & Audiobooks

Barnes & Noble
Audible (audiobooks only; now owned by Amazon)
Kobo Books (ebooks only)
eBooks.com (ebooks only)
Archive.org – a free site that works the same way as the paid sites

These sites all work similarly to Amazon, but without the Downloader or a Kindle app to help you manage your files.

Direct From the Creator

Many musicians, bands, authors and other creators will sell their work directly from their own website, usually using a service like:

Music & Audio
CDBaby
Bandcamp
Digstation
ReverbNation (also added to our list of music library services and internet radio sources)

Self-Publishing for Authors, Poets & Photographers
Lulu
Blurb
XLibris

All of these services also work similarly to Amazon, though you do need to move the files around yourself.

Help & Resources

Online audio – Music & audio libraries

Now that we’ve talked about freely available internet radio and podcasts, let’s start looking at your music and audio – the stuff you’ve downloaded or copied from your CDs.

What Is It?

Not too long ago, your personal audio library – the recordings you owned – might have included vinyl records, magnetic 8-track or cassette tapes, or laser-decoded compact discs (CDs). You usually kept these storage devices on a shelf, organized by title, by artist or by genre. You might even have had the same album in three different formats at one time or another.

Since the invention of the mp3 file format in the 1990s, music listeners have been moving away from physical recordings to all-digital music libraries. Music is stored on a computer or a device just like any other computer file, usually in MP3, AAC or WMA format.

Digital music libraries began as folders on the computer, organized like other files of documents or images. In 2001, Apple released iTunes for Mac computers and the iPod, a portable audio player (and in 2003, the iTunes Store and the music industry has never been the same. Now, music lovers are able to easily buy albums or individual songs, quickly share music over the internet, and take their entire music collections with them wherever they go.

The latest change in personal music libraries is streaming (remember streaming?). Music files are stored on your own computer, but you can also securely access that music over the internet or from a mobile device. Now, no matter how big or small your collection is, you can have it all with you all the time. We’ll discuss this feature in our next Learning for Life Online post on music “in the cloud.”

How Is It Useful?

Why digital? The obvious answer is that owning digital audio takes up no space in your home – no more shelves of records, tapes or CDs. Also, by syncing your personal media player to your library, you can bring most of your collection with you on a single device – no more lugging around a bag of cassettes or CDs! However, it’s the flexibility of having your music in digital format that’s really exciting.

Music library software is designed to make it easy to get, store and organize your music, not just by the album but by each individual song. You can put all of your music into a single collection and then sort by artist, album title, song title, genre, time, date added or dozens of other details. You can easily add and remove songs from playlists you create, use the search bar to find specific songs or artists, or randomly play anything in your library. In the newer programs, you can see album cover art and (in iTunes) have the computer Genius create playlists that show off your music in interesting ways.

iTunes is the most well-known music library software out there, but there are others: MediaMonkey, Helium Music Manager, JetAudio and MusicBee (for Windows only) are just a few. Most of these programs work on either Windows or Mac computers, and will cooperate with many of the mp3 players on the market.

Try It Out

If you already have a music library program like iTunes on your computer, poke around in it and try something beyond clicking Play. Create a playlist and add items to it, change the details you can use to sort your music, or add star ratings or descriptive comments to a song. This is your music library – customize it to work the way you want it to.

In our next, last post in the online audio series, we’ll look at purchasing music and moving it “to the cloud” – what that is and what it means. Stay tuned….

Help & Resources

Music Library Programs

General Audio File Information

Online Audio – Podcasts

Unlike online video and photos, online audio comes in a few different forms. We’ll look at each of them in the next few weeks of Learning for Life Online.

What Is It?

Podcasts are audio broadcasts used to spread the word across the social web. Podcasts are created by professionals, amateurs or anyone with access to a computer and a microphone, and can be on any topic under the sun.

What makes podcasts different is that new podcasts usually come out daily or weekly, with a changing topic or guest speaker. You can subscribe to podcasts through a service like iTunes or through your RSS feed reader, or listen to the cast directly at its site.

As a note, podcasts are different than streaming audio or internet radio. Podcasts have distinct starting and ending points, while streaming audio flows like a river of sound. Our next post will discuss streaming audio online.

How Is It Useful?

Podcasts are a great way to get news updates, to listen to a weekly show, and keep your music updated and fresh. Most importantly, once you’ve subscribed to a podcast, it comes to you automatically as it comes out – you don’t need to keep going and getting the latest episode yourself.

One of the most natural podcast sources is radio. NPR’s podcast directory is a testament to the continuing appeal of well-created audio-only news and entertainment. Find other sources of radio podcasts at PublicRadioFan.com or using your favorite search engine.

Speaking of radio, have you ever heard of live radio dramas? Before television, these terrifying or hysterically funny shows were audio-only entertainment on radio stations around the world, full of special sound effects and live music. Thanks to the internet, they’ve made a comeback in the form of podcasts. Local to Boston, the Post Meridian Radio Players bring live radio drama to the air with its science fiction series The Mask of Inanna and its stage and studio horror performances of Tomes of Terror and p.m..

Other podcasts from traditional media include Nature magazine, the New York Times, PodMed (the Johns Hopkins Medicine News Roundup), C-Span, BusinessWeek and Sesame Street!

If you enjoy running for exercise or for fun, check out the Podrunner podcats from DJ Steve Boyett. These weekly podcasts feature free music mixes for an hour of workout time, either for running or interval training. You can subscribe to Podrunner directly through iTunes or another service, or use the new iPhone/iTouch app to get to the music directly.

Try It Out

How do you find all of these podcasts?

  • Ask friends, family or coworkers to recommend podcasts about topics you have in common.
  • See if your favorite news/entertainment/educational station has podcasts available on its website.
  • If you use iTunes, just click on the Podcasts tab in the iTunes Store to find thousands of possibilities.
  • Search a podcast directory site such as Podcast Alley, Podcast Bunker or Podcast.com to look for podcasts on particular subjects.
  • If all that fails, use your favorite search engine to look for “a subject of your choice” AND “podcast” and you’ll turn up more results than you’d thought possible. For instance, check out a podcast on hockey, knitting or travel.

Help & Resources

Upload, Download, Attach, Save

Moving files around on the web has become something we do all the time, whether we know what we’re doing or not: sending and receiving documents by email, applying for jobs online, sharing photos and music, and buying audio and video online. But what’s the difference between uploading, downloading, attaching and saving?

Uploading just means moving a file from the computer you are working on up to the web. Usually, the button you would click to upload a file says Upload, but it might also ask you to Browse (look around on) your computer to find a file to upload. You might upload a resume file to a job application site, upload a song file to a music sharing site, upload a photo file to Flickr or Facebook, or upload a video file to YouTube.

Downloading is the opposite of uploading: you move a file from the web down to the computer you’re working on. Again, the button usually says Download or asks you to Browse to look for a file. Downloading is also what happens when you borrow an electronic item from the library, buy music or videos from Amazon or iTunes, or save a photo from your web-based email or Facebook onto your computer.

An attachment is a file that you attach to an email message in order to send both the message and the file at the same time. The icon for an attachment is a paper clip, and that’s just what you’re doing: paper-clipping another document to the message you’ve got and sending them both along together. Most kinds of files can be attached to an email message: documents, photos, audio and video. You can also receive attachments in email from other people, which you can download onto your computer. Safety note: Do not open attachments you’re not expecting from people you don’t know or email addresses you don’t recognize. These attachments are one way that viruses get around and infect computers, and can cause you a major headache.

Saving a file means storing it on your computer or a storage device permanently. You can save a letter you’re typing, save a presentation you’ve created or save a photo from your camera onto your computer or to a USB drive. Unlike uploading, downloading or attaching, when you save a file your computer doesn’t need to be connected to the web. In fact, you need to save a document or a presentation to your computer or a USB drive before you can upload or attach it anywhere else.

Help & Resources