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Will iTunes kill the CD?

With fewer and fewer stores selling CDs, the day is fast approaching when a major band won't release an album on a disc at all. If that happened, would you choose vinyl over MP3s?

Steve Guttenberg

We're getting close to the day when a major artist or group releases a download-only album. Maybe it'll be the next Rolling Stones or Sufjan Stevens album. That'll be a dark day.

Just last week, I went to my local record store to pick up "Hemispheres," the new release of Bill Frisell and Jim Hall, a jazz guitar duo. I left the store empty-handed.

Next, I checked on It stocked the album in MP3 format only. Great, but I refuse to pay $17.98 for a crappy-sounding MP3.

Next, I checked the record label's site, and yes, you can buy the CD there, but I wasn't in the mood to navigate the trials and tribulations of its order form. I already own a lot of Frisell and Hall CDs; I guess I don't need another one.

Tower Records shuttered its doors a few years ago, and now another big record chain, Virgin Megastores, is closing down, so there are fewer and fewer places that sell CDs.

These days, I'm buying more and more CDs from, but even Amazon may not move enough product to justify the labels pressing CDs. And local record shops are an endangered species; here in New York, the better ones are barely hanging on.

Still, the fact is that people buy more CDs than downloads, and download sales aren't expected to surpass those of CDs for another couple of years. There's a lot of conflicting information floating around.

Then again, LP sales are on the rise, so maybe we'll wind up with the choice of low-quality iTunes, MP3s, or vinyl. That would be strange.

If you couldn't buy CDs anymore, would you care?

Would you buy vinyl instead?

Do iTunes sound about the same as free downloads? If they do, why buy them?