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On iTunes ripping and file types--Ask the Editors

CNET editor Jasmine France answers a question about digital audio file types and using iTunes.

Q: I have yet to really build a music file online. I have dabbled with Napster and iTunes, but really don't have much of a collection. I would like to begin ripping music CDs to my computer. It is confusing, but from what I have read it appears I should rip my music up in MP3 format, which would make it very versatile for different uses. I have several music players (an iPod Touch, a Nano and a Creative Zen V Plus for the gym). I do like iTunes and probably would download less than 75 songs a year. Is there a way to purchase iTunes Plus songs in MP3 format? Do you have any other suggestions for me? -- Jim, via e-mail

A: It sounds like you're pretty happy with iTunes (and it's a pretty simple program to use), so I'm going to provide you with some basic instructions that center around that jukebox. First, since you're using a variety of players (one of which doesn't support AAC), it's going to be easiest if you rip CDs and purchase music in MP3 format. The default for iTunes is to rip CDs to AAC, so you will want to change the settings in the software first.

To do that, open iTunes and go to Edit > Preferences. Under the General tab, click the button for Import Settings. Using the drop-down menu, select the MP3 Encoder. Below that, you have the option to adjust the bit rate. The higher the bit rate, the bigger the resulting file and the better the audio quality. Only go with a lower bit rate if you are looking to conserve space on your hard drive or want to fit more songs on your MP3 player. Click OK twice and you're done there. Next time you pop in a CD, iTunes will prompt you to rip it.

Unfortunately, iTunes itself only sells files in AAC format, so that will not work if you are looking specifically for MP3s. For purchasing music online, I would suggest the Amazon MP3 Store. All music is in MP3 format, and you can set it up so that when you download from Amazon's store, the files are automatically added to your iTunes library.

MP3 Mailbox Monday is a recurring feature where I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)