Reading again Andrew's piece in the January magazine, downloading has a long way to go yet as far as this listener is concerned, with one exception. Firstly I have to say any download for me must sound identical to the CD so no MP3 or low bit rate downloads (I'm also not yet into higher rates than CD as my present DAC operates at the CD rate of 16bit 44.1kHz and none of the items I've purchased were in any case available at higher rates). The only site I've used with any success is the Chandos Classical Shop. It's easy to find one's way around, has a good selection of independent labels and I think all of Chandos's recordings including those no longer available on CD. To actually make the download the site told me I would need to download the Java programme which I did quickly and easily from the Chandos site. The downloaded music then appeared in my Windows Media Player and was therefore easily accessed and played. Even on the Chandos site though there were recordings I would have purchased but didn't because they were only MP3s.
I then thought I'd look at the other major independent Hyperion. Here I got hopelessly bogged down in trying to follow their download instructions. It made some comment about incompatibility with the Windows Media player. I gave up; black mark Hyperion. The Naxos site has a good selection of recordings but little at CD rate so that's out. I could find no way to get EMI issues. As to Universal after going from pillar to post and site to site I finally managed to register and purchase a Decca recording. When I found it in my computer and tried to play it however the computer said "the selected file has an extension (flac) not recognized by Windows media player" and wouldn't play it so several pounds down the drain there.
If Chandos can produce a site that is easy to navigate and make downloads from why cannot others? I am astonished that EMI & Universal cannot operate something similarly straightforward. If downloading is the future either people are easily satisfied with poor quality sound or else I'm missing something.