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The iTunes Way > WAV - Pg. 27

iTunes: Burning Down the House 27 MP3 Rocks MP3 is the abbreviation for an audio compression scheme whose full name is Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) audio layer 3. The amazing thing about the MP3 encoding scheme, and the reason that MP3 has become such a dominant file format for audio, is that audio data can be stored in files that are only about 1 / 12 the size of unencoded digital music--without a noticeable degradation in the quality of the music. A typical music CD consumes about 650MB of storage space. The same music encoded in the MP3 format shrinks down to about 55MB. Put another way, a single 3-minute song shrinks from its 32MB on audio CD down to a paltry 3MB or less. MP3's ability to deliver high-quality sound with small file sizes has opened up a world of possibilities. For the first time, music files can be transferred practically over the Internet, even for people who use a dial-up connection. This enables artists to distribute their music to anyone, no matter where they live (as long as they can get online, of course). (This also led to the Napster controversy, but that is another story.) Because it is quite easy to convert Audio CD files into the MP3 format (this is a one-step operation with iTunes), you can create MP3 files for all of your music and store them on your hard drive. This innovation means that your entire music collection is always available to you, and you never need to mess around with individual CDs. You also get other nifty features, such as playlists, which you will learn about later in this chapter. The small file sizes of MP3 music also lead to a new type of hardware device, the MP3 player. Because MP3 files can be stored in small amounts of memory, it is possible to store a large amount of music in a small physical device. Some MP3 players don't have any moving parts, thus eliminating any chance for skipping, even under the most rigorous environments. Other devices, such as the Apple iPod, contain their own hard drives so that you can take your entire music collection with you wherever you go.