is the latest Amazon online retail platform to offer digital downloads. The German service launched today (April 1) with a catalog of 5 million DRM-free tracks.

Like the U.K. Amazon MP3 store, which launched in December, prices are competitive, with 2,000 top titles offered for less than €5 ($6.61). The current best-selling digital album, "Yes" by Pet Shop Boys (Parlophone), is priced €4.89 ($6.46).

"We're excited to provide our German customers with even more ways to discover and enjoy great music at the same destination where they can buy millions of CDs," said Amazon EU retail VP Greg Greeley in a statement. "Amazon MP3 offers a vast selection of DRM-free a-la-carte music from major and independent labels, ready to enjoy in seconds with any hardware device in high-quality audio."

The launch has been welcomed in the German biz, where digital album sales have yet to take off. According to 2008 figures issued last month by the German music industry trade body Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BMI), digital album sales totalled 3.9 million units in 2008, although this was a 50% increase on the 2007 total.

"Amazon's emphasis on ease of use, consumer choice and satisfaction has won their brand a high level of popularity and credibility with music fans," said Bernd Dopp, chairman and CEO Warner Music Central and Eastern Europe, in a statement. "Amazon MP3 is an exciting development in the evolution of this dynamic online retail experience. The platform now offers a compelling range of digital as well as physical formats from our world class roster of artists, while ensuring that the downloads bought can be played on any device."

Universal Music president and CEO Frank Briegmann said the launch "will further spur the digital business in Germany," and Sony Music Entertainment GSA CEO Edgar Berger agreed that it will "give new impetus" to the download market in Germany.