Our sister site, Engadget, reports that these drives are available for pre-order now but will not ship until December 7th in the UK and December 8th in the US for $279.99. The 16GB USB drive will include the Beatles' 14 stereo tracks in FLAC (for the audiophiles in the audience) as well as the rest of their collection in 320 Kbps MP3s. The drive will also include 13 documentaries about the studio albums, expanded liner notes, re-touched album art, and several rare photos.
What does all of this mean? The Beatles' record company basically created a massive iTunes LP without iTunes. According to The Beatles' website, there's a special Flash interface for consumer interaction with the extra content. Some would say that this is just another stepping stone in the road to online distribution... while that may be true, I'm getting tired of all the back-and-forth. I own a good majority of the Beatles albums on CD and have already ripped them into iTunes. I expect that most anyone who really wants these in their iTunes library has already gone through the motions to accomplish that. I could pay the $280 for a USB drive, or buy all of the CDs from Amazon.com for half that price and spend several hours putting them on my computer. Sure, sure, I'm not getting the officially remastered files from the Beatles themselves... but I'm willing to make that sacrifice. Even still, this may be the perfect Holiday gift for the Beatles fanatic in your household. (Honey, I don't want one.)