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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Remember early CD packaging?

Posted by on April 11 at 22:53 PM

It is a sign of the progressive nature of linear time that we no longer fight with a foot-long plastic harness to extricate our compact discs from their purchase situation. This change makes me feel nothing but good.

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I remember outside of Tower Records on Newbury Street, when they had just crossed the cusp of mostly-CDs from mostly-LPs, and the trash cans outside where full to bursting with longboxes, and they were strewn across the sidewalk and half of the road.

But longboxes were a lot easier to open than the security strips today.

Now we fight with popup-blockers.

Costco is still a big offender when it comes to excess packaging. Most of their music is in those horrible long boxes and their DVD's are in even bigger boxes.

Actually, store-wide Costco's packaging has a lot of room for improvement.

For what it's worth, Fnarf is correct in linking the tall boxes with the transition from LPs to CDs. Before the CD format had proven itself, and only a few years after the eight-track format had fizzled out, record stores just weren't willing to replace their LP-sized sales racks with new smaller racks designed to hold only CDs.

i was visiting the offices of a local, well-known band the other day when their graphics guy hipped me to some of the greatest cd packaging i've seen thus far.

mainly used with european releases, the cds resemble small books. the pages contain all the artwork, album info, and other bits and pieces. they are the size of regular cd cases.

i was happily surprised to discover that the per unit cost is not that much more than "regular" cd packaging. and, best of all, there is NO PLASTIC involved. the disc fits into a pocket within the book.

radiohead used this packaging with the import version of "amnesiac" and i checked out a bunch of different offerings from various bands. all super cool. i hope this format will become less exclusive in the near future.

it is seriously as close to the greatness of LP packaging that i've seen with cds thus far.

Yeah, kids who used to steal CDs by hand can now do it over the internet, so there's no need for the extra plastic security.

Didn't Pearl Jam's Vitology come in that same type of "book" format?

cd manufacturers transferred all their patents on wasteful, oversized packaging to software companies, i believe.

There have been lots of alternatives to the jewel case (the worst misnomer I can think of; they're "jewels" in the same sense that the plastic bag my newspaper comes in is Jesus). The jewel-size tri-fold wallet thingie, where the disc slides into a pocket instead of resting insecurely on a button with mostly-broken-off teeth, works. The box-constructed slipcase that can hold a disc and liner-notes works. Just the plain LP-style slipcase works great if there's no insert.

I'm looking here at The Very Spit Of The Otto Show on Vespertine & Son, a somewhat avant-garde jewel-size folded cardboard sleeve that opens out to something almost as big as an LP sleeve, with plenty of room for art. It's gorgeous. So was the sleeve 15 years ago for The Ukrainians, the Wedding Present side project.

Paper is beautiful. Jewel cases blow massive chunks. A very large part of the problem the record companies are having selling their product is demonstrably shitty design that deliberately hasn't been improved in 20 years.

willis: PJ did indeed employ that sort of packaging, but with one exception: it is not the standard cd size. a copy of "vitalogy" will stand taller than the rest of your cds on a shelf.

the newer versions of this sort of packaging are the exact same size as standard cd cases (like FNARF, i loathe the term "jewelbox").

sidenote: whether you like their music or not, you gotta give it up to pearl jam for their continued awareness with regard to environmental, political, and social issues. it cost them more $$ to put "vitalogy" in that sort of packaging but allowed for a non-plastic package. nice.

Yeah, instead we now fight with impossible to remove plastic wrap and those "pull" off stickers that don't.

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