The Curse of the Cardboard Case

Allow me to vent against the latest scourge of the failing music industry: the cardboard CD case. Yes, I know: it’s supposed to be some sort of enviro-friendly packaging. It’s supposed to ease the conscience of wealthy musicians. But let’s count the problems:
(1) It’s not a standard package. No two musicians seem to put these things out in the same shape or size, or with the CD removable from the same angle. Some have the CD falling out the sides, others require you to hold the package just so in a straight line to shimmy the CD out the middle. And in nearly all cases it’s impossible to take CDs out of the package or put them back in with one hand while at a stoplight, as one often does in the car. And they can be hard to store: Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy album, an early pioneer in this area, simply doesn’t fit in any standard CD case.
(2) It’s not voluntary or discounted. I pay extra for recyclable soda cans, not by choice but at least you can get the deposit back. If you’re buying substandard packaging they should at least charge you less.
(3) It’s not waterproof. My wife, in particular, listens to a lot of CDs in the kitchen while doing dishes and the like. Kitchens are wet places, and this is not a problem for plastic CD cases; for cardboard, it’s a death sentence.
Plastic exists for a reason. It’s durable, it’s convenient. If I wanted a cardboard CD case, I’d ask for one.

15 thoughts on “The Curse of the Cardboard Case”

  1. I can understand your pain. CD towers are designed for the standard jewel case and those cardboard designs can cause odd gaps. I just cannot help myself and try to force in just one more CD in a space that is just a little too small for it.
    But as to the kitchen and the car, there is no rule that you have to store the CD in the original packaging. Go to the store and buy a pack of jewel cases. You can buy a pack of 50 slim ones for less than $15. Transfer the CD to the jewel case and use that. You can store the cardboard elsewhere in case you need it. Better yet, make a copy of the CD – you can do this with standard computer burning software – and use the copy in the car or kitchen. If the copy gets scratched up, you can always make another copy from the original.

  2. Plastic also is a godawful way to create stuff that is really difficult to recycle and throw away. Cardboard is probably not a lot better, considering how much pollution goes into paper manufacture. Crank, spare yourself and the environment. For your wife’s next birthday, you have several options:
    1. Buy here an MP3 player that will work in your kitchen;
    2. Serenade your wife instead, when she does the dishes (my guess is no, there is a reason you’re a lawyer); but as someone married for 22 years, my best suggestion is:
    3. Offer to do the dishes for a year, and whistle while you work.

  3. You left out the biggest problem with this kind of packaging — the discs are invariably scratched upon arrival because of the cardboard case they come in.
    All hail, MP3!

  4. In the defense of the CD, the sound quality of a CD is better than an MP3. However, you would probably not notice the difference unless you have a really good sound system and a pair of very sensitive ears. Personally, I cannot tell the difference between a CD track and a 192 kbps MP3. The standard download these days is 256 kbps.
    If you decide to go the MP3 and/or iTunes route, it is easy to rip your current CDs into MP3 files so you do not need to repurchase. iTunes can do this for you, or you can try other software. CDex is an excellent free CD ripper if you want to go the extra mile. For your kitchen you can buy a set of speakers for the MP3 player of your choice. They range in quality but you can get a good set for $100. For your car, hopefully the vehicle has an MP3 port which makes the use of an MP3 player easy.

  5. Ehh…. sometimes a CD is mightier than the MP3. I have not purchased an MP3 player yet, I listen to tunes on my computer and (recently) sometimes on my phone. But both of my cars only take a CD, no direct plug for an MP3 player. The whole tuner setup is annoying.

  6. Crank, but don’t you feel better everytime you touch that cardboard cover that you are not contributing as much to Global CLimate Disruption? Now if you would stop buying any music, you could really reduce your carbon footprint!
    A few years ago I went all digital (MP3, etc,) I typically buy a CD and immediately rip it; then store the CD away. My car has an audio jack and plays MP3 files on CDs. So I can make up my own CDs with much more music on them-at the same time keeping the original CD safe.
    I also ripped all of vinyl to MP3. Again, it makes it much easier and saves the vinyl.
    As fot the sound quality, at age 59 my ears are pretty bad anyway so I can’t tell the difference anyway.

  7. What are these “CDs” that you speak of? Is that like reel-to-reel?
    By the way, I’m not sure how you can criticize musicians for inconveniencing people who purchase their music in order to help the environment. What would you propose as an alternative? Living in a smaller home? Selling the private jet? Taking one fewer trip to Europe to ski with friends? Let’s get real.

  8. Lee, Lee, Lee. Why make this a “bad tree hugging climate changers” argument when Crank clearly doesn’t care that his wife is sitting there doing the dishes while he sits at his laptop blogging away?
    Seriously though, conservative opposition to the contrary, there are some real issues here, and the plastic that encases CDs do happen to be the gift that keeps on giving, no matter the landfill, and if we don’t add to it, why is that a cause for mocking? If we can actually not have to manufacture things and yet get to keep music on a file where you can play it anywhere, anytime, the losers are the records stores (remember those), and some of the artists (that one I don’t like — we need musicians more than we need almost anything else on the planet), the winners are artists who produce things many of us want, and us, as we get to hear the things we really love over and over, at our convenience in many places. Including those who probably waste enormous amounts of potable water in washing dishes, probably using a non-green soap, while, as I wrote before, all they have to do is whistle (it worked in To Have and Have Not).

  9. I got rid of my plastic CD cases years ago – when the number of CD-Rs I had (without cases, natch) exceeded the number of commercial CDs, it seemed silly to keep them. So I just kept all the discs in a stack and put the cases and booklets in the basement.
    Now I’ve FLAC’ed all my music with EAC and I keep the CDs in the basement too.
    The advice to avoid lossy MP3s is good. Sometimes you can hear the difference, sometimes not, but why chance it just to save a few megs? Compress to FLAC and you can forget about CDs.

  10. It is the very nature of items demanded by eco-Fuehrers for the sake of “saving the planet” that they are, necessarily, grossly inferior to what they’re replacing. They wouldn’t have to force you to do it otherwise.
    There are, occasionally, good ideas that arise out of the eco-loon world, like the decent-sized canvas shopping bags that replace those infernal plastic ones. Thing is, nobody has to force anybody to use those, because they’re a decent solution. It’s the lousy solutions, the ones that truly do not work, that the loons have to force people to use.

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