Dane. Designer.

Old Blog

The Woes of the Digital Album Booklet

It is remarkably rare to see your latest iTMS purchase accompanied by a digital booklet in the shape of a PDF file. Remarkable because whereas a physical booklet requires the use of large color-corrected printers, ink, distribution outlets, delivery vehicles (and men), loss in profits and much more, digital booklets require only ‘print to PDF’, and you’re done. Considering that, I do wonder why all my albums don’t come with booklets.

When they do however, it makes for a nice addition to the otherwise pretty non-tangible purchase that is digitally distributed music. In fact, in the degradation from LP to CD to digital audio, the only thing truly missed by the too-busy-with-life-or-too-sane-to-be-anal-audiophiles portion of the population is the art of proper packaging.

Yes, you can still go out and buy your Amon Tobin on LP with beautiful luxurious cover art the size of your head or order up the latest ultra-deluxe limited edition from Nine Inch Nails and get fantastically well-crafted paraphernalia you’ll look at maybe once a decade. In fact, when you take into account the work some b®ands put into creating their packaging, buying digitally is really a damn shame (never mind piracy).

Well played Lars. Well played.

Now for the bait ‘n’ switch in which we turn our the attention to how iTunes deals with those accompanying PDF files in a most annoying manner.

It lists them in the same file-listing as all the music tracks, which makes sense, after all where else would it list it? But what happens when you’re in coverflow view and you double-click an album-cover to play said album and PDF is listed at the top of the album’s files?

The album doesn’t actually play, as you might expect. It simply opens the PDF file! And adding insult to injury, the PDF file opens in your PDF-reader-of-choice—which in my unfortunate case, is Adobe Acrobat—taking you away from iTunes and probably launching you into the teeth-grindingly long process of telling Adobe Updater ‘please, with all due respect; fuck off’. This will probably take up to several minutes, depending on your system and the PDF being opened with what app, before you can return to iTunes and actually play the album you wanted to listen to in the first place.

Listen. No. Alright? Just no. Bad designer.

This is a perfect example of the system performing an ‘expected action’, which in the user’s mind is most likely absolutely unexpected. After all, when would you expect double-clicking an album cover to open a PDF file? And even worse, this is the only action you can perform in iTunes which will actually transport you away from iTunes!