Why Do So Few Albums Sold on the iTunes Store Come With Digital Booklets?

Back in 2004, the iTunes Store started adding digital booklets with certain albums. It took several years, but more and more albums come with booklets. However, in the classical music section, this is still quite rare.

I had wondered why so few classical albums come with booklets. After all, one is much more likely to want a booklet for a classical recording, with information about the work, the artists and the recording, and with texts of works that are sung. Labels already have these booklets, and for recent releases, these booklets are in digital format, so it should be easy, right?

Wrong.

I was talking with someone who works for a classical record label yesterday, and he explained why his label’s discs don’t come with booklets on the iTunes Store, and why most labels don’t provide booklets.

It turns out that Apple imposes a certain format on digital booklets. Their pages have to be a specific size, one that is not that of CD booklets. Here is one example:



The pages are in a 4:3 format – interestingly, the same format as the iPad, though Apple started using this format back in 2004.

Regular CD booklets, as we all know, are square. Some labels provide PDFs paginated one page at a time, and others in double-pages, as in this example, where the cover of the booklet is a single page, but each two-page spread is shown as you would see it when reading the booklet:



Here’s an interesting example. The just-released set of Beethoven symphonies by Daniel Barenboim has a cover in 4:3, but the remainder of the booklet is the CD booklet’s pages surrounded by a lot of white space:



In other words, instead of creating a booklet in 4:3 format, Decca decided to simply add the extra space needed for this one to fit. An interesting workaround, but that’s a lot of white space.

So, because of Apple’s intransigence, labels cannot provide the booklets that they already have in PDF format, that many labels provide on their own sites when they sell directly. The time and money it would take to create another layout for these booklets dissuades the labels from doing so. Because of Apple, music buyers have less access to digital booklets than they would have otherwise.