Goodbye to Jewel Cases

I threw away all of the original jewel cases to my CDs. The CDs themselves are in a Case Logic CD Binder. Before throwing the cases away, I adored each title’s artwork and reminisced on each album’s place in my personal history.

It was hard to say goodbye, but the cases were taking up too much space.

Peter Tosh’s Live & Dangerous: Boston 1976 was bought at the now-defunct Union Square Virgin Megastore. My jaw-dropped when I heard how painfully out-of-tune Tosh’s guitar was. How high was he? The hazy cover photograph of Tosh’s preoccupied mindset told the whole story.

Or Uncle Tupelo’s Still Feel Gone. Despite it’s tiny letters, I read the liner notes over and over just to figure out who Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar really were. The liner notes detailed Tupelo’s rigorous touring schedule, and how each gas pump reignited the love and bitterness between members. Drunken words came rollicking out as a result.

Trashing the CD cases would be the beginning to a larger process of ripping all of my CDs to a hard-drive. I planned on ditching the discs as well. Clear shelves equal a clear mind. Do you understand how sensitive your subconscious is to the clutter around you? Attributing sentimental value to the shelf-occupying jewel cases was a waste of emotional energy.

Still unsure of my upcoming process, I asked my friends at r/audiophile on Reddit their thoughts on throwing away all of my CDs to be replaced by hard-drive rips. Their opinions, primarily from member birdnerd, were wildly insightful:

- If any of your CD rips become corrupted, still having the disc is the most effective way to back them up.
- Hard drives fail.
- If the RIAA came knocking at my door, I would have proof that I do own this music.

As I watched the stack to be thrown away get higher, it became harder to say goodbye. More memories arose. Forty Putumayo World Music digipaks—their colorful artwork and detailed liner notes—to be trashed. I stumbled upon the world music label’s office after an NYU essay-writing seminar. I waltzed in and asked, “Can I work here?” It was my first job in New York City.

Or the three weeks (at least) spent jumping around my room to the Pixies’ Trompe Le Monde—my first Pixies exposure—overwhelmed by the screams of Black Francis and analyzing the lyrics to figure out what the heck he was saying. I took this disc from Stereophile Music Editor Robert Baird’s office, along with CDs from Emmylou Harris, M. Ward, and Wynton Marsalis. All the cases were to be tossed.

I heard Web Editor Jon Iverson’s cautionary tone in the back of my head, “But don’t you care about having a collection?” A collection of LPs and album jackets, I can admire. I want the crooks of my fingers to wrap around their edges. I want to hug them. I want to smell them. The soft cardboard and warm colors of each LP sleeve makes me feel safe. The clinical plastic and hard-corner edges of a jewel case offer the exact opposite experience visually, physically, and emotionally.

Then, I saw a stuffed toy camel laying on its side on the same shelf as my CDs. It mocked me with its line-less grin and beady eyes. It was a random gift I’d been holding on to for fourteen years. It did nothing for me. It did not even stand up straight its own feet. I noticed it every couple years when moving apartments and right now. This forsaken camel would be my metaphor. I would no longer let things that served me no purpose occupy physical or mental space.

I have an LP collection that makes me happy because its freaking beautiful and smells like home and a collection of old bills and receipts that has been useful in the most unexpected situations. Lyrics and liner notes were replaced by the prevalence of information on the internet, and while I may not get the inside scoop on what happened on Uncle Tupelo's tour, it is not like I ever went back to read it again. The album, on the other hand, is still in constant rotation. CDs turn me on for what's on the inside.

I turned my head away and dropped the cases into the trash can. Crack-ack-clackity-clackity-screeeack. The screeching and breaking of the jewel cases ran up my spine.

Thanks to the thoughtful advice from the folks on Reddit, I will keep the discs because it is the safest form of backup. Also, I love the way CDs look reflecting different shades of light with each turn of the page within the CD case.

Two weeks later, there was a stoop sale a block from me. The CD collection was calling. I came home with a tower of jewel cases including albums from the Allman Brothers Band, Jeff Beck, Howie B, Beethoven, and Bach. And so it goes.

torturegarden's picture

I primarily buy new music on vinyl and lossless or high res downloads if it's not on vinyl. I still have a large collection of CDs from the dark ages of vinyl, all boxed up in the spare bedroom. I ripped them all as lossless files as I needed more room for LP storage. Best thing I ever did. I am keeping them as backups if I have a catastrophic hard drive failure, even though I do back my music server up. I don't miss playing CDs and one of my players needs a new belt, as it got a dead spot from just sitting there. I'll probably never fix it.

untangle's picture

Great article on a topic faced by many avid computer audiophiles.

Jewel cases are - and always were - a blight IMO.

After ripping, I store the CD and booklet in a 320-CD binder. These binders go into storage. I recycle the jewel cases.

I don't do this so much for backup (the thought of re-ripping 3000+ CDs is a horror). Just to preserve the collection and the revenue to the artists sans the wasteful jewel cases. Keeping the disks also keeps my rips legal, but that doesn't worry me so much.

I also separate rare CDs and SACDs and save them in toto.



Ariel Bitran's picture

i knew there was a step i was missing


Ladyfingers's picture

But I kept the artwork and put it and the discs in individual ethylene sleeves. 1/6 the space of the original packaging and no more stupid cracking spindles or anything like that.

I got my sleeves at:

Highly recommended.

My Blu-ray collection is in folders, though. Movie disc artwork is ugly, and so I keep it all in a box, while throwing away the plastic cases.

wozwoz's picture

I got rid of all my old record covers. Taking up too much space. Also, you can stack the vinyl like pancakes if you throw out those cardboard jackets which only turn to mould anyway. 

Next month, I'm gonna throw out my hard drive casings too ... 

volvic's picture

With a baby on the way, I had to clear out 4000 cd's to make way for the crib.  I had a seven level drawer made at Gotham cabinet - man do those guys know their business, fantastic finish and very sturdy.   Then I ordered a sampling of CD sleeves from different companies including jazzloft, the winner was the CD pro seeve sold at, trumped all the others, as it could hold the CD the back cover and booklets.  The maintenance people in my building are cussing everytime they go and pick up the recycling -  filled to the rim with empty jewel cases.  It is amazing how much space they took and how liberating it is to get rid of them.  Now they are alphabetized in the cabinet and remind me of the old library card system we used to have at University way back when.

wozwoz's picture

Hmmm - so your 4000 CD collection is now worthless. As in ... has zero re-sale value. But then I've heard people who were once wealthy ... and have lost it all ... say how liberating it is to have nothing.

Ariel Bitran's picture

Hmmm, space for the baby?

or the resale value of my CD collection. 

eh, the baby can sleep on the cases.

Wanderlust2000's picture

Throwing away the the liners and art is nonsense!  How much space did that really consume?  U should see my stack of old Road & Tracks and Stereophiles!  Should  I throw those out?  [NO.]

The cases,,,wtvr,  can be replaced if the need/want ever arises..but the liners?  Srsly?  :S

Ariel Bitran's picture

We all have our priorities.

I'm not saying I don't foresee a time where I may want to pull out the liner notes from an album. Actually, I'm pretty sure it'll happen. I just find other things to be more important -- such as a lack of unneccessary crap. In addition, the internet helps in terms of retreiving information, the main benefit of CD liner notes, not fuzzy feelings. Here is that essay from the Uncle Tupelo album I wrote about.

volvic's picture

This is why I got the cd pro sleeves as they can accept the cd, liner notes as well as the front and rear art if it is a double cd set. 

volvic's picture

Can you explain to me how throwing away only the jewel cases, keeping all the liner notes, CD, front cover art and back cover in the CD Pro Sleeve makes my collection worthless? Enlighten me.    

vince's picture

So I have large boxes, four I think, of CDs in my basement.  Most of them were opened once, ripped lossless and put in those boxes.  I'd love to dump the lot.  Everything is on hard drive, and backed up off site.  Highly unlikely that it will get lost.  But if I sell them I don't believe I have the right to listen to the files anymore.  If I toss them in the trash (perhaps the morally and legally correct thing to do) I may retain the right to listen, but it will be very difficult to convince an RIAA lawyer that I ever, actually, owned anything.  So effectively I would no longer have the right to listen, or even posess, the files.  It is a dilemma.  Both morally and legally.  So I have four large boxes of CDs in my basement.  I'd love to have my shelf space back...

I've got to admit, the author is on to something.  If I could collapse the four boxes into a single box, and still have proof that the music is something that I purchased and that I have a right to listen to, that might be worth doing.  Are jewel cases recycleable?  Or is continuing environmental harm another one of their endearing characteristics?

Ariel Bitran's picture

here's a link describing how to recycle the various parts of your CD case

and regarding collapsing the collection into one place: it's quite nice to have your CDs in a CD booklet. It feels good when each heavy page turns over to the next, and it's a faster and cleaner storage process than individual CD cases. They also look decent enough on a bookshelf.

dsthornberry's picture

They don't take up much room.

And I like to keep them in their cases, original.

But then I only have maybe 300.