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Editorial: Digital Disappearing Acts: Where’s My Album Booklet?

Whether you’re a music aficionado that’s fascinated by reading album credits or a casual fan that enjoys looking at vibrant album art, album booklets appear to be diminishing. In the age of digital downloads and independent releases, long gone are the 12-page paper album booklets with lyrics, pull-out photos and announcements of upcoming releases. In exchange for the convenience of having our music on the go, we might be missing out on some of the details of a full album experience.

Having access to your music through an mp3 player or smart phone is a nice luxury. But, if you’re looking for additional album art (aside from the single or album cover) you may be out of luck. And for those music geeks wondering what writers, producers, musicians and other personnel were involved behind the scenes, you may have to do some digging. While some apps do provide a few album credits, they’re not always easily accessible. If you’re synching your digital music library between your computer, mp3 player, smart phone or other handy device, such as a tablet; you may be hard pressed to find that digital album booklet you paid for. Of course, if you purchased the physical CD you can pull out the paper album booklet. But, even those aren’t what they used to be.

As technology has developed and budgets have been slashed, many of today’s album booklets are noticeably thinner than they were in the past. Instead of five photos of your favorite artist striking various poses, you might find a picture or two. And if you’re looking for writing and production credits; there’s a good chance you’ll need a legend to keep track of the various symbols that represent different producers. This is a far cry from the age of vinyl LPs that contained extensive liner notes (the term deriving from the notes printed on the paper record liner used to protect vinyl recordings.) If your parents have any dusty records in the basement, pull some out. You’re bound to discover great artwork, artist bios, essays, and discographies. You might even learn the lyrics to the original song that Rapper X sampled.

While iTunes has attempted to resurrect paper album booklets with digital booklets and iTunes LP, (which can include interactive album artwork, videos and links) these extras are only available for select releases. Quick, easy access to your music library is great, but there’s something exciting about reading through an album booklet as you listen to your music. If you’ve downloaded an album that doesn’t contain a digital booklet, purchase a physical copy and see what you’ve been missing!

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