Ubiquitous PDF: 446-song download includes PDF-based liner notes

December 08, 2004


Apple's iTunes Music Store first made its mark on the industry by offering 99-cents-per-song downloads to its iPod device from a range of top singers and bands. In another recent milestone, Apple began offering in late November a more bandwidth-intensive experience aimed at fans of a particular group: the nearly comprehensive "Complete U2" collection includes 446-licensed songs -- a 2GB download -- for $149.99. Apple dubs this the first "digital boxset."

ITunes U2 Complete CollectionAs noted in Playlist's review of the collection, one of the most common criticisms related to downloaded music has been "the lack of liner notes."

Of Apple's PDF-based solution to that problem, Playlist's reviewer writes:

"With most music downloads, you lose not only the CD jewel case, but, more importantly, the front cover booklet and album art, the back cover, and any other special inserts the band has chosen to include. In fact, this has been one of the major complaints about the price of downloaded music -- many music buyers feel that since these items are missing, the price of downloaded music should be significantly less than if you are buy the same music on CD. Well, when you purchase The Complete U2, you have no such reason to complain -- you get a 42-page booklet that includes all album art, a complete track listing, photos, liner notes and track listings for each individual album or EP, and discographies for the singles from each album. It's an impressive document that I enjoyed a heck of a lot more than some of the far-too-wordy-and-effusive booklets that come with most box sets. However, since you buy The Complete U2 online, the booklet must also be electronic, so it's provided as a PDF file that's automatically downloaded along with the music. The file shows up in iTunes and double clicking it opens your preferred PDF viewer. You can then choose to print it or keep it on your computer for future reference. (How long before iTunes can render PDF documents? My bet is soon.)"

Elsewhere on the Playlist Weblog Christopher Breen explains how it works:

U2 digital booklet"Under normal circs, when you purchase an album from the iTunes Music Store you get the music plus a picture of the album cover (the picture is embedded in each song from the album). The latest U2 album works the same way except for this: When you pungle up for How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, a PDF file that contains the material from the CD sleeve downloads right along with the music. This PDF file is listed as 'HTDAAB Digital Booklet' and is tagged in such a way that its associated artist and album are 'U2' and 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,' respectively. Double-click this entry and your PDF viewer opens and displays the file. Print it to a decent color printer, whip out some well-honed scissors and a stapler and you've got something that closely resembles the commercial audio CD (but without that annoying bit of tape at the top of the case that never, ever comes off in one piece)."

Breen goes on to suggest how to create your own liner notes for downloaded music:

  1. Find the liner notes material (a CD, cover for vinyl record, cassette J-card).
  2. Scan the sucker.
  3. Export as PDF (using countless Windows utilities or Mac OS X's Save-as-PDF feature within every Print dialog box).
  4. Drag the resulting PDF file into iTunes.
  5. Select the PDF and choose Get Info from iTunes' File menu.
  6. Click the Info tab and enter a descriptive name for the file in the Name field (White Album Liner Notes, for example) and then the artist's name in the Artist field and album name in the Album field.
  7. Click OK.

The PDF file will now appear next to the album's music when you sort by artist or album.

Another fan of the solution writes on another blog: "Apple, you should bundle every album you sell on the iTunes Music Store with the liner notes."

U2 AcrobatAppropriately enough, among the 446 digitized U2 songs is one titled ... "Acrobat."

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