April 9, 2007

Idea: The Digital Jewel Box

I love having my music on my hard drive or iPod, but one reason I still buy CDs and then rip them is that I enjoy holding the jewel box in my hand and reading the liner notes while the music plays. I just hate how much space all those jewel boxes and liner note inserts take up.

Digital Jewel BoxSo how about making a Digital Jewel Box? Here’s how it would work: The DJB sits next to your stereo or computer in its charging dock. Similar to a digital picture frame, it syncs wirelessly to your home network via WiFi, syncing itself with iTunes or whatever digital player you use. When a new song comes on, the DJB’s screen shows the album cover art for that song.

At any time, you can take the DJB out of its dock, sit on the couch with it, and use the controls on its side to flip through the rest of the liner notes, including track listings, lyrics, song credits, acknowledgments, and whatever else is included in the paper version. The pleasure of flipping through liner notes doesn’t need to go away just because CDs do.

You can also use the DJB as a remote control, as long as your media player supports it. The DJB has an infrared transmitter, and the charging dock has an IR receiver. So if you’re sitting on your couch flipping through your favorite album’s liner notes and you decide you’d rather be listening to a different track, you can skip forward or back by pressing buttons on the DJB itself. If you want to hear a different album entirely, use the DJB’s menu to flip through your music. The songs themselves aren’t stored on the DJB, but the track listings are.

When you’re not playing music, you can set your DJB to turn off completely, or double as a digital picture frame, displaying your personal pictures.

Here’s another mock-up of what the DJB might look like, but probably with fancier transitions than these:

Digital Jewel Box


Brilliant. A growing and now significant portion of my music collection is now digital-only, and a part of me misses owning a physical manifestation of the music.

Yet again you’ve blown my mind. Where do you get this stuff from? Genius.

Aye, not a bad idea this.

This is a simple yet brilliant idea! I would buy this, as well as 50 million other people. Please pursue this with potential manufacturers.

Yes. This would be a fantastic idea. The ability to touch the screen and flip through the pdf files that come with my iTunes purchases would be great. Even better if it’s hand held so I could walk around with it.

Great idea! Count me in as another who still buys physical CDs for the access to liner notes, lyrics, photos, etc, which all serve to enrich the listening experience. This Digital Jewel Box becomes a perfect compromise between digital music consumption and the physical experience. Love it!

I love it!

The guy who made the “SlickrFrame” would be the perfect person to help make a prototype. http://fresharrival.com/slickrframe/

Maybe keep it simple to start and just display the album art without the remote control functionality.

This could also be really useful for stores and restaurants that want to display what music they’re playing to their customers.

You’d better get started before someone else does…

Now that all of my music is digital (currently more than 18,000 tracks), I miss flipping through my cds to find what I want to listen to. As a result I’m also missing the physical memory of where things are in relation to each other.

Love your idea. Want it. Will buy it.

i want it. great idea.

That’s a really great idea, and something I think a lot of people would be interested in.

That said, I probably wouldn’t buy one myself. Part of the reason is that I prefer to hold the real thing in my hands, but it’s more than that. The demise of vinyl dealt a huge blow to inventive music packaging because you just couldn’t do much with cassettes. But more and more I’m seeing cds that do away with the jewel case and get really creative. Maybe it’s just the artist in me but I freaking love that.

Of course, if your DJB were to be produced I would surely buy one as the price went down because it’s cool. :)

As a graphic designer I love it just ‘cus it would allow me to continue designing CD packages even as the medium dies. But why tie it to a format that will eventually be replaced? Why not go ahead and make it larger (like the old LP sleeves) so that the artists have more space to work with and allow liner text to be easier to read? And heck it could even be designed to allow for moving art or videos to be embedded as well!

You could do more with it than just show the cover image. Take a look at http://www.sleevenotez.com, for an example of some of the other stuff you could do…

I don’t have an ipod, but I know that sometimes when you download an entire album they’ll send you a file with the liner notes and cover image … thought it doesn’t display the way you mention here. In particular, Lily Allen’s album came with it (at least, that’s what my friend Sarah showed me :)

Great idea. It would make a cool night-light too.

If they made these, I would probably stop buying physical CD’s and switch to digital downloads.

Except for the ones with exceptional packaging schemes (Sagmeister’s cover for Skeleton Key or perhaps the latest Beck album). Because, after all, part of me will always have a soft spot for print design and creative packaging.

i’d say its a job for e-ink colour it seems to be an idea of which e-ink was originaly created for. i’d buy it

I’d love one that is the full 12” vinyl sleeve size.

Once my friend gave me a 12” empty frame (with matte and everything) for me to put my favorite record sleeve into. It was a great idea!

Sorry, I’m not buying one. Gotta have the full-on LP experience. If I can’t roll joints of bad seeded Mexican and chop up and lay out huge long lines to snort off of it like I did back in the day, no sale ;)

This is fantastic. I’m one of the only people I know dedicated to actually buying music from shops, but this is genuinely exciting.

I still like the look of a physical collection though.

*slowly backs away*

I’ve had the exact same idea for quite some time now. Honest.
Owning a huge CD collection plus an ever growing mp3 repository (computer linked directly to stereo) I always miss seeing the albumart of the mp3s I’m playing. It’s just not the full experience.
When I listen to CDs I always have the jewel case standing on a CD filing cabinet in front of me, so it’s not such an original idea to imagine a similar display linked to the PC. I dunno, mp3s without coverart are only half the fun. Plus jewel cases have become a real storage problem for me.

This is a killer idea

Love it. Best idea for digital cover art I’ve seen. I don’t think Flash alone is going to replace album art. If your DJB can be made inexpensively, tie in with additional artist materials, it could work.

Great idea. I buy a CD, rip it, read the liner notes once, and then put it in a big stack. They do add up.

There’s the seed of a brilliant idea there, but I’m not 100% convinced.

The problem is the CD jewel case is an ungly and tacky design to start with - why inherit it’s flaws (like that horrid black spine down the side)?

If it’s a household thing (you’re not going to want to travel around with it are you?) then make it a bit bigger. The real audience for this (and the one with the most disposable income to spend on things like this) are older and nostalgic for vinyl, not CDs. Make it the size of a 12” and you might be on to something.

Yeah, great idea.

At the risk of being attacked, might I suggest that there may be some benefit to the stripping of packaging and imagery from music? I share the same nostalgic need that most of us have to visualize what I’m listening to, as well as “dive deeper” into lyrics and liner notes. But I’m wondering if it’s time to change?

I’ve been thinking for a while about a couple of consequences to the music industry:

One is a consequence to the players via the democratization of music. Multitudes of people can produce and distribute their own material. This waters down the field for older careerists. In the end music becomes harder to market in the traditional channels, and for some, this actually makes it become something that you do for yourself and perhaps a smaller audience of peers and fans. Illusions of traditional stardom are replaced by the possibility of a broader population of players reaching their own smaller audiences.

The other is a consequence to the listener — the loss of packaging, art, and the tactile experience. I don’t know but maybe this could lead to a deeper understanding of music for it’s own sake, let’s face it, music’s been a “product” for a much shorter time than it’s been played.

Maybe it’s time to just be players and listeners again.

I’ve been kicking around the idea for a digital liner notes standard (probably XML-based) for a while. It’d be cool to see somebody come up with a standard that devices like this could read.

Nice. I wrote about - and mocked up - something like this about three years ago, although with a projector rather than a device. And as it was the days before CoverFlow etc., without the cover art.


Yours would be more appealing, I think.

i’m just gonna go back to the global-warming blogs and pretend i never saw this.

Last year I built a prototype of a fairly similar device when I was a student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. It’s called the iTunes jukebox.

It’s a CD tower that is modified to accept special jewel cases with microchips embedded inside to identify the single that the jewel case corresponds to. You plug it in, cartridge-style, and your iTunes starts playing appropriate song.


I’m a Sonos user and their remote controls do a lot of this already. If it’s any consolation, these wireless remotes are what usually clinch the deal for new customers.

There is something about the way you pitch your ideas on this site which is always astonishing. I’d love to know what you do for a living.

I like this idea.

Some notes on it:
1) I agree about using epaper. It’s cheaper and only needs power when it’s changing the image, rather than the constant power requirements of an LCD. If you’re going to be walking around with it, having enough battery to power and LCD would be problematic to fit it into that case.
2) If it’s receiving Wi-Fi data, why have an IR transmitter for control? Just use the Wi-Fi to send the signal back to the media player plugin that’s sending the data. Then you wouldn’t be limited to having to be close to the IR receiver.
3) You wouldn’t need to store all the liner notes on the device. When the album changes, just have it send out the images & notes for that album. The device would have just enough memory for that one album. It’s not much data to transfer and adding more memory to the device would be an unnecessary increase in cost.

Starbucks has already implemented this concept into their stores, at least in the Seattle area: A large screen displays the cover art of the CD while a selected track is playing. It puts a “face” on the music playing and solved the “What song is this?” inquiry directed at the employee. Critics will say yet another wedge between social interaction, proponents will say “sells more product!”