D'you want booklets with that?

by Jochen Wolters

A few days ago, Apple has released iTunes 7.1. There's no doubt that the most important addition is support for AppleTV, but there is also a new full-screen mode for Cover Flow. Album artwork has never looked this good on a computer screen.

Full-Screen Cover Flow in all its beauty

An idea that immediately springs to mind: why not let the user flip the cover around to discover what's on the back? Playlists's Chris Breen came up with this idea, too:

Now that I can see the front cover in such detail naturally I’d love to turn the cover around and see what’s on the back—or at least flip it around so I can view the tracks on the album and choose the one I want to play while in full-screen Cover Flow view.

Then again, why stop there? You see, the one thing I've been missing the most when buying music from the iTunes Store is the album booklet. When listening to a CD, reading up on the record's background story, the musicians involved, and what went on during the recording session adds a lot to the listening experience. Wouldn't it be great if you could browse a digitized version of the full CD booklet by flipping through its pages right there in iTunes? Let's take this one step further and add album navigation via clickable track list entries inside the on-screen booklet, and maybe include some links to websites with more information on the artist, etc., as well. Say hello to your full-featured virtual jewel case shelf!

We will probably see some implementation of this in an upcoming update to iTunes, and I'm very curious to find out just which feature set the Apple engineers will add, and what the UI will look like.

What's your take on such a feature, and what other things are on your wish list for iTunes's user interface?


2007-03-07 05:44:29
Some of these features were mooted for CoverFlow when it first appeared - remember Apple did NOT develop the CoverFlow interface, they bought it from the developer and embedded it into iTunes. If I remember right, the developer was already working on putting the tracks on the reverse of the cover, it was certainly a planned feature. Any of us who saw CoverFlow back then knew it's rightful home was in iTunes, it's great to now see it there. My next question is when will Apple embed it into FrontRow too?
2007-03-07 06:08:37
Well the ability to flip the album and see a track list is already on the iPhone, so id guess thats what comes next.

2007-03-07 06:33:58
Tweaking and adding useful features to Coverflow is always welcome so long as it doesn't degrade the performance of the feature (the full-screen version already taxes my poor Mac mini's integrated graphics card pretty heavily).

Track listings would be great - or maybe even utilizing vertical space to display items further away from the album you are currently looking at.

What would be even cooler though - would be if they integrated Coverflow into other applications like iPhoto, iMovie (using Coverflow to navigate clips would be awesome), and even Finder windows. Granted, what I love about Coverflow is the way it works with a scroll wheel, but it really does seem like a really natural interface for navigating content lists that have visual cues rather than verbal ones.

Chris Mear
2007-03-07 07:19:03
The occasional promotional album on the iTunes store does already come with a PDF booklet as part of the download. So it wouldn't be such a stretch to see this being integrated more closely into iTunes.
Steve Israelson
2007-03-07 07:25:24
This project aims to do that and more: http://dylan.projectopus.com/
Janet Tokerud
2007-03-07 09:17:36
Turning the cover over would be huge. As a computer user, I have come to expect being able to drill down to get more information. When I especially enjoy a song that I have not heard before or have not really appreciated until now, right then I want to know more about the artist and other details. I cannot imagine that it will be long before I can drill down with my remote or my iPod. I feel iTunes music has been crippled both in terms of music quality and in terms of liner notes, lyrics, etc. because of the music companies wanting to reduce the value of downloads relative to CDs. When can we will the digital experience that is so obviously there to be had?
Mike Abdullah
2007-03-07 09:25:42
Personally, I just want to the ability to zoom out a little in the full screen view. I find on a 20" iMac the default setting is a little too "in your face" for my liking. That and Front Row integration would be awesome.
Old Yorkie
2007-03-08 02:44:36
I already add PDFs to iTunes using one of those invaluable Applescripts that Doug produces - http://www.dougscripts.com/itunes/ (and which work perfectly, every time for me). I simply prepare a set of notes and pictures in TextEdit, save them as a PDF, and then use the PDF Adder script to place the completed document in the same folder as the album tracks. Just double click it and it opens in Preview without my leaving iTunes.
2007-03-08 06:53:06
Note to record companies - many of us really like liner notes and lyrics. You need to add all the art and other info to your album packages that we download. Back in the days of vinyl, many of us would sit with our headphones on and study the extra stuff that came with the album. Think of the photos in the White Album or the hidden stuff on most Zappa albums. This was part of the joy of getting a new album. BRING IT BACK!!!
Jochen Wolters
2007-03-08 06:53:28
Thank you very much for all your insightful comments.

Track list on the back

The approach on the iPhone of listing just the tracks is great for the confined space of the iPhone's display. Inside iTunes, however, I'd be disappointed if that was all it would offer. With Cover Flow being displayed full-screen on big monitors, album art is back at its original vinyl-LP glory, at least in terms of size. Why waste all that space for a few lines of text, then? ;)

Booklets as PDFs

Yes, I've seen a few booklets being listed on the iTunes store. However, I have not downloaded any of them yet. What size are they? And can you actually view them inside iTunes, or will they open in Preview?

Dylan Project

That looks ex-tuh-reme-ly ;) interesting. Thanks for the pointer, Steve!

"Drilling down" for more information

I completely agree with you, Janet. In fact, it is weird that Apple hasn't yet added this rather obvious feature -- this is the Internet age, after all, where everything is supposed to be linked with everything --, and it would even make business sense: such a booklet could be expanded with interactive features, so that the list of "Artists you may like if you like this album" is right there in that booklet. In which case, though, I hope this could also be switched off, so that these marketing-related features wouldn't be too intrusive.

Zoom out on larger monitors

That's a very good point which I hadn't even considered, what with this measly 17" monitor I'm using. ;)

2007-07-24 17:31:01
I've been wondering about the same thing since Cover Flow was added to iTunes. I've seen the demos of the iPhone's cover flow like this one on youtube. It's really disappointing that you can't see the track listing in iTunes cover flow!!!!
2007-09-07 02:56:25
my thought exactly