I guess I’m exactly the right age to have this problem: hundreds of liner notes from CD albums, stripped from their jewel cases and also CD boxed-sets and many different CD gatefold cases. If I were any younger, I’d be subscribing to some music streaming service, or downloading pirated albums as MP3 files. If I were any older, I’d be building elaborate shelf units to store the hundreds of intact jewel cases, and keeping a multi-disc CD player running to play the music.  But here I am, old enough to buy CDs as a way to pay the artists for their work, but young enough to want to rip the CDs into music files, upload them to a file server, and play them via computer or from my smartphone.

All of this leaves me with a problem: having put the ripped CDs onto nice compact 100-disc spindles, where do I put the liner notes and booklets so that I have access to them if I want ?  I can throw out the regular or the 2-disc jewel cases, because those are generic. But the artwork is indispensable.  On the other hand, I don’t need to keep it out on a open shelf to browse. It’s fine for me to put it away, and retrieve it only when I need it.  And now I am happy to report a solution: a box, of just the right size to hold liner notes or CD box-sets or gatefold cases efficiently, easily available from shipping materials suppliers, and very affordably priced. I post this in the hopes of helping some else who is trying to solve the same problem.

Here it is: the 30cm long × 25cm wide × 15cm high (or 12″ × 10″ x 6″) box. I call it the “25cm × 15cm box” for short.25cm x 15cm box, filled with CD jewel cases

25cm x 15cm box, closed and stackedA CD disc is 12cm (4.7″) in diameter. A CD case just slightly taller than this: about 12.5cm (4.9″). It is under 15cm (6″) wide, depending on the details of the case. Pull the front and back cover inserts out of the jewel case, and they are just a bit under 12.5cm tall and under 15cm wide. Turn them on their side, so the long axis is up, and they fit into a 12.5cm-wide space. Two files of either cases or inserts and liner booklets, side by side, fit in a 25cm (10″) space. The majestic multi-CD box set cases, and the integrated gatefold cases?  They are also 12.5cm, and can fit among inserts and liner booklets. And 30cm (12″) turns out to be a convenient depth for the file. It is big enough to accept everything from minimal cover artwork to big box sets. It is small enough to fit on a shelf.  And, among the standard box sizes that a large box vendor will carry, 12″ × 10″ x 6″ is likely to be not just present, but common enough to be sold at a discount.CD storage system: extracted liners, a storage box, CDs on spindleAll of that makes the  30cm × 25cm × 15cm box my new solution for storing the guts of my ripped and disassembled CD albums.

How many CD albums can this box hold?  Obviously, it depends on whether you are storing just the cover art inserts and liner booklets (as I intend to) or the full jewel case, or a larger multi-disc case. A single-disc case is about 10.1mm deep. This box should be able to hold roughly 60 such cases, in two ranks of 30. I estimate that just the inserts and booklets, without the cases, and with the CDs stored separately on a spindle, will afford 4× to 6× the capacity, or 200-350 albums.  I might be able to fit my whole collection in 5 or 6 25×15 boxes, with 5-10 spindles.

25cm × 15cm boxes are available in other lengths: 10″, 14″, and more. But the longer the case, the more expensive the box, and the heavier the package. 12″ seems like a convenient size. And, it is possible to find a 6″ wide box which would hold only one file of cases. But such boxes are possibly more expensive per album archived, because they use more box material between each pair of cases. And they are less space-efficient, because 5″ wide boxes are hard to find, while two 6″ wide boxes take more space than one 12″ wide box.  I like how 12″ × 10″ x 6″ seems to be a good tradeoff between sizes, efficiency, and price.

Cross-packing technique for wide CD casesWhat about if some CD case is too wide to fit side-by-side with another CD case?  I have one example so far in my collection. My complete Rachmaninoff set is more like 13cm wide than 12.5cm. A workaround is to pack all the wide cases cross-wise. Fill out the rest of the cross-wise pack with ordinary cases. In the remaining space, fill two longitudinal files as usual. This won’t be quite as efficient, but it will accommodate the wide cases well. Here is a picture of this cross-wise packing. The wide Rachmaninoff case is the light-blue one to the far right of the cross-wise row.

What about weight?  Again, it will differ depending on the specifics of the CDs. When I filled a box with my box-set CDs, it came out to 5kg (11 pounds). This is well below the recommended maximum weight of 30-40 lbs.

What about storing the CDs in the box, along with the cover art inserts?  It’s a reasonable approach. It seems it would be wise to put the CDs in protective sleeves. Those sleeves would be an extra expense, about CAD$0.50 or so per disc. That would dwarf the costs of the boxes. I trust the CD spindle to protect the CDs. After all, blank CD-Rs are delivered on spindles. Spindles would be used if they failed to protect that merchandise. And, I can with a bit of scrounging get CD spindles for free. So for me, spindles win.

And by the way, I researched other approaches to storing CDs: 8-CD binder pages, CD trays, and so on. Maybe the notes from that research should be another blog post. Suffice it to say, I like the 25cm × 15cm box plus spindles approach, for giving me good-enough protection and usability, with a rock-bottom price.

25cm x 15cm box “better”, with tabbed lid

My favourite shipping supplies company, Uline, sells several models of 30cm × 25cm × 15cm boxes. The two sweet spots are products I call “Better” and “Cheaper”:

  • Better, Model S-13278, the 12 x 10 x 6″ White Tab Locking Literature Mailers. It has a lid that folds over, with tabs that tuck in. It is strong, holding up against 200lb of bursting force through the walls. This leads to a recommended maximum capacity of 40 lbs. The white colour is pretty. Uline charges CAD$3.64 (plus tax and shipping) each in minimum quantities of 50, at the moment.
  • 25cm x 15cm box “cheaper”, brown, with flaps

    Cheaper, Model S-18304, the 12 x 10 x 6″ Lightweight 32 ECT Corrugated Boxes. “32 ECT” means medium-strength, withstanding 32 pounds in the edge crush test. This leads to a recommended maximum capacity of 30 lbs. This is plenty for a box of CDs. The kraft-brown colour is humble but acceptable. Uline charges CAD$0.74 (plus tax and shipping) each in minimum quantities of 25, at the moment.

I clearly like the white one, so it’s “Better”. But “Cheaper is about one-quarter the price, and is probably good enough. To make it tougher, the minimum quantities are more than I need. If can only need 5-6 boxes to store my own collection, plus a few more for organising CD ripping in progress, then a 50-item minimum is a bit hard to swallow. I may end up trying to find others to share a purchase with me.

I hope this exposition is helpful for others who are also looking to store their archive of ripped CDs.  Few though we may be.