Why do some publishers feel the need to sell their discs in plastic jewel cases, even though better options are now available?
The photos I'm using are for the sake of examples of how publishers have chosen to distribute their products rather than to comment on the artists featured.
First problem with jewel cases: this can happen.
Plastic can get scratched or cracked really, really easily. And when it does, it looks awful. See those two lines in the bottom right? They're there for good now, which is a major frustration for anyone who is fussed about the presentation of their music library (yes, my CD drawer is organised first by alphabetical order and secondly by year of release of the original copy).
Another issue is the general effort put into the presentation. Jewel case presentation is pretty much limited to the front cover artwork and the track list page on the back, whereas digipak presentation seems to be much more detailed. Let's have a look at a comparison -
The digipak looks so much tidier here - the way the inside artwork has been carefully cropped to fit the shape of the box, the way the booklet has its own little slot cut to shape, the way the disc is hidden away to improve the art's presentation whilst still being easily accessible etc.. It just looks so much more appealing than the typical "book goes here, disc goes here" situation we get with jewel cases.
There is the argument that it would cost more to produce more unique artwork for the insides of a digipak, though personally I believe it would still be more appealing than a jewel case even if they use basic cheaply produced graphics like simple snapshots of the band etc..
In my eyes record labels do need to realise that they need to put some effort in to persuade people that they're getting a better product in the long run if they own a physical copy of an album as opposed to just pirating it; and as someone with mild collection tendencies I feel more 'proud' to own albums which have had great care put into their presentation on top of their musical value.
Another point is the long time wear. Any CD case you own is likely to get a bit worn after a while; that's nature. It's just that from my experience digipaks seem to age more respectfully than jewel cases. Whilst card digipaks do get a bit dog-eared in the corners and some of the colour can fade, they don't end up being anywhere near as bad as scratch and fingerprint smothered jewel cases (all of which occur from typical everyday use).
Some albums try to counter this by having the jewel case inside a card cover -
- though this doesn't work. Why? Because the card gets tired out instead, due to the thin edges.
This is probably more of a random ramble than anything productive (yay for writing inspiration at half-past two in the morning!) but I think it's definitely necessary to look at the pros of the digipak format.