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…And now I regret it

So I was curious about iTunes 7’s new “Get Album Artwork” feature, since I figured Apple’s art-scanning staff were somewhat more dedicated than the “provide your own or go without” policy that artists go by when they sell at Amazon, and went through the long process of removing and replacing the art as per the instructions I later relayed to Colin at The Über Geeks.

Here’s a tip: don’t do it on albums you’re already happy with.

It works, of course, and the artwork quality is good. I was also pleasantly surprised by the breadth of iTunes’ collection, but there’s something curious about how iTunes handles store-fetched artwork. Rather than embedding it in the song’s ID3 information as was the case in earlier days —and continues to do if you drag artwork from some external source onto the track— iTunes stores fetched art in a separate directory structure at ~/Music/iTunes/Album Artwork, in a proprietary format. This is, presumably, a means of improving CoverFlow performance, but there are two very noticeable downsides:

Album artwork is no longer portable
Music copied —legally or otherwise— between machines will not retain its art. It may be the case that when you import those new tracks into a machine with iTunes 7 it’ll fetch the art (I tested this on a receiving machine bearing iTunes 6), but the art is certainly not attached to the track itself any longer.
It breaks your pretty screen saver
Mac OS X’s iTunes Artwork screen saver looks for art in the files, not in the new repository. This will undoubtedly be fixed, either as part of an upcoming dot-release of 10.4, or later in 10.5, but for now you’ll have to put up with a screen saver that only has art from those two bootleg recordings you have, and the demo discs from your friends’ bands.

If the bulk of your collection lacks artwork —as is probably the case among non-dorks— then sure, go nuts. But if you’ve already spent long hours collecting artwork from Amazon and applying it to your collection, perhaps consider sticking with what you’ve got.