Why are DVDs sold in larger packages than CDs, even though the discs are the same size?

CDs come in cases that are 148mm wide and 125mm high. By contrast, DVDs are sold in cases that are 135mm wide and 191mm high. Why use such different packaging for discs of identical size?

A little digging reveals the historical origins of this difference.

Prior to the appearance of digital CDs, most music was sold on vinyl discs, packaged in close-fitting sleeves that measured 302mm square. The racks on which vinyl discs were displayed were just wide enough, in other words, to accommodate two rows of CD cases with a divider between them.

Making the CD cases a little less than half as wide as the record sleeves they were replacing thus enabled retailers to avoid the substantial costs of replacing their storage and display racks.

Similar considerations seem to have driven the decision regarding DVD packaging. Before DVDs became popular, most film rental stores carried videotapes in the VHS format, which were packaged in form-fitting boxes that measured 135mm wide and 191mm high.

These videos were typically displayed side by side with their spines out. Making DVD cases the same height enabled stores to display their new DVD stocks on existing shelves, while consumers were in the process of switching over to the new format.

Making the DVD package the same height as the VHS package also made switching to DVDs more attractive for consumers, since they could store their new DVDs on the shelves they used for VHS tapes.