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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | CD-ROM Drives | Compact Disk Formats ]

A Rainbow of "Books"

There are many different CD formats used on compact disk media today. Each one of these has a formal name, but also has a somewhat odd name that refers to the color of a book. (Huh? :^) ) This little naming convention is a sort of slang that historically refers to the color of the initial paper manual describing the specification. I am not sure to what extent this is universally true of all of the different "books". It may have started out with some booklets that really had colored pamphlets and then later specs may have just had colors given to them to be "cute", sorta how the original "whetstone" benchmark led to "dhrystones" and "winstones" and all manner of other silliness (actually, dhrystones may have been first, I dunno. :) )

These book colors are sometimes colloquially used to refer to the various standards; they can be a bit confusing, so I have included them in a table below for easy reference:

"Book" Color

CD Format Referenced


Digital Audio (CD-DA)


Digital Data (CD-ROM): ISO 9660 / High Sierra, and extensions such as CD-ROM Extended Architecture (CD-ROM XA)


CD-Interactive (CD-I)


Magneto-Optical (MO), CD-Recordable (CD-R), CD-Rewriteable (CD-RW)


"Bridge" CDs (Photo CD, Video CD and others)

Some of these books, especially yellow, refer to multiple formats, and also have format extensions associated with them. These are described in more detail in their individual sections; there can sometimes be some confusion in terminology because so many formats are extensions to and derivations of earlier ones.

Next: Compact Disk Digital Audio (CD-DA)

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