Lightscribe discs are special recordable CD and recordable DVD media that allow for the labeling of this type of optical disc media.
The main difference between these types of discs and normal CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, and DVD+Rs, is that the top of the disc contains an additional layer. This layer is a very thin dye layer which changes chemically with exposure to the laser light in the recording drive. The chemically altered dye becomes visible and the dye not exposed to the laser light remains invisible and therefore, a label is created. The labels are black-and-white and these special discs come in various colors and therefore, the labels consist of gray scale images or printing on a colored background.
In brief, a recordable CD or DVD is written or burned. A label is then designed using the Lightscribe software which can be a full label, a border, or text only. The recorded Lightscribe disc is then taken out of the drive and flipped over. This enables the recording laser to have access to the dye layer at the top of the Lightscribe discs. The label is then burned onto the top of the disc. The burning process is from the inside to the outside of the disc in a concentric circle pattern, similar to the same way that data is written to the recordable disc media on the opposite side. Note that in addition to special Lightscribe discs, you also need a drive that has this Lightscribe feature incorporated in it in order to label discs in this way. Discs and drives that are Lightscribe compatible have the Lightscribe logo on the disc packaging and for drives the logo is often found on the faceplate with all the other logos which indicate what functions the drive can perform.
Advantages of this Labeling System
There are some advantages to using this type of disc labeling system. There is no need to use potentially harmful markers or adhesive labels, the label is very durable, there is no peeling of the label, and there is no smudging of the label since it is not printed with ink.
On the hand, there are some disadvantages as well such as the fact that creating the labels can be a slow process and special media and drive are required. If you do not have the Lightscribe enabled drive, you cannot label the discs. There is also no information available for the stability of the burned label. Will the dye fade over time with exposure to warm temperatures or light? In addition, there is little data as to whether these discs differ in stability when compared to standard discs. Will this additional layer cause the disc to degrade faster or is it relatively inert and have no effect?
This labeling system may or may not be suitable for your needs. This system is likely acceptable for short-term use, but careful thought should be given when using such a system for discs being used for the long-term storage of information because of the noted uncertainties. If you choose to use Lightscribe, there are many disc brands that have these discs available. Examples are: Verbatim, HP, Aleratec, Imation, Memorex, and several others.
Other Lightscribe and labeling resources: