Dream sleeves: How a 40-year-old idea could save the music industry

Digital downloads and free streaming have changed the music industry for ever. Now record labels have hatched a plan to revive the album format with 1960s-influenced, art-laden packaging. John Walsh thinks the idea rocks

Change of address: Direct marketing has the chance to slash its contribution to the UK’s waste mountain

At first glance, it may look as though the direct mail industry and the environmental lobby are at opposite ends of the green spectrum. After all, of the estimated 4.3 billion pieces of direct mail that are sent or hand-delivered to mainland UK addresses each year, well over half end up in landfill sites. But change is afoot.

Minor British Institutions: Paynes Poppets

In a changing world the gratifying thing about Paynes Poppets is, obviously, that they are still with us, but also that their cardboard box packaging remains uniquely inaccessible.

Focus on Forsythe, Sadler's Wells, London

Tracing the steps of life and death

Observations: Artworks that unlock the heart of Bronson's darkness

Ever on the lookout for a new enfant terrible, the art world's current darling would seem to be Charles Bronson, aka Britain's most dangerous prisoner. Next Friday sees the release of the film Bronson, with a beefed-up, bewhiskered Tom Hardy in the lead. The same day an exhibition of the artwork Bronson has produced over 34 years in jail will open at the Amuti bookshop and gallery in the West End of London.

The Word On: Amazon's Kindle 2

"Amazon's introduction of the Kindle 2 had all the makings of a product launch by consumer electronics wunderkind Apple. [But] As much as some might try to draw parallels between Amazon's approach to books and Apple's take on music... the latest generation of Amazon's sleek, white little electronic book reader is no iPod for the book world... The company is... reluctant to push too aggressively — most noticeably, by pricing the Kindle 2 at $359, the same price as its predecessor... Amazon is in something of a catch-22. Lowering Kindle's price too much might threaten Amazon's print book business."

Start of something: Snowdrops signal the first stirrings of spring

The first snowdrops were flowering in our garden by the end of December. Given the long (and fabulous) sequence of freezing days and nights we had over Christmas and the New Year, this was surprising. They are planted in ivy along the northern boundary, which faces south and slopes to the west. Over them hang stooled stems of hazel, the catkins already almost full length. The snowdrops were one of the few things I brought here from our old garden, where I had introduced them into a wooded, shaded bit of ground.

Used condoms found in beer packaging

A supermarket apologised to a customer today after used condoms were found in the packaging of four beer cans.

Sarah Sands: The true message of Dave's Christmas card

The Boden winter catalogue is a reminder of life's verities. It is always funny to wrap bright, knitted scarves round snowmen and old school ties round dogs. Young mothers should always have long, glossy, straight hair, scrubbed faces and coltish figures. Holidays do not require sunshine. Boden people paddle hilariously in Boden boots through rivers and run across beaches in woolly hats. Children scramble on to the bonnets of Land Rovers. If I buy Boden please, please can I be Samantha Cameron?

Playing poverty: The book in middle-class make-believe

As the economy nosedives, handbooks on cheap and simple pleasures thrive. Susan Jeffreys reads the new literature of atonement

Shedding light on credit crunch depression

Don’t be down in the dumps about the credit crunch. Sir Terence Conran helps Annie Deakin dodge the winter blues with improved lighting. It’s a bright idea.

Can you dig it? The easy alternative to clearing an overgrown allotment

I am a black-plastic convert. It's been a slow process. When I first took over my allotment last autumn I had very different ideas: walking around for the first time with Jane, my new allotment chief, I was proudly shown how she had covered her entire plot in black polypropylene sheeting. "You can buy it from the garden centre up on the A40," she enthused.

Paperbacks: The Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland

Set in the aisles of a stationery superstore, and also in the pages of a novel about a stationery superstore, The Gum Thief is classic Coupland: so postmodern that by the end you won't know which way is up. Roger is a middle-aged alcoholic, writing about two comedy drunks. Bethany is his teenaged muse. Those who hate Coupland will despise this cute novel. Fans will find a thousand more reasons to love his inventiveness.

How to cut your paper footprint

Each of us throws away, on average, a quarter of a ton of paper every year. Vicki Hill meets a woman on a mission to slash our waste and save the forests

Tips for making the most of your lawn

Here are the tips for success, and the tools of the trade, to get your patch of grass into tip-top condition

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Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week