If you tried to buy CD-RW discs a year and a half ago, you probably shelled out $5 per disc. But media prices have dipped, and CD-Rs can now be bought in bulk for as low as 50 cents apiece. CD-RWs can be found for less than $1 each. Large quantities are where you'll find the best prices. Spindles of 50 or 100 discs without cases are sold everywhere from CompUSA to any number of stores online. Prices for these generally range from $25 to $100 per spindle.
However, not all discs are created equal. When trying out a new brand or disc type, test a few before you invest in a large spindle. If you get lots of burn errors or problems with readability, try another brand. Higher prices don't necessarily equate to higher quality. Unless rewriting is a must, cheaper CD-R discs are suitable for most jobs. CD-RWs are handy for daily backup chores.
OK, now that you've burned a CD, what next? First off, never use ballpoint pens to mark on CDs-the pens' sharp points can damage them. Use felt-tip permanent markers or markers manufactured just for that purpose. But if you're handing a CD-ROM to a prospective client, your illegible chicken scratches won't make the best impression anyway. For a more professional look, you can try a program like Stomp Inc.'s (www.stompsoft.com) CD Stomper Pro, a do-it-yourself labeling kit that includes labels for inkjet printing, software to design those labels and a device to put the sticky labels on CDs. The street price is $40. Neato (www.neato.com) offers a similar kit called the Neato 2000 CD Labeler Kit for $30 (street).
For those of you with exotic tastes in business cards, a CD-RW drive lets you take advantage of BizNetCard's (www.biznetcard.com) Do-It-Yourself CD Business Card Kit for $79.95. The CD-Rs included with the kit look like CDs that have been trimmed down to near business card size (CDs don't have to be round). What you burn on the discs is up to you. With 50MB of data capacity, you could include your Web page, references or presentations as well as contact infor-mation. Labels, software and 12 mini-CDs are included.