You've got to hand it to the marketing boys of the good old US of A. They were promoting CDs to the American public who had been weaned on the fact that music came on 12" vinyl, and the postage-stamp sized cover just didn't lend itself to the same visual effect as a glorious foot-square canvas. The record industry was trying to get a good price premium for the new product, and it needed to ginger up the appearance.
Some bright spark spotted that if you took just one side of the 12" album sleeve we all knew and loved, and folded it round the 5" CD case, you had something a lot more impressive for hardly any extra outlay. So the Long Box was born - all unwieldy 12" x 5" of it. The good thing about this was that record stores could make a better display of these expensive new things in their shelves designed for 12" album sleeves. Bad things about it were the easy crushability of the box, which was more than 50% empty space, and the sheer waste as most of the long boxes were junked - stores only needed one long box for each title, at the back.
Eco-warriors such as Olivia took up the cause of trying to eliminate the long box for its sheer wastefulness, though I am sure that there are some fans who secretly miss the freebie extra pictures... The long box was phased out in the early Nineties for most releases.
It was the year of the Earth Summit in Rio, and the environment was high in the American public consciousness but niggling thoughts of compromising one's lifestyle had yet to be raised. Olivia did her bit - she was unable to get Geffen records to strike the long box from the 1992 release Back To Basics - so she used part of it instead for a postcard to the President of the United States telling him how much she and her listeners were concerned about the environment.
The postcard from Olivia printed on the back of the long box for you to cut out, sign and return to the US President. Well, at least they managed to reuse 10% of the long box :-)