Tried finding a big selection of audio cassettes at the music store lately?
In a few years it may be equally difficult to buy or rent videotapes. And not just because of the tape's fall to digital-video disc.
Consider the music industry's precedent: Vinyl and tape have been supplanted by compact discs and - to a lesser degree, so far - by MP3 technology, which has made music downloadable.
But even as more Americans "burn" (record) their own audio CDs, the limitations of the disc are becoming clear. First billed as indestructible, they're not aging gracefully. CDs are proving to be more vulnerable to fingerprints, scratches, and general breakdown than had been predicted. One paradoxical-sounding term being used these days: "laser rot."
DVDs will likely falter, too.
One solution for movie-watchers: Skip the bottled-water approach to home-video entertainment and use the tap.
Today's lead story explores the leading ways of "piping in" movies rather than buying or renting hard copies on tapes or discs.
Think of the space you'll save!
The approach, of course, has its limitations. Broadband connections are needed to pull in video fast and clean. And broadband is arriving pretty slowly in many parts of the country.
Expect big copyright battles over video downloads, similar to Napster's drawn-out fight with the music industry.
Also, some consumers may continue to favor the anonymity of buying tapes, as opposed to letting online entities - and marketers - know what they're watching.
These developments bear scrutiny in entertainment nation. Ultimately, consumers' demand will help it all shake out.
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