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Digital dominance

If your VCR is gathering dust, it's not the only one.

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If your VCR is gathering dust, it's not the only one. DVD just passed videotape as America's rental media of choice.

About 500,000 more DVDs were rented than VHS tapes for the week ending June 15, according to the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA). DVDs have generated more revenue since last March.

These shiny discs were a novelty just six years ago. Now they're quickly gobbling up store space, with analysts saying that DVD may smash VHS as VHS crushed Betamax in the 1980s. Adams Media Research predicts that annual DVD rental revenue will soar from $3.2 billion to $8.4 billion during the next five years.

Meanwhile, Disney is testing a strange twist on DVD rental: a self-destructing disc that quits working after 48 hours, when a special chemical renders it useless. Customers can toss out these DVDs without returning them.

Right now, DVD players can be easily found for under $100, the discs don't need rewinding, and the features and resolution are superior to VHS.

DVD's one drawback: It is still a new format and the number of available titles pales beside the massive volume of VHS releases over the last 25 years.

The VSDA says VHS will not disappear entirely. Blank tape continues to be plentiful-and the spread of digital video recorders is slow. So don't throw that dusty VCR out just yet.

Chris Stamper Chris is a former WORLD correspondent.


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