A recent discussion on the iTablet had me at odds wth a friend. I proposed that the iTablet is going to be the final nail in the coffin for paper comics with digital comics commercially surplanting paper comics by 2015. My friend however suggested that it would probably take a lot longer than that for paper comics to give up the ghost, if in fact they ever did.
To determine who might be right, we proceeded to compare the lifespans of different media.
The first one I mentioned was how Cassettes killed 8 Track Tapes. Developed in 1964, 8 Track Tapes needed only two years to become successful in America. By 1966, Ford Motor Company was installing them in their cars and people could buy home players.
However this success was shortlived, as cassette tapes and the Sony Walkman made them irrelevant. By the time the first CD's started to arrive in 1982, the 8 Track was well on its way out. The last 8 track tape was Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits in 1988.
It's hard to get a real gauge on when the 8 Track tape started to die. Wikipedia marks the first commercially usuable cassette tape as appearing around 1971. So using that as a milestone, we could say 8 tracks lasted 17 years after a superior format appeared.
The next one we thought of was VCR vs DVDs. VCR Tapes were around for quite some time in the 60's and early 70's, but they really didn't make a commercial impact until Japanese companies began improving and mass producing the Video players in the early 1980's. What killed VCR tapes were DVDs, which were invented in 1995. Once introduced, their smaller size, greater video quality and special features quickly displaced VCR.
In the early 2000s, DVD gradually overtook VHS as the most popular consumer format for playback of prerecorded video ~wikipedia
So while we don't have an exact date, for the sake of arguement, let's extend early 2000's to as far as 1995 - then you could say DVDs killed VCR tapes 10 years after their introduction.
The next format to look at would be BluRay vs DVD. The first consumer ready Blu Ray appeared in 2003, with the finalized format appearing in 2004. As of now, DVD sales are plummetting and Blu Ray sales are growing. Pundits are speculating that Blu Ray sales will overtake DVD sales by 2012.
So if that pans out, and one subtracts the unfortunately long HD DVD/Blu Ray Format wars which ended in 2008, we can say that Blu Ray will overtake DVD in 6 years!
So, if we examine the pattern, we see one thing in common. The time it takes for one format to overtake another is shrinking once a truly superior format has been established.
Whether Digital Comics on the iTablet will be that format remains to be seen, but if it is, I am betting paper comics won't last much past 5 years.
Have a great weekend,