OF THE MANY pleasures that Napster provides, none is more potent than the pleasure of downloading and uploading MP3 files. It is a pleasure high above the pleasure found at the end of the downloading process, when one clicks on the captured file and the music is released from its compressed package. Granted, this functional end-use pleasure is the primary pleasure for the Napster novice, who just started and is amazed by the abundance of free music. But after a month or so that pleasure fades, and the process of downloading and uploading files becomes the first (and at times, the only) pleasure of Napster.

At first, I thought I was the only one who found enjoyment in the process, that others weren't soothed by watching files enter and exit their hard drive. But I was dead wrong. Not only are there many like me, but they also arrived at this pleasure (which, like self-stimulation, is a pure pleasure) by the same route. When my cousin first joined the Napster community late this spring, he found pleasure in obtaining old and forgotten songs: burning them on a disc, which he labeled (rock, hiphop, reggae, soul, jazz, and so on), storing the disc on an IKEA CD rack, and later listening to it while driving to work or relaxing in his garden.

But after two months of this organized accumulation, he gradually stopped labeling, ordering, filing, and even listening to the MP3s, and began downloading for the sake of downloading. This is exactly what happened to me, and millions of other Napster users.

Nowadays, when I call my cousin to see how he is doing, as we chat about something or other, I'm well aware that he is still downloading files. And he knows that I'm also downloading files, as others around America are uploading from us. Indeed, even now as I write this article, four freshly captured files are growing in my "Concurrent Downloads" box, and someone named Evilpeaches is in my "Concurrent Uploading" box, sucking up two files. I or Evilpeaches might never listen to these files moving behind my Microsoft Word window, but that is not the point; all that matters is the activity, the motion, the rise and fall of these compressed files.