And This Is Where It All Gets Totally Fucking Bonkers: “Used E-Books”

“This e-book smells like a jockstrap and now my Kindle is sticky.”

So, I just read an article: “Amazon Poised To Sell Used E-Books.”

Let us, for a moment, set aside the super giant city-stomping questions this offers (like, “Will authors ever get paid again?” or “Can you really guarantee that the book will be deleted from the first user when transferred to the second?” or “Doesn’t this prove we’re all just renting content instead of buying it?” or “Isn’t this the next-door neighbor to the type of file-sharing that’s already supposed to be illegal?”) and instead, let’s focus on the ultimate philosophical question:

How the frosty fuck can non-corporeal content ever really be used?

Like, I buy a used CD? It’s the container that’s been used. The songs themselves — by which I mean the Platonic ideals of those songs — are in no way “used” and do not degrade with me listening to them. It’s only the physical compact disc that gets scratched up by your guinea pig or gets splashed with bongwater or ends up mangled by some early-generation Xbox player. Digital content remains the closest thing to that Platonic ideal of its original form.

In a book, pages get torn. In an e-book, unless we’re talking data degradation, the story never suffers. In fact, given the fact all this digital Internet stuff now lives in a magical glittery cloud of puckish 1s and 0s, we can already reclaim the perfect version of the content we procured. Hell, that’s why “e-book” is actually a completely wrong-ass name for what it is: a book is a physical device. The story is no longer truly contained, trapped not by a device or by a medium of transference but only by a file. So, again I ask, huh? How the hell do you “use” content that’s not-contained and unconstrained? (And this is why unauthorized file-sharing is so easy.)

Is this blog post “used” after the first person reads it?

Will it start to smell like Cheetos and beer?

Will it get fingerprints on it?

Will someone start drawing little penises shooting jizz bullets in the margins?

How the?! What the?! Wuzza? Wooza?

(For the record, I’m willing to admit that this may be something other than it sounds, as it’s not like this is some formally-announced thing. But my mind is a-boggled with the very notion of used digital content. The thing about the Internet is that it’s now, here, always on and forever new, and this feels like a kind of philosophical rebranding that is, at the best, befuddling, and at the worst, a scary prediction of how content gets treated.)

(And all this after this week’s piracy chatter.)