2 April 2016

Publish and Be Free
Francis Nenik


“My book is free. You can do what you want with it.”
That’s all I have to say on the subject of publishing with an open license.
That’s all I know. It’s everything I need to know. All that’s left is to try it out.


You think there must be something else coming. The fine print. But the font size hasn’t changed. Of course, I could place a few limits on things, forbid you from using the book for commercial purposes, for example. Or prohibit you from changing its content. But come on, who would let that hold them back? (The dialectic of every stop sign is to put desires in your head that weren’t there before.) And so I won’t bother to tell you, “You’re not allowed to change anything” or “You’re not allowed to earn any money with it.” And instead I’ll say: “My book is free. You can do what you want with it.” (You’ll do that anyway. And don’t you bring up your conscience now. Forget it. Or, better: save it for things that are really important. Books aren’t important things, okay?)

In any case, do what you want with the book. Copy it. Change it. Distribute it. Read it aloud. Pulp it. (Just try that with an ebook.) Rewrite it—if you think you can make it better. Or take a chunk out of it—if you think it’s a good chunk—and use it for your own purposes. It’s all up to you. Do it out of idealism or rake in the big bucks with it. (Ha! That’s not going to happen, and if it does, you’ve earned it, and I won’t lift a finger to demand any portion of it.) What I mean to say is that this book belongs to you. And if you don’t want it, that’s okay too. Then just leave it here in the great digital dumpster and take something else out.

Besides, publishing a book with the fewest copyright restrictions possible just means tossing it into the dumpster. And don’t think for a minute that it’s a special dumpster just because some big names are printed on it. Forget that too! It’s a dumpster like any other. It’s made of ones and zeroes and nothing else—just as my book isn’t made of anything else. And so I can put it in the bin too, though there is an even better reason to throw it away. I’m throwing it away because it is past its use-by date. Its expiration date was marked by the moment of its publication. So it’s time to get rid of it! There’s no other way. Besides, how else are you supposed to go dumpster diving?

But I’ll make it easy for you. I do the same myself: I go dumpster diving, just like you. I go every week. But not for books—for important things. (Didn’t I already say books aren’t important?) In my case, I go dumpster diving for things that are actually essential to life: food that satisfies my basic needs. But it’s still no big deal to forage for it. Or at least it shouldn’t be. You just go behind the supermarket and take what you need. You take what others have thrown away. It’s as easy as that. Like pigs in mud!

But some people don’t like it when you take what they’ve thrown away. They call it stealing, those pigs! By day they chase people away or scrap with each other. And by night they keep what they’ve thrown away under lock and key. They arrange for rights management set in stone, so that no one comes and takes from what they’ve thrown away. But come on, who would let that hold them back? I know, I said that already. The dialectic of every stop sign is to put desires in your head that weren’t there before. But I hope that in this case, more people discover these desires within themselves. Because these stop signs aren’t just ridiculous, they’re also easy to bypass. You just climb over the wall or roll under the gate, you limbo a little under a section of barbed wire—and soon you’re right where you want to be. The forbidden zone. A jumbled bazaar. A grab bag in the shape of a produce dumpster, chock-full of friends for all five senses. You just have to shine them in the face with your headlamp for them to start telling their stories. No book can compare. And especially not a digital one. That’s easy to notice. You don’t have to try very hard. It’s enough if you just look past what you see.

You don’t hear anything.
(The sound of your hand tunneling through a deep layer of vegetables.)
(The sound of a hand taking hold of a page, turning it, leafing to the next.)

You don’t smell anything.
(Fruit that’s been sitting too long.)
(The smell of a book fresh from the printer.)

You don’t taste anything.
(Artichokes, bananas, chicory …)
(The hunger that’s quelled only when you run your tongue across the page, trying to lick off a particularly beautiful sentence.)

You don’t feel anything.
(The urge to feel your way through what’s lying in the dumpster because you’ve forgotten your headlamp on this nighttime foray.)
(The rough paper that’s still damp in one spot because some joker tried to lick off a sentence.)

But it’s not so bad. No one is claiming that books are essential to life. At least I’m not. You can’t survive on books. Especially not ones like this, and definitely not if they exist only in digital form. They don’t satisfy anyone’s appetite, plain and simple. Not the writer’s, and not the reader’s. At most it’ll fill the seventh of your body above your neck. It won’t make it to your stomach, never ever.

So why insist on the scraps? Why keep a few crumbs under lock and key when the pie is somewhere else entirely? Why not give away the leftovers? And a book is always what’s left over. A waste product. One that you can make something out of. Something different, something new. Why not make the digital version of a book open and free? Why not throw open the gates? Because then anyone could come in? But that’s exactly the point. That everyone can come in. That everyone can come and take what they need. Without having to climb and crawl. Doing the limbo isn’t everyone’s thing, even if it’s more fun for someone like me. But I can find my fun elsewhere. And if I can’t find any, then I just write myself some …


“MADE AT ILION” is written on the typewriter that I’m writing this text on.
No one is entitled to these words.
But Tom wants to own them.
He is a textual object model, a theory of mind, part of a literary composition that actually belongs to us all: tom.[us].

MADE AT ILION, I say to Tom. Then: No one is entitled to these words. They’re just an idea.
But Tom wants to pin the idea down. (TOM NAIL IDEA)
That way it can’t be distributed or shared. (IDEA NOT MAIL)
Because, Tom says, the ego dominates. (LA I DOMINATE)
And because we must revive the old I. (ANIMATE OLD I)
No, I say, what was the oil of old is the data mine to us. (OIL DATA MINE)
The ideas are the main thing; they’re our construction site, our fate. (IDEA MAIN LOT)
Tom claims that when ideas are free, they divert water from the main stream. (IDEA MOAT NIL)
Ideas, he says, are like words. They are made with man’s hard labor. (IDEA MAN TOIL)
When you make them free, they become weak, like a doormat, like a toothless lion. (IDEA MAT LION)
That’s why he wants to enclose them. To make them the inset arabesques on a big doorstop. (INLAID A TOME)
That’s a vein of pure insanity, I say. (MANIA LODE IT)
Many die trying to mine it. (MANIA DIE LOT)
I want to be a living idol, says Tom. (ANIMATE IDOL)
I always want to stay the same, I say, an atonal self. (ATONAL IDEM I)
Tom says he’s prone to liking helpers. (AIDE LAIN TOM)
Then: You play the helper to my tonal self. (I AID TONAL ME)
You? Me? Tom seems strange to you, I think. Help him! (TOM ALIEN AID)
He’s a continuation of your self. He’s the extension of me into a previous time. (A DILATION ME)
So I bend down and help him. (I LEAN AID TOM)
I help him by binding him to me, by nailing him down. (AIDE NAIL TOM)
Animals couple, I say. (ANIMAL DO TIE)
Animals perish! He shrieks. (ANIMAL TO DIE)
His words are propped on mine. (A LEANT IDIOM)
He lies beneath me, shouting: I’m not sick! (I AM NOT AILED)
I say: You’re in pain. I stand over him. (I DEAN TOM AIL)
He’s an imprisoned idol. (A INMATE IDOL)
We worked like crazy! he cries. (MANIA TOILED)
Helping means working, I reply. (AID MEAN TOIL)
I’m in high spirits, I’m engrossed. (AMID ELATION)
I domesticate an idol. (I TAME AN IDOL)
But my goal isn’t perfection. (IDEAL NOT AIM)
I lament only one detail. (I MOAN DETAIL)
Something about the location lies near to my heart. (DOMAIN LIE AT)