Clean Reader App: Hell To The No

If you’re an author/reader and you haven’t suddenly disappeared for the last few days, then you’ve probably heard all about the Clean Reader App. If you haven’t, well the Dailymail wrote an article about it, explaining why the creators came up with the idea, and what the app does. But I’ll summarize it for you.

The app censors out curse words, like “fuck”, “shit”, you name it, and replaces them with other not-so-bad words, like “fudge”, “dang” and “heck” and sometimes leaves them out all together. If you want to see the app in action, bloggers put American Pscyho and other books heavy on curse words through the app, and the result is downright hilarious. As in, apparently it’s all right to leave in words like “faggot” and “negro”, but you’ll certainly go to hell if you leave in “fuck”. Some sentences are downright unreadable, and much of the original writing gets lost.

A lot of authors have spoken out against the app, and I’m ready to join them, for reasons that are mine, but that I’ve seen reflected in some other author’s opinions too. Oh, and FYI, my latest release – The Soul Thief – is available on the Clean Reader App storefront, so yes, without me intending to, my books got involved in this hassle too.

Why are we allergic to curse words?

Apparently, the couple who invented the app did so because their kid read some swear words in a book and was upset with it. Uhm…owkay?

First of all, people curse. They’ve always done it, and always will. If you want to keep your kid sheltered from such behavior, I suggest you move to Mars and try to populate the planet. But what will you do when someone curses near your kid? You can’t always protect them from things that come natural to human beings. It comes natural to people to curse sometimes, and if you want your kid to grow up without ever hearing or reading a curse word, then you’ll have a hard time.

Don’t even get me started on some parents who have double-standards: their kids can’t even read a curse word in a book, and they themselves can swear as much as they want. Riiiight.

I’m not sure why curse words are bad for kids. Everyone uses them. Even if you use “fudge” or “darn”, you’re technically still swearing. And I can think of half a dozen things worse for kids than hearing and/or reading swear words.

The book is meant to be read like that

If an author put a word there, it’s because the word has meaning. It has purpose. You can’t just censor out words. I know there’s a giant debate going on about author’s property rights versus the customer’s rights to the product they bought (so basically authors who don’t want their book’s contents changed vs customers who want to be able to censor books they read). I’m not sure who – legally – would be in the right here. It’s a complicated dilemma, and while I plan to think about it some more, my mind can’t think properly right now, so I’ll skip past it to the issue I want to point out.

Customers can get clean books. They’re called “clean reads” or “clean romance”, and they generally feature no swear words. So if you want to read those kind of books, you can. There’s a whole market of books for you that fit this description.

But even if it’s legally correct or not, I’m with the authors on this one. Read the article I linked to above, about what the app did to American Psycho and other books, and please tell me if you still think it’s the same book. It reads completely different. The author’s voice got distorted, the characters sound different too. By changing the swear words, especially in books when it’s often used, you are changing the content of the book, the vibe, the atmosphere. You’re changing the book, so you’re not reading the same book anymore. You’re reading American Psycho without swear words, and so far, it reads a lot more boring than the original version.

Then there’s also the whole strangeness to how people apparently don’t mind reading books about serial killers torturing victims, or romance novels with one steamy sex scene followed by another, but apparently they do mind swear words. Yeah, there’s something wrong with that.

They don’t research their titles

Now, this is more personal, but I’m shocked that my book, my YA clean read that as far as I know only uses one swear word, “freaking”, which apparently is allowed by the app, is on there.

Uhm, why?

It’s a clean book. I used no swearing because a) it’s aimed at young adults, and I keep swearing to a minimum in my YA books and b) I don’t use swear words often anyway. It’s my style, my writing, my choice, not to use swear words (unless you read my horror books, I tend to go overboard there). So WHY is my book on there, and for almost double the price it is on Amazon?

People buying my book on there are obviously throwing away their money, since my book has no swearing. If they did their research, they would’ve known that, but I doubt they actually check books before they add them to their store. Anyway, if you want to read my book, you can do it for much cheaper by buying it on Amazon.

Their excuse: kids shouldn’t read swear words

I have nothing against parents checking the books their kids read. I wouldn’t do it, my Mom never did it to me, and I’m not fond of the idea, but to each their own. So if you want to read all the books your kid reads first, checking if it’s all right for them or not, then go ahead. Generally, every book labelled as “kids book” and “chapter book” and “middle grade” should be no problem, since it will have no swear words and no content not appropriate for kids.

Why? Well, simple. It’s a book for kids, so it’ll be appropriate.

But when your kids read books that are not age-appropriate, things become more complicated. But that’s not the book’s problem. The book isn’t the issue, it’s that your kid wants to read this book, and it might be inappropriate for your kid. So by all means, read it and check if the content is appropriate, but don’t go downloading that app and trust that app will save you the time and effort to check it for yourself. More often, curse words are not the problem – it’s the content of the book itself that may not be appropriate. An app will not do that for you, it will not decide in your place, especially not an app that only blocks swear words.

It’s censorship

And last but not least, this whole thing, it has a name. Censorship. And if there’s one thing I hate, then it’s censorship.

Worse even, we know it won’t stop there.

First, they’ll block swear words. Then they’ll cut out scenes that are “inappropriate”, and before you realize it, you’ll have a completely different book that’s nowhere near how the author intended it. So maybe I’m exaggerating and it won’t go just that fast, but it’s a logical next step.

Stop censorship. Stop people using our books and reading them any way other than the way they’re intended to be read. This app, and the idea of censorship it promotes, disgusts me.



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