March 23, 2015
Clean Reader turns your e-reader into a vulgarity free zone
by Julia Fleischaker
Do you feel like there’s just too much flipping swearing in literature? Do you think most books would benefit from fewer darn curse words? Well, you’re in luck. The Clean Reader app will remove all profanity from any book displayed on your screen, and replace them with less offensive terms.
With three settings, Clean, Cleaner, and Squeaky Clean, even the most delicate sensibilities can be protected from offense. Clean Reader explains the difference.
The “Clean” setting only blocks major swear words from display. This includes all uses of the F-word we could find. The “Cleaner” setting blocks everything that “Clean” blocks plus more. “Squeaky Clean” is the most restrictive setting and will block the most profanity from a book including some hurtful racial terms. We recommend readers start reading a book with one of the settings and see what they think? If they’re on the “Clean” setting and there’s still too many swear words being displayed on the screen in your opinion, then change to the “Cleaner” or “Squeaky Clean” setting and see which one works best for you.
As Ron Charles at The Washington Post points out, at the Squeaky Clean setting, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey is bleached to ‘One Shade of Ecru.’ The Clean Reader isn’t afraid of your most profane book; on Jan 22, they even advertised a flash sale of Game of Thrones, advising users to “read it with Clean Reader so you won’t have to read any of the swear words in the series!” Presumably, sensitive readers aren’t bothered by the violence?
Charles took the app for a test spin on Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor.
“True masters of the style sometimes attached the nonsensical ‘with your monkey •’ as a kicker to convey sincerity and depth of feeling. Hence, ‘You • Kunta Kinte-lookin’ • . . . with your monkey •.’”At times, those elisions render passages downright mystical. The narrator’s friend NP — a nickname Clean Reader would instantly obscure if it were written out — “had put-downs to spare.” In one particularly fine moment, he says, “I could hit your fat • • fine, you • Rerun from What’s Happening-looking •.”“What the • did you say?” his friend asks.
“You • biscuit-eatin’ •!”
Tap on those blue dots, and the app reveals close if bland approximations: “butt,” “freaking,” “jerk” and “witch.” (“Witch” rhymes, but it adds an occult flavor to the original.)
So is it legal to change an author’s words? The developers say yes, because they’re not changing the text so much as they’re changing the way the text is displayed. Is it right to change an author’s words? They don’t much care. “So will some authors be offended that some of their consumers use Clean Reader to pick out most of the profanity in their books? Perhaps. Should the reader feel bad about it? Nope. They’ve paid good money for the book, they can consume it how they want.”
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.