Saturday, September 12, 2015

Clean Reader: Blessing or Curse?

I have seen a lot of discussion and comments over the past few months about a app called Clean Reader.  What is it?  Well if you haven't heard, Clean Reader is a app for Android and iOS that hides profane or otherwise "questionable" words from a book you are reading.  It has several settings and you have a choice of simply hiding the words or replacing them with cleaner equivalents.

Many people are shouting censorship and it should be illegal.  Well technically it is censorship yes, however it is on a per reader aspect.  The reader themselves decides if they want to use this app or not on a book they purchased, and then further choose to what level of editing to take place.  But it is not truly editing a work or otherwise changing the work, it is only done "on the fly".  The original file is never changed.  Nor are the edits ever saved in anyway, making it impossible for the edited version to be shared.

This is why I do not understand the controversy.  Many people do not care to read profane or otherwise harsh language.  It can ruin the book for them (depending on the language and how prevalent).  Some authors may be shouting from the rafters against the app, but think about this: if your book contains language that people feel offensive, they may actually read it with this app.  You just made a sale where you wouldn't have before.

Years ago I use to do this kind of "clean up" on books with a word processor via search and replace.  It didn't take very long to make the changes and put it back on my PDA for reading.  Some books I wouldn't have bothered reading without these changes, but it was a wonderful story with the careful word substitution.  Nowadays, I just do not have the time to edit books like that.  Some authors feel the need to use profane language in every single paragraph to make a point.  Personally I think it is excessive, but this is, of course, up to the author.  But it limits who will like the book as well.  If you can reach a larger audience, why not?  And your book is still there in all its original glory should someone wish to read it.

Something else to consider: many Television broadcasts are edited and toned down a bit for a wider audience reach (often where kids are in the audience for example).  To my knowledge this has not been fought over. In fact I remember the large issue that happened years ago with Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction."  People were very angry that this was even allowed to happen, and were demanding censorship.  Television broadcasts of box office movies are always known to be edited, either for content or time allotment.  And if you want the full thing, go buy the movie.  So again we have a instance of editing that most people don't have any problem with.  How is Clean Reader any different?  Except that now the reader has the power to choose the way the book is read, instead of  simply choosing to read it or not.

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