Randall Wood

Clean Reader offends me


                                                Via: Flickr (license)

Once again someone-somewhere-somehow overreacted to something and it has somehow-someway found a way to affect me and what I do for a living. Now I have to pull myself away from what I should be doing and comment on it in order to keep everyone from freaking out about my books. This is happening too often in my opinion, but it comes with the territory.

The story is this;

Allegedly, someone out there in the interwebs had a child who read a book and became so upset by the swear words they found inside they came crying home to mommy. The mother, fearing for the emotional well-being of her precious child, took it upon herself to create an app that “cleans” the swear words from any book that is filtered through it. Evidently Supermom wasn’t satisfied with just protecting her princess, she had to save the rest of the world as well.

“Clean Reader – “the only e-reader that gives you the power to hide swear words” – sells more than a million ebooks from its online book store.”

Okay, lets wrap our heads around this.

I used the word allegedly. Why? Because I don’t buy this “emotionally-scarred-for-life child” story for one second. There is a grown adult behind this. I’d even wager that the person behind this is motivated by money far more than they are by any swear words they, or this fictionalized child, have found in a book. I sincerely doubt there is a moral crusade behind this. But this person knows that there are such people in the world, ones who do care about this and they are capitalizing on that. The child story is just a smokescreen used to connect with such people.

Like most writers I’ve been called out for the swearing in my books. Some of my characters swear, some don’t, it depends on the situation they are in and their, well, character. I usually read the dialogue I write out-loud and if I feel the character would have swore in that dialogue than the words go on the page. They define the person saying them or add to the gravity of the scene. They help tell the story better. The words shape the story as the writer intended it.

That writer is me. I chose those words for a reason. They are not there to purposely offend the reader. That would be stupid. Nor are they there for the sake of swearing as that would be stupid as well. Words like this have a purpose and I know of not one successful writer that uses them without having good reason to. If you change the words you change the story. My story. The word is used because it is the most suitable word to use in that particular context. No more-no less.  They may try to call it editing but to me this amounts to censorship.

I understand there are people out there that want the world to be what they want it to be as opposed to what it really is. There’s nothing I can do about that. Denial of reality is a freedom we all have. But the fact remains that in the real world people swear. It’s true. I’ve heard it myself many times. I’m positive it will happen again. If you are looking for a realistic story, one that is set in today’s world, then you will find it in my books. But in the real world people use swear words, so you will find them in the book as well. Past, present, and future. Consider yourself informed.

So, there’s my first issue with this app, it changes the story I wrote without my consent. Now to my second issue. Let me reprint the quote from the Clean Reader website again:

“Clean Reader – “the only e-reader that gives you the power to hide swear words” – sells more than a million ebooks from its online book store.”

Not only are these people re-writing my books without my consent, they are making money off them as well!

Here’s Charlie Stross on that subject:

“Mangling an author’s text is a clear violation of the author’s Moral rights, an element of copyright which is very weak in the United States and very strong elsewhere (primarily in civil law jurisdictions). (The moral right is the right of an author to be identified as the creator of a work, and for the work represented as their creation to be unaltered by other hands, so that the relationship between creator and created work is clear.) Mangling an author’s text may be legal or illegal in the USA, depending on whether it occurs before or after sale. After all, I can’t stop you buying one of my books and editing it with a sharpie: it’s a physical object and according to the first sale doctrine, it’s yours to do with as you wish. I may be able to legally stop you modifying an ebook, though: ebooks are not sold but a limited license to download and use them is granted in exchange for money—a fine legal distinction that was borrowed from the software business’s tame sharks—and that limited license may permit or deny such usage.”

So the legality of the app is in various degrees of question depending on where you live and/or purchase your books. While the legal definition may be grey, the fact remains that they are taking my story, combining it with their app, and making money. Something I never approved of.

I, personally, will be taking whatever steps I can to keep Clean Reader far away from my titles.

I’ve devoted all the time I wish to this subject. If you want to read more here’s a few links:

Joanne Porter

Chuck Wendig

The Passive Voice

I’ll end this with a little context.

My first book Closure is about a serial killer. He travels the nation shooting people, blowing them up in their cars, gunning them down in their hospital beds and blowing their heads off at stoplights.

Do people really expect to read a book like this and not find a few swear words? If you are reading my books and enjoying the story/subject matter, and yet find that it’s the swearing that upsets you the most, I have to question the balance of the complaint?

plural noun: priorities
  1. a thing that is regarded as more important than another.
    “housework didn’t figure high on her list of priorities”
    • the fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important.
      “the safety of the country takes priority over any other matter”
      synonyms: prime concern, most important consideration, primary issue More

      “safety is our priority”
      precedence, greater importance, preference, preeminence, predominance, primacy, first place
      “giving priority to elementary schools”
    • the right to take precedence or to proceed before others.
      “priority is given to those with press passes”
      synonyms: right of way

      “traffic in the right lane has priority”

or, to apply it directly to the subject of the post;

“I loved the part where the killer shot the guy in the face, but did he have to swear while he was doing it?”

Am I the only one who is bewildered by this?

3 thoughts on “Clean Reader offends me”

  1. If people don’t like swearing, well hey – don’t read it! Simple as that. No changing material without the author’s consent, this seems very dodgy to me, and if the book is that offensive to people, why would they bother to do this? As you say, cynical money making exercise is the only thing that makes sense – all hail the great American free-market system yet again….

  2. I, like many Christians, love a good thriller/mystery novel but it’s hard to read the phrases using God’s name in vain. Fortunately you don’t use them a lot, therefore I appreciate that. Other swear word don’t offend me, it’s just the ones using God
    Or Jesus Christ because they are precious to loves who love God.

    Saying thus, I will not be using the app that censors swear words. I believe what you have expressed in your blog about what you have created should not be censored. It’s your creation and characterization so.

    I love your books!

  3. I would like to say that I have tried to read everything you have written! You are Brilliant and with Closure, I had to remind myself that it was not all true! Thank you Mr. Wood for your insight. By the way, now that I finished the book, ( which I loved) I can’t even remember a cuss word in it! Thanks, from an old lady fan of yours.

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