So here's the scene, I'm at Coffee + Food this morning with two girlfriends who are avid readers. I put my dirty dirty chai down and posed the question: What do you guys think of the Clean Reader app?

One friend who hadn't heard of it reached for her iPad and tried to download it. She couldn't find it in the Apple Store and was redirected to a My Bookshelf utilities app for $2.99 that promised to organize her bookshelf. "Never heard of it. What does it do?"

My other friend grimaced, "Ugh that app that opens your books and while you're reading it changes obscenities into words that are um, non-obscene?"

Me: "Yup."

Friend #1: "Are you f*@king kidding?"

Friend #2: Yeah I've heard of it. I can't imagine it really works.

Well the conversation was lively to say the least with us wandering the subjects that could come up when discussing sanitizing a book that an author intended to include profanity.

Friend #1: Who created this app? The Scientologists?

Me: No a couple in Idaho whose daughter read a book that contained words which made her uncomfortable.

Friend #2: They created an app so they wouldn't have to help select appropriate books for their daughter?

Friend #1: Wait, a parent's job is to help their child develop coping skills for when they encounter uncomfortable things. It's a big part of helping them grow up.

Me: You know frankly I admire a well executed F-bomb.

Friend #2: Me too. Especially from someone who doesn't swear. It's like cold water in the face.

Friend #1: What does Clean Reader change F*@k to? Fart?

Friend #2: Now a fart is always offensive. Even if I'm alone I offend myself. Especially after eating kimchi.

Me: Good to know. Gosh think of all the completely offensive things that can be said without swearing. Like an invitation to sit on someone's face?

Friend #2: Would the Clean Reader know that it was supposed to change corn holing?

Friend #1: Or fisting?

Me: Yikes! Talk about cold water in the face?! What about slang? Would it know that a passage like, "I just want a man who'll lick my cat" was dirty?

Friend #1: Or maybe Clean Reader would think her cat was dirty.

We started to whisper after the woman next to us moved her bowl of homemade organic granola away from our side of the table.

Friend #2: So what if the passage the author wrote was "He wanted to cream all over her tits?" If Clean Reader knew to change the words 'cream' and 'tits'...

Me: I can't imagine it would change the word 'cream'.

Friend #2: ...would it make up something like, "He wanted to dairy product all over her chest?"

Friend #1: Would the Idaho girl be offended by the mention of a girl's chest?

Friend #2: I gotta lay this at the feet of her parents. They need to read with their daughter.

Me: You know, back to my point about things being disturbing without being a swear word. I don't recall any vulgarity in The Lovely Bones but our heroine gets raped, murdered and dismembered. That can't be sanitized out or there would be no story.

Friend #2: Once when I saw Mildred Pierce on TV, they edited it to make it run with commercials added. They cut out the whole subplot with Wally helping Mildred and Vida's affair with Monty.

Friend #1: What?! Then there's no reason for Monty to end up dead.

Friend #2: Right. It made no sense and when Vida was brought into the police station it was like, "What's going on here?"

Friend #1: I remember my mother-in-law was disturbed when she first read a book that had an interracial marriage. She'd never heard of such a thing.

Friend #2: Good lord! What year did she read that book? People don't even call them 'interracial marriages' anymore. Just 'marriages'.

Me: So do we agree that there's no need to sanitize a book with an app?

We all agreed. No need to get our knickers in a twist over such a silly option that may or may not work. If your delicate sensibilities can't withstand what the author wrote, close the book and put it back on the shelf.



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