UPDATE: As of 11:25 AM, 26 March 2015, Page Foundry has announced that they will no longer be providing the Clean Reader app with the Inktera bookstore catalog. Thank you to any and all readers who took the time to contact them and expression your opposition to the unauthorized alteration of authors’ works. Original post follows.
TLDR: If you’re upset about the “Clean Reader” app, which sells ebooks and then automatically censors words it deems offensive from the text (without the permission of authors or publishers), email the leadership of Page Foundry and ask them to stop supplying Clean Reader with its texts. Their contact information is as follows:
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, or what to say to these fine gentlemen (and, potentially and hopefully, fine women, behind that company-wide address), read on!
First the background, for those who need to be brought up to speed: a truly odious team of mom-and-pop developers (literally) have come up with an ebook retailing app that automatically censors out “bad words” from the ebooks it sells. Depending on user settings, you can go from censorship as mild as just scrubbing the F-bombs all the way up to (and I’m not kidding) blanking out uses of “breast.”
This was, to hear the developers tell it, their solution to their Precious Little Snowflake child being sad because a book she liked had bad words in it. Authors are, understandably, pissed (excuse me, “peeved”) — to soothe this couple’s delicate sensibilities and inability to have a fucking conversation with their child about what a word means and why a writer might choose to use it, their work is being modified without permission.
This is something we all should be offended by. Clean Reader’s censorship in particular happens to be of an especially patriarchal, misogynist, and anti-sex variety — most of the censored words have to do with sex or bodies, especially women’s bodies; the app replaces “vagina,” “pussy,” and “cunt” with “bottom,” apparently on the theory that women’s parts are especially naughty but everyone has butts so those are okay. (I also think it tells you a lot about the minds that wrote this app that their approved, non-offensive substitution for “nigger” is “Negro.”)
But even if you have some sympathies with the developer’s breed of morality (which, don’t), you should at least be able to agree that retailers have no business censoring the entire body of a written work without the author’s permission, even via a wink-wink-nudge-nudge endrun that inserts the censorship for the reader after the purchase has been transacted.
So by all means, snag the app (it’s free) from the Apple or Android store and leave a bad review — it’s soothing, moderately useful, and a good first step.
That said, Clean Reader can only exist because it sources its texts from Page Foundry’s Inktera catalog, a collection of titles that Page Foundry sells to various distributors. Contacting them and expressing your concern that their works are being censored by one of their clients is a much more effective approach than contacting the developers or leaving a bad review.
Don’t just get angry — get involved! Send an email to the leadership of Page Foundry, who can be conveniently reached at the following addresses:
Be polite, be direct, and let them know that one of their clients is engaging in activity you find morally reprehensible. It sounds stupid, but this is how change actually gets made. They are reading and responding personally, at least as of this morning, when I got a very nicely written (but naturally noncommittal) reply from their CEO. So…write a fucking letter! You are also welcome to copy-paste the one I’ve written below, which I sent earlier today.
Sample letter follows:
To the Leadership of Page Foundry:
I am a concerned customer writing regarding your association with the “Clean Reader” app for mobile devices (http://www.cleanreaderapp.com/).
The Clean Reader app sources ebooks for sale from your Inktera bookstore, then applies a filter over words that the app deems offensive after a work is downloaded.
This is direct censorship without the approval of either the author or the publisher. It alters the text in a way they did not consent to, on behalf of the retailer’s personal sensibilities.
Many authors have spoken out against this, writing far more eloquently than I could — I invite you to read Joanne Harris’s thoughtful and detailed post on the subject (http://joannechocolat.tumblr.com/post/114425387366/why-im-saying-fuck-you-to-clean-reader).
Jennifer Porter also provides an excellent rundown of the filter’s grievous flaws (http://www.romancenovelnews.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1167:my-clean-reader-app-experience&Itemid=53). Beyond being censorship, and inherently offensive to writers and readers, the app is making dangerously confusing substitutions, like replacing the word “vagina” with “bottom.” This is both anatomically incorrect and suggests that a woman’s vagina is somehow more “dirty” or “wrong” than a different part of her body, and it is only one of many examples of the Clean Reader app’s damaging, misguiding, and unwanted substitutions.
I do not believe that Page Foundry should be in the business of supporting censorship. I strongly encourage you to sever ties with Clean Reader, and to deny them access to your catalog of works. Page Foundry has nothing to gain from association with a developer whose only stated purpose is to alter written works without the consent of authors or publishers.
A Concerned Reader