The Clean Reader saga continues:
– Joanne Harris has another round of reply and response with the Clean Reader folks.
– Lilith Saintcrow had a reply and response round, too — and got her books taken off the site.
– Jennifer Porter hilariously looks at what Clean Reader actually does, and lists the word replacements (and notes, as Joanne does, that it scrubs references to female anatomy and changes them all to “bottom,” thus suggesting that Clean Reader is not-so-secretly a fan of anal sex).
– Smashwords has removed access to its library, so its books won’t automatically end up at the Clean Reader store anymore.
(They have a book of mine — The Cormorant — for sale, which is ha ha ohhh, not actually awesome because that book is no longer for sale. It has changed publishers and will be republished by Simon & Schuster SAGA in April, so how exactly they’re selling that book is somewhat beyond me. They also have Kick-Ass Writer for sale, and at this point I’m pretty sure that any of my books run through their colonic cleansing process will cause whatever device is using it to catch fire and melt into a ball of sparking, smoking slag.)
For those saying that this doesn’t modify the file and isn’t illegal — well, maybe so. I’m not a lawyer. Lots of things are legal that I think jolly well shouldn’t be. For my mileage, that this modifies the reader’s experience is the same as modifying the book. Yes, the file of the book has meaning, but so does the content, and when you change the content or allow it to be changed, that concerns me.
Look at it this way:
Imagine that in the real world there existed a bookstore, and the clerk at this store will modify any book on the shelves and sell it to you. He’ll change words, characters, whatever. He makes money off the exchange. The book received is not the book you wrote.
Okay, your objection to that is — ahh, but this is the reader’s choice and it’s not one change but an entire host of permutational programmatic changes, so, okay.
Let’s change the story.
Imagine that in the online world (which is still real, by the way), there existed an online bookstore and the magical online robot at this store will modify any book on their digital shelves and sell it to you. The content of the book — whether technically changed or overlaid with changes — is marred. And not just with one set of changes but with a whole host of permutational possibilities — a finite set, however, of those possibilities, because a book contains only so many tsk-tsk naughty fuckbuckets and shitkittens within its pages, and so only so many changes are possible.
Maybe that sits okay with you.
It does not sit well with me.
The reader can take my books and do whatever he or she wants with them after sale. Read them backward, forward, upside-down, block out whole pages of text, draw dong doodles in all the margins, write phone numbers in the front, scratch out my name on the cover and write in theirs, use it as a butt plug for an elephant. The trick is, you then cannot go and sell that modification back to the consumer. Much as you are free to mod a game or download mods to a game — but you are not then able to sell/resell the game with that mod (or a host of potential mods embedded in or overlaid upon the code) in place.
And so, the battle against this silly, septic product continues. As the only profane thing here that I can see is what this app does to books and stories and history.
Hilariously, if you used this app, you could have substitutions like:
Was: “Jon Snow was the bastard son of House Stark.”
Becomes: “Jon Snow was the jerk son of House Stark.”
Was: “The bitch had her puppies.”
Becomes: “The witch had her puppies.”
Was: “This chicken breast is delicious.”
Becomes: “This chicken chest is delicious.”
Was: “The needle stuck in his arm with a prick.”
Becomes: “The needle stuck in his arm with a groin.”
Was: “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Becomes: “Geez is the Son of God.” / “Gee Gosh is the Son of God”
Was: “Would you care for one of these Oscar Meyer wieners?”
Becomes: “Would you care for one of these Oscar Meyer groins?”
Was: “She’s a real pussycat.”
Becomes: “SHE’S A REAL BOTTOMCAT.”
Was: “Oh, fuck, I want you to put your prick inside me and fuck my asshole.”
Becomes: “Oh, freak, I want you to put your groin inside me and freak my jerk.”
Just a sampling of the absurd delights! Change the words but don’t change any of the context or content for maximum whatthefuckery. (Because changing words doesn’t change what goes on inside the book. Just because you change the words fuck my asshole doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t still fuck my asshole — and the scene that ensues is likely very much about some kind of anal penetration with all the context and sexery remaining relatively explicit. Changing a few words does nothing except make explicit material goofy.)
For my mileage, if you require action items:
You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and demand your books be taken off.
You can also talk to your publishers about keeping your books off of Clean Reader.
You can air your grievances on Twitter — they are at @CleanReader.
And you can rate and review the app at either the iTunes or Google Play marketplaces.