App Allows Users to Sanitize Books for ‘Cleaner’ Reading

App Allows Users to Sanitize Books for ‘Cleaner’ Reading

A new app called Clean Reader, created by Idaho couple Jared and Kirsten Maughan, has a store containing over a million titles, all of which can be censored to the user’s liking. “Enjoy great books without the profanity,” the app states. When selecting a book from the app’s store, users are asked how clean they wish the book to appear. Options include “Off,” “Clean,” “Cleaner,” and “Squeaky Clean.”

The Maughans came up with the concept after trying to find appropriate literature for their child, an advanced fourth grade reader. After searching for an app to remove profanity from the text they came up empty, and thus the idea of Clean Reader was born.

Of course there was the pesky issue of violating authors’ copyrights, but Page Foundry, a Chicago-based firm, quickly found a way around that. After altering an original book-reading app, Clean Reader was rebuilt as a profanity-filtering program.

“Enjoy great books without the profanity.”

Words or phrases that the app censors include the F-word, the S-word, any variation of names for deity, racial slurs, and anatomical terms considered “too racy” for general consumption.

“We keep finding new spellings and authors using different spaces, so we have to keep putting in different words and arrangements of words, different endings, slang terms and slang ways of using them. So it’s an ever-growing list,” Jared Maughan told Washington Post in the source article.

Offensive language is scrubbed out by the app and replaced by blue dots. Depending on the book and level of cleanliness the user chooses, this act can render the narrative unintelligible. Clicking on a blue dot gives a menu of alternate word choices deemed more appropriate for the masses. A visual overview of the process can be found on YouTube.

The Maughans do acknowledge the app isn’t for all readers, but they also know there is a broad market anyway. “We’ve got friends who tell us, ‘We’ve always wanted to read this book, but we didn’t want to read all those swear words.’ We’re hoping this is a win-win: Authors can sell more books,” Jared states.

So the question becomes, do the authors even want to sell more books at the expense of losing the original impact of the narrative? And is an app like this something the world sorely needs, or something we as writers should be offended by? What does everyone out there in the LitReactorVerse think?

Raine Winters

News by Raine Winters

Raine lives in Cleveland, Ohio and works as a freelance writer and graphic artist. From an early age she has harbored a love of reading and writing, and is lucky enough to incorporate both into her daily work routine. Raine is a lover of all things fantasy and horror related, has a soft spot in her heart for middle grade and young adult fiction, and spends most of her free time running, wakesurfing, or wrangling in her husband and three cats while they perpetrate a massive amount of mischief around the house.

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Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck March 9, 2015 - 10:56am

I feel the freedom to be goes both ways. Writers can write however they want, and readers can read however they want. And if this app means readers are going to experience works they might not have before, there's some value in it. It seems equivalent to watching a movie edited for TV. If that's their thing, that's their thing.

edsikov's picture
edsikov from New York by way of Natrona Hts PA is reading absolutely nothing March 9, 2015 - 4:59pm

Altering a writer's work without asking his or her permission is wrong. Period.


Benjamin Martin's picture
Benjamin Martin from Portland, OR is reading ... March 9, 2015 - 9:29pm

I'm with Ed on this one. After going through the grueling process of actually getting a book published, in a manner that the publisher and author both agree on, this edits the text that the author intended without said autor's consent. The part that I find most alarming is one of the masterminds behind this app actually admitted to changing the endings of certain books. Not just single words, but entire PAGES.
It's essentially censorship. Granted, there are peole out there who absolutely refuse to read fantastic works of literature simply because of the content. To them, I say, "Get over it, you're an adult." If you're not going to read a book because of the language in it, that's fine. Don't change it

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck March 9, 2015 - 10:11pm

Wait, so they're actually changing the book itself, not just removing curse words?

Well that's just fucked.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak March 10, 2015 - 5:01am

"So it's an ever growing list"

Scary fucking words, my fellow Americans.




Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine March 10, 2015 - 5:51am

Yeah, I wonder about the legality of this. They do it all the time with movies, but that is with the permission/participation of the copyright holder. The article mentions they "found a way around" copyright law.

Roger Kilbourne's picture
Roger Kilbourne from Massachusetts is reading The Word Exchange March 10, 2015 - 9:12am

This is some scary shit. Christ, they've automated censorship, for fucksake. Would love to see an adventurous lawfirm start up a class action suit against these nimwits on behalf of authors. KILL IT WITH FIRE.

Gerd Duerner's picture
Gerd Duerner from Germany is reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm March 10, 2015 - 9:30am

Generally spoken, if people rather have profanity cut out of their books, why not?

They're not violating anybodies rights by that, as I see it. I don't think that authors have an expressed right that a reader has to read a story the way they wrote it - or not at all.

As I understand it, the story is still getting published in its original form, the app only makes it possible for readers to choose how much content they want to see.


Makes me wonder if they are working on a watch app for art next, see The birth of Venus in selectable stages of being dressed. :D