(The below post contains, of necessity some profanity. If you are offended by such words you may wish to stop reading now).
Today’s Guardian has an article about Clean Reader, an application which allows the user to reduce or eliminate the amount of profanity in a book, (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/28/clean-reader-is-freaking-silly). The author’s contention is that Clean Reader is a silly idea but, in the final analysis readers have the right to put their own interpretation on the books they read. So, for example the owner of a print book is at liberty to cross out words they don’t like provided they don’t pass off the amended text as constituting the author’s original work.
My concern as an author is that Clean Reader alters the original meaning of my work. Take, for example my short story Samantha. In Samantha we meet a young woman who has been forced into prostitution by her brutal pimp, Barry. For reasons of authenticity Samantha contains scenes of violence and, yes the use of profanity. For instance Sam is told by Barry not to let a client “anywhere near your sweet little fuck hole” until he has paid. This is how a man of Barry’s stamp, a brutal pimp with no respect for women, would address those who he controlls. Yet Clean Reader would render “fuck” as “love” making Barry’s words risible as no pimp would refer to a vagina as “a love hole”.
To take another example, Nick, the client Sam is visiting, says that he wants to “fuck”. Nick’s desire for sexual gratification has nothing whatever to do with romance so to change “fuck” to “love” as Clean Reader would is to render the story risible and to change it’s meaning to boot.
I don’t want anyone to be offended by Samantha or any of my writing for that matter. However if someone downloads Samantha I fervently hope that they read it as written. If a tool such as Clean Reader is utilised the true horror of Sam’s situation is sanitised (I.E. forced prostitution is portrayed in a downright risible manner with clients making love, rather than “fucking” sex workers).
In conclusion, I have concerns regarding Clean Reader, specifically that it has the potential to alter the author’s original meaning and convey an inaccurate view of the work being read. I suspect though that most readers will avoid the app and, given time it will fade into obscurity or cease to exist completely.