Spotted on Dear Author’s news post for today: the latest tempest-in-a-thimble publishing brouhaha, this time pertaining to an app called Clean Reader. The purpose of this app is apparently to provide an adjustable profanity filter on ebooks.
Dear Author points off to Digital Reader’s post on the matter, and Digital Reader in turn has links off to assorted authors’ commentary, notably Chuck Wendig’s, which I link to because his rant IS a thing of glory.
As for me, thinking about this, I’m rather of two minds about it. On the one hand, with my reader hat on, I’m firmly in the camp that if I buy an ebook, that book should be bloody well mine, and I should be able to do what I like with it. Whether that be keep backup copies in my personal library, put it on the device of my choice, or hack into the thing to fix typos that irritate the hell out of me. Or, if I’m so inclined, edit out profanity.
(Not that I would edit out the profanity–because if you’ve followed me here for more than five minutes, you know I will swear with impunity in my posts. Likewise, if it’s appropriate to their states of mind at any given point in a story, my characters will also swear. Given my comfort with that, I’m hardly going to edit profanity out of a book I’m reading, much less one that I’m writing.)
Given this, I have a hard time mustering any damns for any readers who might decide, “well hey Anna, I like your book and all, but that one bit where Kendis says ‘fuck’? That bothers me so I’m going to take it out.” If I got paid for the book, and as long as that reader only does that to their local copy on their own device or computer, fabulous.
But. With my author hat on, I have to say, I totally see where Wendig and other authors are coming from on this. From what I’m seeing reading up on the matter, it sounds like that at least at one point, there were signs that the ebookstore associated with this site might have been selling profanity-filtered copies of ebooks? (I use the ? there because on the various posts I’ve read, whether or not that actually happened or is still going on is unclear to me.) I do have a problem with somebody trying to sell a profanity-filtered copy of my book. Because as Mr. Wendig says, if you’re trying to get a cut of sales off of my book, and you’re getting in there and altering the language and you are neither my publisher nor my editor, that warrants a big fat fuck you, no.
Moreover, it appears that this profanity filter functionality is weaksauce, regardless–replacing words it deems offensive with words it thinks are acceptable substitutes, often with pathetic results. This, I feel, is even worse than just bleeping out “offensive” words on TV, or the old practice of replacing said words in prose with lines instead (e.g., “G– d—“, or “b—–“, or what have you).
People swear. It’s part of life, and it’s certainly part of language. In fact, well-crafted profanity is its own art form, in English as well as in Quebecois French. To this day, I still giggle over SB Candy’s “HOLY FUCKING SHITDAMNNING CRAPMONKEYS IN A FUCKBARREL”, preserved here for posterity. Partly because part of me is twelve years old and has just got to giggle over yelling “CRAPMONKEYS!” But also because there’s unmitigated glory in that one shining sentence.
People also have sex. And authors write about it. And look–if there are words you don’t like, for whatever reason, it’s your right and privilege to avoid consuming content that contains those words. But maybe, just maybe, you might want to doublecheck your reading choices before you find yourself compelled to edit what you find offensive out of other people’s work.