26 March 2015

"Clean Reader" Censorship - Update on Post 14 March

Events never stand still and my original post on the Clean Reader app for use with ebooks needs an update. 

To recap, the app sanitizes words and phrases as innocuous as ‘damn’ with either a blue dot or a replacement word/phrase chosen by the app creators, whether or not these are a near fit to the context or meaning of the text. 

In the post I outlined my severe reservations about this app, how it can change the entire nature of a fictional work, and of my belief it would prove the tip of the iceberg in censorship as the app, and doubtless others like it, were updated and ‘improved’. 

After the post was written I discovered that the app was being facilitated with ebooks sold on the Inktera retailer site, a subsidiary of Page Foundry, one of the retailers my ebooks are available to via the aggregator I use – Smashwords. After deliberation, I decided to withdraw my titles from Page Foundry in my distribution stream, and as a matter of courtesy advised the aggregator of my decision. To give it its due, Page Foundry responded almost immediately to the update from Smashwords and my ebooks were removed from the Inktera site. 

Since then there’s been another flurry across the media. Yesterday I was contacted by Radio 5 Live for an interview which, as it happens, I couldn’t fulfil, and due to breaking news the entire segment was dropped by the programme. Almost at the same time a Google Alert popped into my Inbox through which I discovered that a sound bite taken from my post had been included in the online Telegraph in an article headlined by the author Joanne Harris, and then another to mark us in the MailOnline

As many others have, Joanne Harris wrote a post on her own website concerning this app. As I did, she chose not to concentrate on the fact that the app was replacing perceived profanities, but what exactly this did to the fiction as written by the author and where this was leading. And she did it much better than I managed. Being a celebrity author, a spokesman from the app contacted her, and she responded – see her second post

This morning I picked up a note from the ebook aggregator Smashwords I use, as do many small publishers world-wide. The use of this app has evidently been under consideration. According to the post on the Smashwords site (25 March) Smashwords deems that Page Foundry via Inktera contravened its Terms of Agreement. A request was made to remove all ebooks emanating from Smashwords from use with the app, and this has been fulfilled. 

Which is great news for authors and publishers using Smashwords as an aggregator. 

Until, as the saying goes, the next time.

Update 27 March 2015:

What was I saying about events not standing still? I find this morning that Page Foundry has put out a Tweet saying that its catalogue has been removed from Inktera. Except it's worded more like a damage limitation exercise:

"In support of everywhere, the bookstore system has been pulled from , effective immediately."

As I say, until the next time.


  1. Thanks for the update, Linda. I suspect we haven't heard the last of this one.

    1. Unfortunately, Penny, I don't think we have. And neither the app, nor the thinking behind it, has been defeated. Authors, and publishers, will just have to keep their eyes open.