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Inktera Pulls Its Bookstore From Clean Reader, Effectively Killing an App Which Had More Protesters Than Users

clean-reader[1]After fewer than 3 months on the market, the profanity-filtering reading app Clean Reader has been neutered by its developer.

Inktera announced on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that it was bowing to pressure from authors and publishers, and was yanking its ebookstore out of the Clean Reader app.

Inktera is a subsidiary of PageFoundry, the ebook company which had developed and is supporting the app on behalf of Jared and Kirsten Maughan, Clean Reader’s owners.

PageFoundry is an otherwise ordinary ebook company which had developed an ebook platform (apps, ebookstore, backend). PageFoundry’s apps were combined with a custom content filter to create Clean Reader, and aside from the filter PageFoundry’s ebook apps are just your typical ebook apps.

While Inktera’s announcement doesn’t quite kill the app (I checked, and you can still sideload ebooks), it does effectively neuter the app. What’s more, this act suggests that the death of Clean Reader will probably happen as soon as PageFoundry can find a reason to get out of its contract with the Maughans.

Update: Or maybe not. Clean Reader posted an update to their FB page which acknowledges the removal and says "there will be several changes made to the app and an update will be released in the near future". So they don’t see the app going away.

This news arrives in the midst of a storm of protests from authors who object to readers choosing to filter the content in the books they read. Over the past week many authors have protested the app with arguments ranging from moral rights and religious bias to objections to its poorly designed filter.

I’ve covered the highlights of the protests before, so I won’t repeat myself here. But I do want to point out that the listing for the Clean Reader app in Google Play shows that the app has an install base between 500 and 1,000. (Hat tip to Felix Torres for spotting that detail.)

The thing is, folks, this app probably had more protesters than actual users, making this whole series of events a tempest in a thimble. There’s the principle involved, sure, but as I see it far too much energy was invested in protesting an app which no one was using anyway.

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Geoffrey Kidd March 27, 2015 um 2:38 am

All readers filter the content in what they read. They just do it at the Author or Book level, not the Individual Word level.

The first two two are entirely their right. The latter is an obscenity in itself.

Dan Meadows March 27, 2015 um 10:16 am

I hope they do come back. I find the attitude many writers have shown here to be very off-putting. I wouldn’t use it, I’d make a case for not using it to anyone who does but I’m not going to tell someone who paid for the book how they’re allowed to read it. They bought it, they own it as far as I’m concerned. If they choose to use a glorified find/replace text, knock yourself out. Getting into dangerous territory here claiming the right to determine what people do with the things they’ve bought after they’ve bought them. Where does that stop, exactly? Throwing up both middle fingers with a big old "F#&$ you!" to folks with concerns over profanity is pretty egregiously arrogant and disrespectful too.

Felix March 27, 2015 um 10:46 am

Once again, nobody objected against the reader itself, but against their books being sold through a store specifically to end up in this reader. Doubly so since the store "technically" sells the books unaltered… only to end up filtered by default… while still carrying the author’s name on them. Which is, quite simply, DISHONEST. If it’s not my words reaching the public, it shouldn’t be my name on the cover.

Once again, imagine if AdBlock didn’t run entirely client side, but in addition offered a paid proxy service. One that "technically" passed the websites along unfiltered… except it only worked with AdBlock on the receiving end. Would *that* sound convincing to you? Or would you sue in an instant?

And by the way, with so many people up in arms about this whole story, to claim their concerns are minor is disrespectful. I decide what’s of concern to me, thank you very much. And obviously I was far from alone in this particular matter.

puzzled March 27, 2015 um 7:18 pm

Actually, I think that AdBLock does this. There are certain paid sources that AdBlock doesn’t block.

I seem to remember an article about it here on IBP.

Alma Alexander March 27, 2015 um 2:38 pm

As an author with more than a dozen books out there… here’s the thing. There’s silent contract out there between the Writer and the Reader. The Writer writes the story that the Writer writes, and that is the thing that the Writer puts into the contract. The Reader has several options at their end of the contract. They choose to buy the book, or they do not.

If they do not, this is where it ends and the silent contract is voided – the Reader does not choose to take up their side of it. The reasons for this may include the use of profanity in the book which the Reader does not wish to see or interact with. That’s fine. That’s the reader’s choice. If hte Reader has particular requirements of their boosk (like for instance no swear words) it is UP TO THE READER to find books which match those criteria. Nobody is forcing any Reader ANYWHERE to pick up a book they find offensive in any way.

If they buy the book, they have three options. They can read the book and like it, in which case the contract is fulfilled from both ends and everything is just great. They can read the book and go, meh, I’ve read better – in which case the contract is fulfilled because the Writer provided a story, the Reader wasn’t particularly entralled by the story, and there was simply a mismatch of tastes and intent. Or they can read (or not finish, as it were, that’s option 3A) the book because they virulently hate it, and in this case (assuming they have a valid reason for hating it) they’re perfectly free to go out and tell everyone what a terrible horrible book this is.

THERE IS NO OPTION 4. You don’t, as a Reader, get to rewrite an existing book according to your sensibilities, beliefs, or ideology. Your choices are to like the thing, to not like the thing and yell about about it to like-minded friends, or NOT TO READ IT. As written, that story is the product of someone ELSE’s imagination, dedication, and hard work. If that person felt that a swear word was necessary, it probably was. You are under no obligation to read that word, or the book it appears in. But your choice here is simply to put the damned book down and walk away. You don’t get a do-over. Period.

Nate Hoffelder March 27, 2015 um 2:44 pm

I don’t accept that contract.

My contract with authors only goes as far as trading money for the content. (And with library books, it doesn’t even go that far.) Anything more is a figment of your imagination.

"You don’t, as a Reader, get to rewrite an existing book according to your sensibilities, beliefs, or ideology."

Yes, we do. It’s called Fanfic. That has been around for decades.

Alma Alexander March 27, 2015 um 3:10 pm

Fanfic is an entirely different kettle of fish and you know that. Rewriting an existing book in different language is NOT fanfic. Fanfic takes an existing universe and writes NEW STORIES WITHIN THAT UNIVERSE – it does not take existing stories and rewrite them because the reader doesn’t like a combination of words found therein. I’m the camp that doesn’t really care about what I don’t know about – so if anyone wants to write fanfic ABOUT MY WORLDS they’re free to do that if they really can’t imagine a world of their own. Where I draw the line is someone taking a story I’ve already written and changing it for no other reason than because they *like it better that way* – or at least, let me qualify that, if they do that within the privacy of their own computer that’s no skin off my back, but if they choose to let it loose in the world then yes, it DOES affect me, and I WILL object. There are writers who don’t like others playing in their universes at all and are on record as having said that. Copyright law does exist for a reason.

Nate Hoffelder March 27, 2015 um 3:47 pm

"if they do that within the privacy of their own computer that’s no skin off my back"

That is exactly what was going on with Clean Reader.

"if they choose to let it loose in the world then yes, it DOES affect me"

That didn’t happen. Only the uncut works were sold. They weren’t bowdlerized until after the ebooks were loaded into the app.

OuTre March 28, 2015 um 2:53 pm

Unfortunately for you, neither you nor any other author have the right to control readers behavior.

That you believe you do is a sad reflection on the nature of legal education in modern society.

puzzled March 27, 2015 um 7:26 pm

It’s interesting that this 'silent contract', which as a long time book buyer, I was complete unaware of, only benefits the author.

As a consumer of books, I’d like some rights (which in a contract I have every right to ask for): The author exhibit some level of ability, the book be edited at a professional level, the book not contain any typos or gross errors, the book is blurbed correctly (including clearly delineating the size, and the relationship to the structure of other stories (yes, this means clearly identifying serial chunks of one story)).

Sorry, but there is no 'silent contract'. There can’t be, all contracts must be disclosed and agreed upon by all parties.

But then again, you are an author, and maybe this isn’t a 'silent contract' after all. Have you added these options to your licence for acquiring the right to read your books? No? Well, in that case, I guess you don’t believe in this 'silent contract' enough to put your authorial reputation behind it.

puzzled March 27, 2015 um 7:28 pm

Unless, of course, you are a special snowflake, in which case you can do anything you want…

Diana March 27, 2015 um 7:55 pm

Have you ever read the legal notice on any bottle of chemical or cleaning agent you purchased in any store? It says "it is illegal to use this" not in a manner stated on the bottle/container. Something along those lines. So the government has been telling you that for years.

When you purchase a physical book, you own the book, not the words. You can burn the book, highlight it, whatever. When you buy an e-book you are licensed to read it. You do not have the right to change the words in the book to something else and change its meaning, simply because you don’t like the words.

Do not pretend that this is about censoring the F word. It’s about censoring ideas. When the substitution for a vagina is "bottom" we have a real problem. When the substitution for "sex" is love, we have a problem. When the substitution for the slang for ejaculate is "juice" we have a problem.

Vagina is not an obscene word. It’s a body part. So is penis. If you are offended by the slang terms and the app changed the slang to the correct terms, I wouldn’t have a problem. But it doesn’t do that. It changes the "obscene" word of vagina to "bottom."

In case you didn’t know, students are required to use the words Vagina (not "bottom") and Penis (not "groin") in biology and they have to trace the path of the sperm (not "juice") from the male to the female all the way through to pregnancy and birth.

Teachers have enough to do without the additional task of explaining that these are biological terms and not "obscene" terms.

And let’s not pretend this is about protecting children, either. I was a voracious reader and I don’t recall ever reading anything obscene in an age-appropriate book.

OuTre March 28, 2015 um 2:52 pm

1) We don’t tell kindergarteners about their pancreas either. Just being a body part doesn’t mean it should be announced to the whole world from birth.

2) Age-appropriate books are a mistaken idea from the get-go. Kids are vastly different, and what’s appropriate for one could easily not be appropriate for the other, regardless of age.

3) The way consumer rights have been restricted into virtual nonexistence by corporate lawyers is infuriating, yes, but that doesn’t make a good basis for a moral argument about whether or not something is right. Its is perfectly clear that if I purchase a copy of something I have the right to do whatever I want with that copy (copyright law restricts making and distributing more copies, DRM laws make breaking DRM illegal, but editing a copy is actually generally under acceptable use so long as it is not distributed).

If we had more love and less sex I think the world would be a better place. 😉

Karma Wilson March 29, 2015 um 2:46 am

Okay, brilliant one, what should Clean Reader censor "pancreas" to so kindergartners are protected? Oh wait, maybe you should pick age appropriate books for your children! Good god, this argument was solved ages ago. The discussion is over. The reason Inktera pulled out so fully, the reason Clean Reader is apologizing all over the place is very clear: You simply can’t offer to change the copyrighted work of authors for profit. It’s not okay.

Karma Wilson March 29, 2015 um 2:51 am

Also, please learn the difference between a digital license and a physical license. There’s this little terms agreement you check when you read a digital book. According to those terms you can’t alter the text of the author. Period. Here’s sample text from a real user agreement for an ebook. This is a CONTRACT you agree to when you click "I agree to the terms of use".
"You are not permitted to modify, alter, revise or otherwise change any CCH eBook."

If you don’t like those terms, don’t buy ebooks. Period.

Dan Meadows March 29, 2015 um 10:51 am

I’m not convinced those "contracts" are a settled matter just yet. Mostly because they’re being used to both reap the benefits and rights of a sale from the creator side and simultaneously restrict the benefits and rights of a sale on the consumer side. Theres a reason nearly every major player in the ebook market has a patent for a process for used ebook sales in their coffers. They’re not fully confident these licenses are going to hold up to legal scrutiny long term. First sale doesn’t vanish just because it’s convenient for the seller. In my opinion, it’s more a power-grabbing scam than a legitimate licensing scheme.

So you’re okay with preventing readers from doing what they like with works they’ve bought and paid for? That’s really the hill you want to die on? Because that’s pretty reader-unfriendly ground to occupy. Given the fact that readers have to willingly pay us (and like it or not, anybody can get copies of any book they want for free or next to free anytime they want it, irrespective of what’s legal), that seems like a pretty poor business decision to me.

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MN October 1, 2015 um 12:31 pm

Not a problem. We didn’t know this app existed and would have used it because we stopped bringing things that take God’s name in vain into our home years ago. God will not speak through blasphemy. That leaves out a lot of books, dvd’s, music, etc but we absolutely refuse to allow these things in. As a result, we have found much better ways to spend our time together and we have found that God can indeed speak very clearly when you do not have things in your home which insult him.

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