Lilian Min
March 18, 2015 1:12 pm

While everyone agrees that banning books is no good (and definitely make the books in question more popular), when it comes to word censorship, things are a little looser. Older books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are now being distributed in schools with certain words edited out, but what if you could bleep out every offending word in every book ever? Introducing — Clean Reader.

The premise behind this e-reader app is simple: It blocks out anything that could be considered a swear word (running the gamut from “Damn” to, well, use your imagination), and then replaces the offending words with old-timey slang. You can choose between three settings—Clean, Cleaner, and Squeaky Clean—and then voila, your e-book will be filled with “Darn,” “Drats,” and the like.

The inspiration for the app came from the creator parents who, after witnessing their young daughter’s distress over finding swear words in a story, decided to develop an app to protect youngsters’ eyes everywhere. And while we’re not against that in theory, in practice, censoring books based on words alone doesn’t really “protect” kids. Age-inappropriate material is often based on context and action, or in the case of entire genres like erotica, theme. Even Clean Reader’s own promo video shows a passage where a character thinks about killing someone — arguably a more “offensive” or troubling idea than anything else on the page.

That said, the app has its uses, even for those of us who have long since become inured to cursing. Spice up your school reading by applying it To Kill A Mockingbird! Embrace the irony by reading Fahrenheit 451! We’re only kind of joking — but what was once learned on the playground is now everywhere on the Internet. Clean Reader is a reaction against a culture obsessed with profanity, but as far as effecting real change, it’s a digital smokescreen.

Here are 5 books that are often challenged on the grounds of offensive language that we kind of can’t wait to test out on this app:

Captain Underpants 

Yes, this illustrated children’s book often tops the list of challenged books and “offensive language” is listed as the reason why.

The Bluest Eye

Yep, a modern classic, written by a Nobel Prize winner and yet, it’s often challenged for its language.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

This National Book Award winner is also frequently challenged on the grounds of offensive language. We’re sensing a trend.

Fifty Shades of Grey 

This one isn’t a shocker at all, but we are curious how many words would be left after the app got done with it.

Looking for Alaska

Even the great John Green faces the wrath of conservative parent groups. Looking for Alaska has been a frequent addition to challenged books lists for offensive language since its publication.

(Images via, via, via, via, via and via.)

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