Well, as a writer, author, writing and author coach, I have to get on board with the changes in the publishing world, such as the market’s turn toward ebooks. They represent the future of publishing. However, as a Jewish writer who writes about practical spirituality, when it comes to the world of Jewish sacred texts, I’ve got to be a bit more cautious about the pursuit of change to keep up with market trends.
This past week, I saw an intersection of my two worlds. I read an article written by Sue Fischoff’s article in the Washington Post in which she reported that ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications is in the process of digitizing many of its 1,500 publications. That means the Jewish publishing house is turning its printed books into ebooks. However, the article explained that Jews shouldn’t expect to go online to purchase Shabbat and High Holiday prayer books–sacred texts–for IPads or other digital reading devices.
That brings up the issue of whether or not sacred texts should become digital books
According to Sue Fischoff’s article in the Washington Post, ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications is in the process of digitizing many of its 1,500 publications. However, we shouldn’t expect to go online to purchase Shabbat and High Holiday prayer books for IPads or other digital tablets.
Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, president of the Orthodox-run publishing house, told JTA, “The vision of people coming to shul on Shabbat with their e-siddur (prayerbook) just doesn’t cut it. There are other reasons, too — notably a lag in technology. Amazon’s Kindle is not yet equipped to present Hebrew and English texts on facing pages, which the prayer books require, and the iPad’s capability to do so is “quite limited.”
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the Conservative rabbinical association, says the question of e-books on Shabbat has not yet come before the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which sets Jewish law for the movement. “If the goal of Shabbat is to take us away from distractions and give us a more spiritual focus, what would it mean to have this electronic media enter that most sacred realm on that most sacred day?” she asked. “Even if you could daven (pray) from a Kindle, should you?”
For authors, this brings up an issue to consider: Are some books not meant for digital publishing? Hard-core book fanatics talk about the fact that real book readers like the feel of a book in their hands and the ability to turn a page; they don’t get that with an e-reader. I like being able to highlight sections and to put little sticky notes on those sections as well so I can find them; the latter is virtually impossible with an e-reader. Some books are meant as conversation pieces. Some are filled with photos and are meant to lie on a coffee table. Some are small and want to be carried in a pocket (and might do well in an e-reader or hand-held device).
Most Jews say sacred texts can be used on an e-reader during the week but not on the Sabbath, when electronic devices are not used–at least not by the most observant.
So, what do you think? Are some books, such as sacred texts, simply not meant for e-readers? Are there other books that should remain printed volumes? What about your book? Or should all books be digitized, therefore giving them the utmost sales potential in today’s technologically oriented marketplace and world?