ImagesThere is a long article in The Jewish Week entitled “The E-Book Revolution, And What It Means“. Here’s a snippet:

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, co-founder of ArtScroll, one of the largest publishers of religious texts for Orthodox communities in the English speaking world, said that the technology does not yet exist to publish e-book editions of some of its best-selling texts, like its bilingual editions of the Torah and the Schottenstein Talmud.

Nonetheless, ArtScroll recently began offering 13 other e-books for the iPad — all written by contemporary rabbis, none from the religious canon. But, Zlotowitz wrote in an e-mail exchange, “We are working in the background to prepare all our texts for various eBook platforms.”

Yet ArtScroll and other publishers of religious texts face a hurdle that even new technology may not overcome — Jewish law, particularly the prohibition against using electricity on Shabbat. When asked if the Sabbath laws might slow ArtScroll’s transition to an age of paperless books, Zlotowitz said that it would.

“The universally accepted Halachic position … preclude[s] any practical ability to use these eBook devices on Shabbat,” Zlotowitz wrote. This hasn’t stopped some lay people from suggesting totally impractical solutions — or a ‘Shabbos Mode.’” But, he continued, “The issue regarding the use of computers of Shabbat guarantees that the people of the book will never fully become the ‘People of the E-book.’”

Of course ArtScroll is not the only publisher of religious texts. Schwartz’s Jewish Publication Society, which provides texts for many Reform- and Conservative-affiliated schools and synagogues, has been aggressively entering the e-book market. It currently offers 68 e-book titles, including its core texts: the 1917 English language Tanakh, and its updated English Torah.

But Schwartz said he was convinced Jewish publishers could do more. He dismissed the Sabbath law obstacle — “As technology evolves,” he told me, “there’s always a way to figure out a way to get around those problems.” (The Sabbath elevator came to mind, for me.) “To bring out a static e-book is no longer sufficient,” he added, explaining that for the past year he’s been developing what he described as a totally new, interactive “e-Tanakh.”


  1. what i know about judaism you could fit in the first half of this sentence, but one thing i recall about it that i thought was very savvy was that it is very practical, and open to adapting as need be. i am fully expecting that eventually they will change to reflect this leap in technology, too.

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