Judaism, Digital Books, and the future

Jews have often been known as “The People of the Book” and I can say from my personal perspective it is very true. I love books. It doesn’t matter if they are religious tomes or a science fiction novel I enjoy them all. With the ebook becoming more and more prominiate, what will the future of jewish book, or jews owning books look like?

There have been two thought pieces addressing this specific question. The first was from Rabbi Gil Sutdent where he gives a very good background about the various revoultions books have had. He comes away with this thought about how jewish books will change:

We must produce books that accommodate the new way of reading. The “vort” genre, in which books consist of short Torah insights, is perfect for our unfocused generation.

Then there is Dr. Henry Abramson, Dean of the Avenue J Campus of Touro College. A few weeks ago he wrote a post about the same topic. He comes away with the the following belief:

We will have fewer physical books on the shelves, but our reading will become richer, more diverse, and more sophisticated. Perhaps counter-intuitively, with less hard copies of books, we will need librarians even more than ever to help us navigate an expanding ocean of literature.

Personally I think there are two different types of books; reference and reading and that is where the split would happen. The reference books are you books on Jewish Law, the Talmud, or similar kinds of books. I think those books will continue to be published. I personally can’t look through a reference book on a tablet, and I have tried and most likely will try again. However these books will need to stay in the physical realm because they will be needed on a Shabbos or holiday when ebooks can not be accessed.

The second kind of book is the pleasure reading book. These would be the “vort” books Rabbi Student mentions. I can see these books going to ebook route because these books would be read more during the week and would not be needed for reference like the first type of book would.

This is somewhat counter intuitive but I have bought a lot more physical books recently. The bulk of them are of a Judisim related but not all reference books. This is how I see the future of Jews and books going.

Originally published at benedictfamily.org on January 24, 2016.