Is Jewish publishing dead in this new digital era?

Often when we think of publishing in the digital age we immediately think of Kindle and iPads. However, the fact remains that the Jewish market to a large extent prefers to buy and read physical books made out of paper rather than glass or plastic.

I tried to investigate this phenomena. Somebody posited that perhaps it is because we are known as the People of the Book. Hmm, er okay. Not sure about that but social inertia is nevertheless strong and we kind of like to show off our books on our bookshelf. After all a living room with an an oak book case with glass doors with a solitary iPad sitting in it is not all that impressive.

Perhaps a more compelling reason is simply a technical one in that the Kindle doesn’t support Hebrew and even a more advanced format such as iBooks doesn’t support a right-to-left book (although Hebrew with nikud and trop within an English paragraph is). So there are some serious technical difficulties in presenting a book either in Hebrew or even an English book with Hebrew text in it. So that makes creating a religious Jewish book somewhat challenging. In my experience of typesetting books of Jewish interest over the past couple of decades, most books do include a Hebrew word here or there.

However, probably the strongest reason is that many of us simply like to read on Shabbat and that combined with the fact that still millions of people (not just Jews) still prefer the experience of reading text on paper for whatever the reason, means that digital books are not yet a viable financial enterprise for Jewish publishing.

In my role as a publisher of Jewish books (both print and digital, but as you might have guessed by now – mainly print), I meet with my potential clients, the authors, to work out how to best maximise the revenue on their book. Their are no illusions – nobody is getting rich here – but how do we get the maximum return on investment.

Meeting with one author some months ago we were working on a strategy on how to make it work. He had already done a number of books in the past so was no stranger to the system. Later I received a phone call: I am going to crowd-fund this book.

Well I said, the first thing you need for an Indiegogo campaign is a good video, so I recommended to him RapidFire. I had used them in the past and was extremely pleased with their results.

Well the video certainly did the trick and with the help of a first-class marketing company (shout out to Tikshoret) his campaign has reached 17% funded after 3 days as the date that this blog has been pressed.

Of course you are all invited to donate a few dollars to the book!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/book-on-the-haftarot

Don’t they have Lego in Russia? Oh well time for a coffee…

dyson_yellow2Finding a cleaner for one’s home usually brings up various different emotions in people. None of them good of course, but for some years now we have been using a cleaning service in Modi’in that has worked out  pretty well. Well except for one little problem – there is always one isn’t there? Well, most of these cleaners don’t speak Hebrew. Or English. Or even Russian (not that I speak Russian either but that’s whole different story. The first job that I always have, is to work out what language they do speak and then I whip out my phone and tap on Google Translate. I of course have no idea if the translation is any good, but they get the idea.

Well until we get to the hoover (that’s a vacuum cleaner for those American folk reading this post). I made the mistake of buying a Dyson. And what’s wrong with a Dyson you ask? Well actually nothing. To use it, you press here, pull there. It’s kind of like Lego® except it seems that they don’t have Lego in Russia, or Poland, or the Ukraine. I’m always amazed as to how they put the thing away with the wire wrapped around the thingymejoozy and attach the parts in…well you get the idea.

But you know, with the help of my iPhone and despite the hoover, we manage to communicate the and house gets clean… well until the kids get home from school and then you wonder why you bothered.

*

Years ago (and we are talking a couple of decades now), I worked for a printer in Jerusalem called Dfus HaMakor. I worked in the graphics and the digital prepress department. One of my terribly exciting jobs (please add a dollop of sarcasm here) was what we called in Hebrew, “running films.” Basically we would get a pjohnny_coffee_2ostscript file from the client and put it on the computer which would then spew out very large sheets of films with the pages of their book arranged correctly for printing – that’s the short version. Actually it’s the long version too. Anyway, once we pressed the equivalent of “print” on the computer, we would just wait. And wait. Now don’t get me wrong. This was at least ten times faster than doing it the old way, but for me it was well, boring. I had to be there in case something went wrong and had to fix the file. However, often the clients would stick around to wait to make sure everything went smoothly and we would schmooze…

Often we would be there until quite late at night and there were two clients in particular, one  secular and the other a Gerer Chasid that were regulars and often we would have the most amazing conversations discussing the various rifts in Israeli society.

*

3ladies 2000Twenty years have passed and some things haven’t changed: They are still “running films” or more accurately plates now. And yes the conversations between different religious streams of Judaism continue. However one thing significant has changed… This time it’s not three men sitting by a computer schmoozing, but rather three ladies over their lattes. This time, rather than animated conversations been forgotten, they have been written down and made into a book. It’s a fascinating read and I encourage you to buy the book (yes, yes I’m the publisher so of course I have to encourage you to buy the book!)

So now go and click on http://www.renanabooks.com/threeladies and preorder (it should be available for order in the coming days). But wait, there’s more… If you go to the facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/3ladies3lattes you can see where these Three Ladies have been booked to speak.

Now I’m off to rebuild my Dyson hoover…

 

What is the outlook today? Is the sun going to rise?

OutlookcomI have a confession to make. It’s perhaps not the most dramatic confession ever made on the internet, but it is one that is going to affect my “geek factor” (I was informed by a colleague the other day that I’m a geek – who knew!) You see gmail recently celebrated it’s tenth birthday and well, I hate gmail. You may think that “hate” is a strong word. I don’t. In fact if you are looking for a free e-mail service I now recommend Outlook.com (the successor of Hotmail). But no, that’s not my confession…

My confession is that my email program of choice is Outlook (no, no, not Outlook.com that I mention two seconds ago – thank you Microsoft for making things so confusing), but good old Outlook. The one you have to buy or get free as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription (more about that later). Okay, my geek score just went down to zero since all geeks of course use gmail and Chrome – yes I use Explorer too. I assume some of you will now be so unimpressed with my lack of geekiness, and will stop reading right now so to you I bid farewell.

pizzaFor those of you who are still intrigued by my insistence on continuing to use Outlook, I will recall years ago sitting in Pizza May on Rechov HaPalmach and a friend of mine that we’ll call Dan for the purpose of this conversation, told me that he had just installed the new version of Outlook and informed me that I shouldn’t bother since it was a huge memory hog. Well in those days that kind of mattered. Today I have 64-bit Windows using 64-bit Outlook on a machine with an SSD and 16GB of RAM (hey has my geek status been reinstated?) so I don’t really care. Outlook does for me what I need and gmail most certainly doesn’t. But this post is not about email per se, but rather about how I use Outlook to organize my business.

Nelson-Email-Organizer-thumbOkay, first and foremost, a post like this can’t be written without giving at least one method of organizing one’s email. After all, I am talking about Outlook. I’ve tried different solutions including one of my old favourite’s: NEO. This software actually taught me an excellent way of organizing my email but now my needs are different.

I also used to be a great fan of folders, but my system now is much simpler – I have one folder and it’s the Archive folder. It used to be called the “done” folder but by changing it to the Archive folder, I can file away on my iPhone with one tap on the archive button. That’s it! Email stays in my inbox until I’ve dealt with it. Part two of my system is to make sure that I don’t have more than 30 emails in my inbox (although I must confess right now I have 97 😦 ). Now sometimes I need to keep emails for projects and then I use categories and I do use folders for very special occasions…

RBtOkay, but actually I want to introduce you to a tool that I’ve been using for perhaps a decade. You see as well as wearing the publisher hat, I have another hat and that is as of Typesetter at Renana. I could invent a cool title but I will just leave the word typesetter capitalized and hope you are suitably impressed. Oh and whilst I’m talking about Renana Books, our new website is live selling not only digital books, but our new print books from Renana Publishers too! Go and check it out at www.renanabooks.com.

Right, back to the plot…. Clients give me work and of course they want to know when I will be finished with it. The problem with the nature of my work is that I will typeset the first draft of a book, send back to the client and then wait. And wait. It could come back a few days later and it could come back six months later. So I need a way to manage my time.

tasklineThe answer, for me at least, is a piece of software Taskline. They have just come out with a new version and I’ve been using it for years. It also helps me see how long each job actually takes to do and disciplines me. Taskline integrates with Outlook. The coolest thing now is that I keep an iPad on my desk with my calendar open and I see what I have scheduled for me since my calendar is synchronized. Oh and you know that Microsoft finally released Office for iPad? And if you have that Office 365 subscription it’s free – yeah that was the more about that later!

You would think that having a fast computer with three screens would be enough, but funnily enough, I use iOS for a couple of other things, and not my iPad either, but davka my iPhone.

ikaluachThe first is iKaluach. This is the definitive zmanim app on the iPhone. For me it’s critical since often my projects are time critical with the Jewish calendar such as a parshat hashavua but also tells me zmanim based on my location (very useful for davening times). This is an app that you must just go and buy now!

And another app that has become really useful for me due to one feature is Sunrise. What distinguishes this app for me is that it tells me exactly how many minutes to my next appointment (again usually Minḥa).

Anyway, better go an pick up my son from school… Shabbat Shalom!

How to fit three 24″ monitors into a small suitcase

In my past two executive positions that I held it was required of me to wear (at least) two hats: one of the “manager” and one as a productive member of staff. So it’s natural for me in my relatively new role as a publisher to also continue to be productive as a book designer and typesetter and indeed a good portion of my typesetting is for other publishers.

However my blog post is really nothing to do with my job but rather a technological dilemma that a typesetter (and perhaps others) faces when traveling and that is of course, how does one work away from the office. You see my PC setup is very powerful i7 with 16GB RAM and the obligatory SSD, but that can all be squeezed into a laptop. The real problem are the monitors. You see as a typesetter you need a lot of screen real estate and there’s no way I can pack three 24″ monitors into a suitcase.

The second problem is my software and data. I am not dealing with little Word files but rather huge graphic files and software that as little as a year ago came on several DVDs.

So my first dilemma was how to deal with my computer setup. I knew I had access to a PC with a 24″ monitor (no not quite the resolution that I wanted but you can’t have everything in life) but the absolute minimum is two screens.

My second dilemma was a cellphone. But I digress.

So back to the computer. I knew I had a fast internet connection with wifi so my first thought was that I should remotely access my machine. However the connection from the UK to Israel was fine for doing corrections although somewhat cumbersome.

So it was time for plan B.

Recently software has moved to the cloud and Adobe is no exception. People don’t quite know what Adobe Creative Cloud is but apart from the unclear name it’s actually rather marvelous.

I logged into my account on the PC in England and downloaded the creative cloud app onto the computer. From there I chose the software that I needed and then switched on both file and font synchronization. I would like to say that 15 minutes later I was working but despite a 50 Mbit download connection it took quite a while (a day or so) for all the software, and in particular, for all my files to sync.

However once it all synced I had my entire software library and files in England. Remember I was syncing the files and software which meant that the software, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat were installed locally and the files were copied locally too. You don’t want to be working on a 50MB file that is being accessed on the internet.

My next job was Microsoft Office. I had recently subscribed to Office 365. Now here Microsoft do an amazing job. When I chose to install my software it was extremely fast. You see they install the core code that is needed for the software to run and then in the background the rest of code is downloaded. What this basically meant was that Word was running almost instantly. Now I confess that I’m an Outlook user. I know people swear by gmail, but I like the full version of outlook. Each to their own I guess. Office 365 gives you a 25 GB mailbox so I just synced that and my entire office was now locally synced. Some of my files are on SkyDrive and some are on Dropbox for various reasons beyond the scope of this post but it was trivial syncing them too.

Yes I had a whole bunch of scripts for InDesign that I needed to login remotely to grab them but on the whole I managed to transfer my entire office with a few clicks of the mouse and a lot of waiting.

Fortunately, when I get back to Israel all my files will be back in sync immediately.

Now back to the cellphone. Last time I flew I called up my local cellphone provider and got a deal but it was quite expensive. I also found that I used data a lot more since I wasn’t at home with wifi the whole time.

I was smarter this time. I picked up a Lebara SIM card for £1.10 and added a package for a tenner. It’s actually very good value. I loaded up with 1GB of data and have the option of calling Israel both land lines and mobile for 5p a minute. However, armed with my iPhone with iMessage and FaceTime (particularly FaceTime Audio) I haven’t needed to pay for calls to Israel.