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!

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 and preorder (it should be available for order in the coming days). But wait, there’s more… If you go to the facebook page, you can see where these Three Ladies have been booked to speak.

Now I’m off to rebuild my Dyson hoover…