Raphael Freeman

Is Jewish publishing dead in this new digital era?

Jews like to read, but will the limitations of Hebrew and Shabbat keep Jewish books out of e-books?

CaptureOften 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.

Click [here] to see the campaign and of course you are all invited to donate a few dollars…

About the Author
Raphaël is the Publisher at Renana Publishers. He previously held executive positions at the Jerusalem Post and more recently at Koren Publishers Jerusalem.
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