The codex is dead! Long live the codex! -or- Why Jews will never fully switch over to e-readers

Crossposted to New Voices and Jewschool

The Atlantic has this piece up this week about Shabbat observance issues surrounding e-readers like the Kindle. The article’s worth reading.

Three thoughts:

1. Acts of writing should not be at issue here. From the article:

E-readers are problematic not only because they are electronic but also because some rabbis consider turning pages on the device – which causes words to dissolve and then resurface – an act of writing, also forbidden on the Sabbath.

That’s completely absurd. Writing is forbidden because its an act of creation. God’s rest on the first Shabbat was a rest from the work of creating the world. We follow suit, by avoiding acts of creation. The equivalent of turning the page on a Kindle is just that–it’s the equivalent of turning a page! The electronic equivalent of writing is typing.

2. That doesn’t mean Jews who observe a high number of ritual prohibitions on Shabbat are going to start davening from an e-siddur. They’re still electronic!

3. Who cares? Codex technology came into being and we retained the scroll. Now e-readers have been invented and we’ll retain the codex (fancy word for book) too.

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10 Responses to The codex is dead! Long live the codex! -or- Why Jews will never fully switch over to e-readers

  1. Larry Kaufman December 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    Jews will never fully switch to e-readers most of all because the chumratics always look for a reason to say No.

    Avi Weiss will look for a way to say Yes, while you can’t use a Kindle on Shabbat, you can use a Schmindle, a coinage meaning a Shabbat Kindle, a position which he will later modify to permitting the use of the Schmindle you already have but not buying a new one, which still won’t get his Schmindle-using ordinees jobs anywhere except YCT. He will then allow the use of new Schmindles, but only within the eruv.

    Other possible variations: you can use it if you turn it on before Shabbat; you can read what’s already there but you can’t download anything new.

    Meanwhile Rabbi Aviner will give permission to read approved books, as long as you don’t read any reviews of those books.

    Back in the real world, I mostly found the Atlantic article silly.

  2. Rich December 24, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    I like books. They smell good. Here are some Siddur reviews:

    Koren – Sweet nose, surprisingly peppery at the finish.

    Mishkan Tefillah – Mild with delicate mineral oil hints.

    Siddur Et Ratzon – Pulpy, with a fruity middle.

    Va’ani Tefillati – A mild spicy nose with a fruity finish. Like a blend of Koren and MT.

    iBirkat (Bentscher for iPhone/iPod Touch) – Whatever was last on my grubby fingers.

    Yup. The Codex wins hands down. But they all lack the full, umame notes and rich body of a freshly written sefer Torah.

  3. Kelly December 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    I found this article to be silly. It was about nothing. I don’t see why people just can’t read real books?

    • David A.M. Wilensky December 27, 2010 at 11:44 am #

      It’s not that they can’t. It’s that economics and the convenience of the situation work out such that it will become cheaper and more convenient for consumers to use e-readers. And it is already cheaper and more convenient for the publishers.

  4. Laura January 2, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    I wasn’t going to get in on this, but just these past few days I’ve read about four separate articles on e-readers. And I’m throwing up.

    I just don’t see what people see in those things. E-books were never cool before they started marketing the crap out of them.

    You’d think that they would just be automatically shoved into the same category as television (hopefully shoved into a dark corner forever where e-readers deserve to be)—you could invite yourself over to your friend’s house on Shabbat and watch his TV…but it would be a really jerky move. I don’t see how looking at a screen beats paper—so much so that this argument is even being had! (I mean, you can’t even ride a bicycle lest it break on Shabbat…does anyone mean to tell me that e-readers are more important than bicycles?)

    And don’t even mention the e-siddur…

    • David A.M. Wilensky January 3, 2011 at 11:20 am #

      Actually, they weren’t cool until Amazon created a viable device for reading them. The Kindle is pretty damn cool. I do see what people see in them. I just don’t want one for me.

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