Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Updated: Artscroll Shas IPad App! (The Talmud for Me)

(Updated sections in bold.)

Tonight I attended a special Artscroll dinner that celebrated the siyyum of the Schottenstein Hebrew Talmud and some other projects. (By the way, the dinner, which was attended by chashuve rabbonim, etc., was mostly mixed seating.) The coolest part was a video presentation that showcased the Artscroll Shas App. I don't own an IPad (or any other tablet device) nor do I learn gemara, but the app seems so cool that I want to buy an IPad just so I can get the app. (The coolest feature is that in addition using it conventionally with two facing pages--which of course are scroll linked--you can use only the Aramaic side and click on a difficult word or phrase and the elucidation will float above. You can also enable vocalization of the text. Of course you can add notes, there are is a GPS-enabled feature to find local daf yomi shiurim, etc. I think, although I don't recall for sure now, that there are hyperlinks. The app is being developed by Rusty Brick, so you know it's going to be good.)

I have thus far resisted the urge to buy an IPad (the only tablet I would consider). In fact I haven't even had an urge. There is simply no way I can justify it. I have a computer at home and I have one at work. I don't commute much on the trains, so what use could I have for a tablet? I also have not embraced the ebook revolution--Wieseltier's recent "Voluminous" essay (here) really resonated with me--, so that specific tablet use doesn't appeal to me. But watching the short Artscroll presentation made me realize the power of a tablet app and how it can really add so much to transform what was previously just a text.

I still can't see myself reading from a tablet, but this Luddite is now convinced that it's the future.

The only thing that I'm not sure about it whether I should buy an IPad or instead use the money to buy a share of Apple stock.

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It is popular in certain circles (my own included) to be reflexively critical of anything published by Artscroll. But the truth is that despite much warranted criticism, they have accomplished some important work.

I'm not qualified to comment on Artscroll's adult publications, but I will state that I think they do a really good job with their children's books. Not the literature, but the Siddur, Haggadah, Megillot, Yonah, Pirke Avot, etc. I use these when learning with David and they are very good. The simple translation is clear and age appropriate and the illustrations are appealing to children.

(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

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