3/5/12

Video: Artscroll Talmud App for iPad -"This will change everything again" at what price?



At first we thought this was a Purim spoof video. It is not.

The overstated and over dramatized video promotion for the Artscroll Talmud App informs us that this is "far beyond anything" and that this new app "will change everything - again." And then it shows us (without a touch of self awareness) how the exact page of the Romm Talmud will be reproduced on the iPad and the exact page of the Artscroll elucidation will be reproduced on the iPad. This is the true irony of "look at how many new, new, new ways we can reproduce the old, old, old texts." They are at the same time absolutely faithful reproductions and "elucidations" and, gevalt, astonishingly new and revolutionary editions.

Putting all the irony aside, in fact the app video does show clever "fusion" technology for text study, a layering the original Hebrew and Aramaic text with the English translation, the notes and the sources. This is how the iPad (Kindle etc.) does brilliantly enable true hypertext reading and learning with potential interactivity. The ecosystem of the iPad is the revolution. Artscroll forgets to mention in its marketing pitch that it is actually a clever implementation of the revolutionary Apple platform. A bit overly self-centered, how much patting oneself on the back can one company engage in, now brought to yet another new pinnacle.

Everyone in the media and on the Internet wants to know how much all of this will cost.

It ought to be free. If the purpose of all of this innovation is to bring the Torah to the multitudes, let the wealth of our community (Schottenstein et. al.) bring it to us at no cost.

Unfortunately, the Artscroll-Schottenstein notion we fear is that once again the price will be higher and higher for access to Torah learning. The Artscroll shas 73 volumes on sale is $2,182.50. This high cost commercial model runs directly counter to all of the Talmudic values of our sages.

We hope that we are wrong about the pricing of the new apps and that the video claim "this will change everything - again" does not mean that "this will make Torah learning more expensive than ever - again."

8 comments:

foobar said...

Artscroll forgets to mention in its marketing pitch that it is actually a clever implementation of the revolutionary Apple platform.

Actually, they almost definitely programmed it using a cross-platform framework, since they claim that they're planning to also support Android and Windows 8 in future releases. It is therefore not an iOS-specific application.

It ought to be free...
This high cost commercial model runs directly counter to all of the Talmudic values of our sages.


It would appear that you operate by a double standard.

Why should ArtScroll's Talmudic publications be free, but not those published by others -- including yourself?

Jacob Neusner's 22-volume Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Hendrickson, 2011), to which you contributed, retails for $895. (That comes to $40.68 per volume, btw, as compared to only $29.90 per volume for ArtScroll's Talmud -- 50% more expensive per volume.)

To the best of my knowledge, you haven't been giving away your Talmudic works for free, nor have you lambasted Hendrickson for selling the Neusner Talmud at such an exorbitant price.

On what basis do you demand of ArtScroll that which you do not practice yourself?

tzvee said...

foobar, you are as your name implies. I love you guys. The Neusner 22 vol. set at CBD (one click from the Henderson page) is $199 or $9 a volume. But you know that. You just want to be dramatic.

foobar said...

I love you guys.

Why, thank you. I love you too. Although I should probably mention that I am only one "guy"; I assure you that I wrote these comments all by myself.

The Neusner 22 vol. set at CBD (one click from the Henderson page) is $199 or $9 a volume. But you know that.

And ArtScroll's Talmud sells on Amazon.com for a lower price than the one you quoted. But then, you knew that.

Apparently, it's OK for you to cite ArtScroll's retail price, but not for me to cite Hendrickson's retail price.

Once again, it is evident that you operate by a double standard. One begins to detect a pattern...

More importantly: You wrote that ArtScroll's Talmud "ought to be free".

The last time I checked, $199 (for the Neusner Talmud) is not "free".

As an author yourself of Talmudic publications which you do not give away for free, your condemnation of another publisher for not giving their pubications away for free cannot possibly be seen by an objective observer as anything other than bald hypocrisy.

It is astounding that this plainly obvious fact did not even occur to you when you wrote your post.

tzvee said...

1. Let's see the Artscroll sell their talmud for $9 a volume. Right now it is $1,992.27 on Amazon, $27.29 a volume.

2. We do give away the talmud for free. Please help yourself: www.halakhah.com - two versions, a one column and a new two column edition.

foobar said...

Let's see the Artscroll sell their talmud for $9 a volume.

That's not what you wrote in your post. You wrote: "It ought to be free".

Why is it that you think the ArtScroll Talmud should be free, but you don't think that the Neusner Talmud should be free?

We do give away the talmud for free. Please help yourself: www.halakhah.com

Well, that's very generous: You give away someone else's Talmud (Soncino) for free. But when it comes to your own work, you charge money.

Not that there's anything wrong with that: It's your work, and you deserve to charge for it.

And by the same token, there's nothing wrong if someone else charges money for their work, either. Is ArtScroll's Talmud overpriced? Maybe. But nobody is forced to buy it. It's a free market, and anyone who wants to can buy the Neusner Talmud instead.

In all seriousness, you ought to take a step back and try to re-read your own post objectively.

You have voiced valid criticism of ArtScroll in the past, and I have found myself very much in agreement with you more than once.

But you lost all credibility when you attacked them for (a) promoting their own product instead of singing the praises of Apple's iOS API, and (b) not giving away their product for free.

Seriously, this is what's wrong with ArtScroll?

Please.

tzvee said...

Quite a bit is wrong at Artscroll. Example: The quality of the translation (elucidation) is poor. Take any line and look at it closely. The English is poor and the translation accuracy is poor. Next, they were paid as a charity to create the books, then they go sell the books as a business to make an over-sized profit. My post deals with the digital edition - that is what I argue they should be giving away for free - okay $.99 is acceptable. It costs nothing to distribute it. The price they will charge is pure profit. They can sell the books at cost, that is okay with me, since they were paid already for their work as a charity. They are raising much more money now as a charity to cover the development costs for the digital edition. Shall I go on?

tzvee said...

BTW - Kosher Talmud - my Hullin translation, is free tomorrow on Amazon and will be free periodically for as many days as Amazon permits.

Please download it and enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking for a long time now how ridiculous it is that Artscroll is able to make so much profit over texts that were originally created with money donated as charity (And which have certainly paid for themselves by now). Especially now that distribution is virtually free. Even if the App is a little fancy, they should at least have a free (or low priced) basic PDF version online. Amazing that US tax law actually allows the original donations to be called "charity".