The Conspiracy

People of the Book, Not the Nook

The author and her book. Worry not, this picture was not taken on Shabbat.

It’s sundown on Friday, and I have just turned off my laptop. I walk downstairs to light the Shabbat candles, and I prepare myself for 25 hours without technology. After a nice Shabbat dinner, I retreat to a warm and cozy couch. I settle in with a book in one hand and a magazine in the other. I am all set for the night.

Ever since I was old enough to read, this was how a Friday night has looked. Growing up in an Orthodox family, I wasn’t supposed to use any form of electronic device, so my siblings and I would gather in the living room, claim our spot on the couches, and read.

This routine, however, is now in danger.

As more and more print publications are going digital, I am left wondering: What will I do on Shabbat?

Shabbat is the prime time for reading. Since I can’t check my email or do any homework, I am ‘forced’ to relax and enjoy a novel or magazine. But now that everyone has a Nook or iPad, this ritualistic pastime is at risk.

Bibliophiles around the world are lamenting the so-called “death of print,” and they most definitely have valid reasons. They enjoy turning the page of the book to denote their journey through a novel. They like to write notes in the margins, highlight meaningful quotes. They like to see a book yellow with age on their living room shelves.

And then there’s observant Jews. We’re stuck without print. In accordance with the rabbis’ rulings on Shabbat, we don’t use electricity on Shabbat, so Nooks and Kindles are out of the question.

Yes, a Nook is easier to carry on vacations, and yes, this new format might have the benefit of easier access for the greater public. But for those of us that observe Shabbat, it will most definitely create some challenges.

Will rabbis create a loophole to allow reading on a Kindle? Maybe someone will create an app for an iPad that automatically turns pages after a set amount of time. You wouldn’t have to press any buttons; you would just have to make sure not to fall behind. Or maybe a few observant Jews will maintain a publishing house to ensure that at least some books remain in print. I cringe, though, at the thought of only being able to read a tiny amount of books chosen by the one last publishing house.

I like to think that the complete death of print is far off– or better yet, a fallacy. But as magazines and newspapers slowly but surely cut down on their print issues, I find myself worrying about my future Shabbat reading.

On Wednesday, October 17th, Newsweek announced that it was officially  ending its print edition.

Local papers and even nationally-acclaimed papers are floundering.

Books are being published as digital versions only.

Publishing companies are laying off workers.

Book stores are suffering.

Libraries dwindling.

What will I do on Shabbat?



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