May 20, 2021 10:58 am at 10:58 am #1975510
If we look at the major publishers- Artscroll, Feldheim, Koren, Mosaica- we see that there is some good work coming out, but lots and lots of fluff.
So my question is: why does it seem that fluff sells, but not substantive seforim in English?
The Artscroll Shas, and their many other translations changed the world and helped make uncountable Yidden religious. These translations have helped so many Yidden learn daf yomi, become kovea itim, etc., which has led to deepened religious commitment.
My contention is that a beautiful sefer like Lomdus on the Parsha, or various seforim on Issur v’Heter, Kashrus b’iyun, etc. won’t be published by these publishers, and end up on Lulu or Amazon, yet Artscroll and the like will publish kiddie books, self-help, psychobabble, and the like without a second thought.
I would think that there would be more of a demand for serious seforim in English. People nowadays want to learn; unlike years past, working people want more than to be part of the chevra tehillim. An in-depth series of seforim, let’s say, giving over gemara b’iyun, lomdus, halacha, etc. should be popular, but seems to be passed over for 12 steps books, books on emotions, stories, recipes, etc.
Why do we think that is?May 20, 2021 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm #1975537
Publishing is for the masses. A publisher has to sell a lot of copies to make the profit worthwhile. Even seforim that eventually sell, are pushed away in favor of best sellers.
editedMay 20, 2021 1:52 pm at 1:52 pm #1975641
Artscroll has the Ohr Hachaim and Daroshes Haran first volume, translated into English.May 20, 2021 2:16 pm at 2:16 pm #1975664jackkParticipant
How many buyers are there for the Ketzos in English and how many for children’s books?
Do the math.May 20, 2021 3:18 pm at 3:18 pm #1975670
Jews will soon be again called “the people of the Book” – when all humanity moving online, Jews will still need books for Shabbos. We have an encyclopedia that is used on Shabbos only. Without Shabbos, the kids would probably not know the order of ABC as it is an only application.May 20, 2021 3:21 pm at 3:21 pm #1975673jsocherParticipant
As noted by others – publishers need buyers to make money. So, by definition there will be more buyers for more accessible works.
Also: Buyers of serious reform typically buy them in Hebrew.
Last note recent Artscroll translations of serious works like the new Artscroll tosfos, Sefer haChinuch, Drashos haRan, Ramban on Torah, etc.May 20, 2021 4:24 pm at 4:24 pm #1975699
Get the book 501 Hebrew Verbs which teaches the roots with examples and use the existing translated hebrew seforim to learn hebrew so you can learn the original and to learn aramaic. do shenayum mikra vechad targum, repeat the parasha two times and once the targum.May 20, 2021 4:43 pm at 4:43 pm #1975723Yserbius123Participant
Artscroll is for the hamon am, for people who aren’t necessarily talmidei chachamim and for light reading. Many years ago I used this example to differentiate Artscroll from Feldheim. The number one best selling Feldheim book was a five volume comprehensive guide to the 39 melachos of Shabbos in this day and age full of footnotes, references, and detailed examples. The best selling Artscroll book was a fancy cookbook.May 20, 2021 5:09 pm at 5:09 pm #1975727CTRebbeParticipant
Many more resources are necessary to produce the substantive seforim you are looking for. Perhaps you should volunteer to raise the money to put out these worthwhile seforim? It is a huge undertaking. Think about how many sponsors there are for each volume of the Artscroll shas and they still need to charge a whopping $50 retail per volume (granted most people don’t pay that but you get the point). Much less effort is needed for fluff. Even fluff has a value so I don’t hold it against the companies for putting them out. The publishing companies are meant as a money-making business and it would be ludicrous to make an effort to increase the demand for scholarly works.
I applaud companies like Artscroll for putting in tons of money for volumes they KNOW will lose money (ex: Yesrushalmi). They do that totally lishmaMay 21, 2021 3:47 am at 3:47 am #1975891
How many buyers are there for the Ketzos in English and how many for children’s books?
Do the math.
I would say that Ketzos would sell as much, if not more, than the Artscroll Shas.
Artscroll Ketzos, Nesivos, Minchas Chinuch, Reb Chaim, Reb Boruch Ber, Shev Shamysa, would sell like wildfire.May 21, 2021 3:48 am at 3:48 am #1975888
I hear that economics is a big motivation, for better or worse.
I do commend Artscroll for what it HAS done; I just wonder if resources could be better spent producing lasting works of worth.
I’m thinking about ways we can publish in English, iyun seforim that can convey to working people, BTs, etc. the feel of a yeshiva shiur.May 21, 2021 8:02 am at 8:02 am #1975932akupermaParticipant
“fluff” (popular books) almost always have a bigger audience than “scholarly” books. Very few women and children, and frankly most men though many won’t admit it, have the language skills to read a serious sefer. We should say “Baruch ha-Shem” in looking at the large market for “fluff”, since it means that Jewish customers are preferring Jewish “fluff” (children’s book, popular literature, translations, books that dumb down sefarim so more people can understand) rather than buying the “fluff” produced by the goyim.May 21, 2021 8:07 am at 8:07 am #1975933
Artscroll is totally not set up to translate the Ketzos. I’ll give just one example. How would they handle the hundred thousand or so cross references?
It seems like you misunderstand how big Artscroll’s market is. Maybe a fifth of their audience knows the name of Reb Baruch Ber’s sefer. Even a Hebrew age for that sefer would be a doomed project.May 21, 2021 10:44 am at 10:44 am #1975961
dovrosebbaum, I think you mean Shev Shematisa from the Ketzos.May 22, 2021 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm #1976129
I have an email from one of Artscroll’s publishers which, effectively, says that only stories/biographies/cookbooks are selling nowadays. If you look, even books like Nishmas by Sruli Besser which one might think is a learned commentary, is largely stories.
I will say that I find Koren is publishing quality material and while Ktav was sort of out of it for a few years, it seems they’re once again publishing quality books as well.May 22, 2021 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm #1976131
And more translations aren’t necessarily a good contribution. IMHO something like the Shev Shemaytza or R’ Chaim really has no business being translated. The type of person who would learn it should really be able to do so in the original.
What would be good contributions are books/seforim that take knowledge from disparate places and form a cohesive, unified presentation of something we wouldn’t otherwise have. Examples could be R’ Leib Kelemen’s Permission to Receive/Believe books, or Rabbi/Dr. Pelcovitz’s book Life in the Balance.May 22, 2021 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm #1976225ujmParticipant
Rav Moshe writes in the Igros that it shouldn’t be translated.May 22, 2021 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm #1976233
Ok, and that’s Reb Moshe.
There has been a debate regarding translations before, and I believe that nowadays, it’s a battle that isn’t fought anymore. Artscroll Shas kind of changed that.
The case that Torah is exclusive could be made for anything you want. Doesn’t make it correct.May 23, 2021 1:24 am at 1:24 am #1976241
What if we would not translate Rambam and require reading him in the original?May 23, 2021 7:11 am at 7:11 am #1976268
Speaking just for today, we probably would be better off.May 23, 2021 7:11 am at 7:11 am #1976269
Dear Dov Rosenbaum,
The Artscroll shas quelled that debate through brute force. He we want to extend the debate, the Artscroll Shas makes a Stroh argument against more advanced translations.May 23, 2021 3:42 pm at 3:42 pm #1976461
May as well not have anything in translation by your logic. The Artscroll shas proves that such translations are effective in making Jews more frum and promoting learningMay 23, 2021 4:21 pm at 4:21 pm #1976471
My issue is not with translations cart blanche, but specifically the translations being advocated on this thread.
Parts of Torah that are likely to be learned by balabatim have a stronger value in being translated (though it’s important to acknowledge Nomesorah’s point–many have made strong arguments for how translations have taken away from limmud HaTorah).
Parts of Torah which require much more iyun should generally be part of a much longer learning seder, and someone aspiring to be in yeshiva full-time should acquire the requisite Hebrew skills.
(PSA: I’m a balabus so not saying this from an elitish yeshiva perspective)May 23, 2021 4:24 pm at 4:24 pm #1976469
Dear Dov Rosenbaum,
Translations are beneficial when the problem is the language barrier. When the main impediment is finding the proper context – like the Ketzos – following the authors style takes precedence over literal meanings. And when a sefer is cryptic by design – Birchas Shmuel -the translator runs into constant distortions. But for a magnum opus that was honed over decades to carefully avoid old debates with subtle innuendo – while simultaneously introducing a new far reaching style with thousands of cryptic sources, who in the world would have the the audacity to try translating that [Reb Chaim] for the masses?May 23, 2021 6:07 pm at 6:07 pm #1976538
That is why we’re advocating translation plus elucidation, done by competent talmidei chachamim with a mesorahMay 23, 2021 9:39 pm at 9:39 pm #1976568
n0 >> would have the the audacity to try translating that [Reb Chaim] for the masses
You don’t need to start big, translating great works in full. How about giving us a sample? translate one idea.May 23, 2021 9:41 pm at 9:41 pm #1976572
Then you or who ever those advocates are, have little in common with Artscroll. And what mesorah is there from the Ketzos and Birchas Shmuel? And who in the world is the competent talmid chacham who can put out an authoritative translation of Reb Chaim?May 23, 2021 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm #1976600
Please elaborate on your last phrase. Maybe I misunderstand you. Maybe you are not following the dialogue.May 24, 2021 12:01 am at 12:01 am #1976654
n0, take a book that you think is important, and translate a sugya for us here, so that all can appreciate. People often post appreciations of something without quoting anything of substance.May 24, 2021 7:18 am at 7:18 am #1976700
Okay. Give me a week or two.May 24, 2021 9:02 am at 9:02 am #1976798
Look up Understanding Reb Chaim.May 24, 2021 2:25 pm at 2:25 pm #1976944
Dov, thanks for the reference.May 24, 2021 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm #1977047
Also a pretty good podcast on reb chaim..
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