Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hebrew Books in the Digital Age II

Readers of this blog know that I am enthusiastic about the website. I’ve written about the Internet and the future of learning, when one day the printed book will be a relic of the past.

One concern I’ve been worried about is how we can avoid forgeries that are bound to proliferate. To print a sefer, one must extend a significant amount of cost and effort, thus forgeries are not so prevalent in our time, but in the digital age, Photoshop and some good editing skills will make forgeries easier to accomplish and harder to identify, allowing anyone with an agenda to immediately find company in the Sefer of his choosing.

This has been demonstrated quite vividly by Mississippi Fred’s Robinson Crusoe post.

With relative ease, OTML has cleverly displayed a true

and not-so-true

version of a Sefer. I suppose that just as we have seen the proliferation of computer crime and consequently computer fraud detection detectives, so too, as online learning expands, hopefully we will find foolproof ways of ensuring that our Seforim have not been tampered with. In the mean time, hold on to your hard copies.



  1. Scary, 1984 has come home to roost.

  2. How will integrity of our books/sefarim be preserved in the future? Does anyone know how the academic world deals with this issue?

  3. Churchill said:

    “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

    BOF says:

    “A Loshon Hora Filled Blog sees the deletion in every translation; a Loshon Hora Free Blog sees the insertion in every transcription.”

  4. I don't understand your comment. If you are implying that I am party to LH, I think the Heter of Apei Tlasa certainly applies once this has been featured on 3 blogs.

    Furthermore, I have attempted to take an issue of current events and focus on the internet/technology/future aspect of it.

  5. I guess we unwittingly stumbled on an interesting problem, huh?

  6. S.

    How long did it take you to find the similar type and make the emendation? How do you think this problem can be avoided?

  7. I'll tell you my secret. I am not very good at recognizing fonts, but there are two ways to discover what font something is. The first is to fill out a questionare on a font finder site like this one:

    After you're done, it will give you what it thinks are possible matches. If that doesn't work, there is a forum where users who are very very very knowledgable are glad to help. And that's how I found a close match (albeit it's most likely not it exactly).

    I think it took me ten minutes; it's not perfectly done by any means. Assuming I had the skill to do it perfectly, it would take more time, but it could probably be done beyond detection.

    I don't know if it's a problem yet, but it is certainly something to think about. I mean, the truth is nothing ever prevented anyone from printing doctored seforim before - and there have been plenty of those. It's just that this could be easier, I guess. I didn't have to get up out of my seat to do it.

  8. Interesting. But how do you think the problem can be avoided?

  9. We need a reversal of Rav Yehuda HaNasi's innovation. It's time to revert to pure Torah She-Baal Peh.

  10. until the day, of course, when Hi-Tech advances to the point where Holograms can speak and be photoshopped.

  11. >Interesting. But how do you think the problem can be avoided?

    Like I said, loads of printed editions are already faulty, so it's not really a new issue. I guess the solution needs to be relative to the size of the problem. If it's a small problem, or not a problem at all, then nothing needs to be done. If it's a problem then some kind of security features guaranteeing the authenticity of the file will need to be implemented. Of course, the hashgacha is only as good as the mashgichim.


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