Sunday, February 08, 2009

Yiddish books online

In October 2008 at an Open Content Alliance meeting, I saw a presentation about the National Yiddish Book Center. It has just been announced that over ten thousand Yiddish texts -- estimated as over half of all the published works in Yiddish currently in existence -- are now available online through a joint venture with the Internet Archive. From the press release:

The National Yiddish Book Center is proud to offer online access to the full texts of nearly 11,000 out-of-print Yiddish titles. You can browse, read, download or print any or all of these books, free of charge. These titles were scanned under the auspices of our Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, and have been made available online through the Internet Archive.

Original, used copies and new, print-on-demand hardcover reprints of most titles in our collection are available at nominal cost.

Some of rights issues are apparently unclear, but it seems so important to make this collection available -- works written in an at-risk language that were at one point systematically destroyed -- that any potential legal risk is worthwhile in my mind.

A brief announcement appeared in the New York Times.

1 comment:

Perry Willett said...

I'm no expert in Yiddish publishing, but one aspect of many of these books seems to be that they use a Hebrew script, and read from right to left. They also start at what we in the West would consider the back of the book, and go toward where we would consider the front.

Here's an example from the same book in IA and HathiTrust:

The IA version requires you to click the right arrow to go forward. They have rearranged the pages so that they read according to Western conventions.

The Hathi version has misidentified the front and back covers, but has preserved the original order of the pages.