Sunday, March 06, 2011

My review of iTalmud for iPad

In 2009 @efink reviewed the iPhone version of iTalmud by Crowded Road. He liked it very much. For the last few days, I've been testing the iPad version of the same software, and I share his enthusiasm. This is one neat little app.

For starters, iTalmud gives you three versions of the entire Babylonian Talmud on a device that weighs less than a pound. With iTalmud you can use scrolling, searchable electronic Hebrew/Aramaic text, read an English translation, or download a page image from the Vilna Shas which lets you see Rashi and Tosfot. The English translation, which is Soncino's, provides explanatory footnotes that you can access with a click, and so does the Hebrew/Aramaic version. And if you're an auditory learner, you can also download and listen to a shiur on each daf given by Rabbi Dovid Grossman. At a book store, all of that material might cost several thousand dollars, not including the book shelf to hold it. The iTalmud is $29.

The pricing of course, can't be beat, but pricing aside can iTalmud replace whatever gemarah you're using now? Well, that depends on how you like to learn.

If you're super advanced, and refer frequently to the Rishonim and Achronim found in the back of a Vilna Shas, iTalmud isn't for you. At $29 the "boys in the back" are not included. On the other hand, if you're a raw beginner and price is no object, you're probably better off with the ArtScroll and its copious explanations and notes. However, if you're somewhere in between, and able to review the daf with a moderate amount of English help, the iTalmud can't be beat. You can read the Talmud in the Hebrew/Aramaic version, click to Rashi (the dibur hamaskil is hyper-linked) or the Soncino if you need a little help with a word or with the reasoning, and then download the Vilna Shas image if you want to see what Tosfos says. If this is the way you study, iTalmud is perfect. If not, it is still a great resource to have in your pocket. I've used it to for grabbing quick study breaks, and the Hebrew search function is a nifty tool should you need to track down a sugya or the mention of a particular word. Both the super advanced and raw beginner can use it this way, too.

I haven't seem the iPhone version, but on the iPad, everything is clear and easy to read on the full size screen. The navigation is perfectly intuitive and well designed. [See screen grabs] Getting to the page you need is a breeze, and so is managing the downloads (The Vilna Shas images and audio files take up disc space, but you can easily delete them one at a time, and download them again later if you wish.) As a medium for studying Talmud, the only problem with the iPad  is that, along with the Talmud, it puts the distractions right in your hand. If your blog is hopping, and the FB, Twitter, news and sports alerts are ringing, it can be hard to focus. Paying attention to the daf, is certainly easier when you study from an old fashioned book, but on price, ease of use, and portability the old fashioned book just doesn't come close.


Crowded Road provided me with a promotional copy of iTalmud.

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