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In this question I'm referring to printed material, but I may follow up with a question about digital content as well. The material is mainly Jewish prayerbooks and Bibles.

In existing samples, most of the time I see right-to-left or RTL (the Hebrew) text on the right side of the page, and left-to-right or LTR text (the parallel English translation) on the left side. The Hebrew here is the focus, so the book gets turned as an RTL book. However, occasionally (specifically with one book), it's reversed and the Hebrew is on the left of the book.

Which way makes more sense, in terms of ease of use?

I can think of a reason for each:

  • For Hebrew on the right, it seems natural to put it at the beginning.
  • For Hebrew on the left, it's natural to turn the page at the end of the left side in an RTL book.
  • Could you please elaborate: WHY does "Hebrew on the right […] seem like the natural place"? Is this a design problem you have, or are you asking a hypothetical question about books you've seen? (If the latter, this question might get put on hold.) If the former, don't reinvent the wheel. I suggest you take a trip to a bookstore that carries such multi-lingual products and ask them when and why customers prefer one layout over the other. if I had to guess, I'd say the original goes first, and the translation goes on the facing page. – JeromeR Aug 24 '15 at 11:25
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Where corresponding users start to read and where their sights are landing on the page intuitively to start processing the page. For LTR users that would be left, for RTL users that would be right.

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For putting Hebrew on the right:

1: Things are clearer. There will be more spaces between the English and the Hebrew. With very dense sentences this could quickly become very messy.

2: It seems the more natural. Text traditionally starts on the left/right of a page. This means little in websites however where it is very rare for text to be totally tight to the edge of the screen. I could be biased here however in my experience of books that go from right to left being in a left to right language (Japanese) so I don't have your page turning assumptions.

For Hebrew on the left:

1: The text will always be touching. It is always clear which line is associated to which. With a stream of very short sentences this could be hard to follow if Hebrew is on the right.

2: Text touching is also a natural 'comparison' layout rather than having them on opposite sides of the page to each other.

3: The RTL is the original and in LTR this means it is first, i.e. on the left

Overall I would say it depends exactly what you're comparing. If its data then have them touching in the middle. If its a novel then keep them separated.

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