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NeRD Brings E-readers to U.S. Navy Ships and Submarines

Former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen once described books as, “the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey.” Quindlen didn’t use ships or submarines in her description, but a recent U.S. Navy announcement may prompt a reexamination of that quote.

What makes NeRD unique is that it will be allowed on Navy ships and submarines, unlike traditional e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad. By eliminating GPS, Wi-Fi, and roaming data features, NeRD gets around those restrictions. Those restrictions were put in place to prevent malicious software or security threats from coming aboard Navy ships.

The Navy Installations Command‘s Navy General Library Program (NLGP), a component of the Navy’s larger Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program, announced early this month that it has released a new Navy e-reader device, dubbed NeRD. NeRD was developed through a partnership with the Solon, Ohio-based Findaway World. What makes NeRD unique is that it will be allowed on Navy ships and submarines, unlike traditional e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad. By eliminating GPS, Wi-Fi, and roaming data features, NeRD gets around those restrictions. The restrictions were put in place to prevent malicious software or security threats from coming aboard Navy ships.

USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Curtis, a electrician’s mate, relaxes in his rack during his off hours aboard the ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730). Space and security concerns have limited the amount of reading material available to U.S. Navy sailors aboard ships and submarines. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gretchen Albrecht

NeRD comes preloaded with an array of 300 titles that are accessible for users through a single portable device. This eliminates another problem that books pose on ships. Space. “Since we have the digital product available while sailors are on shore, we wanted to find a way to get digital accessibility while sailors are on ships,” said Nilya Carrato, program assistant for the library program, in a Navy statement. “They can keep 300 books, that would have taken up their entire library locker, in their sailors’ pockets now.”

E-books and audiobooks are already available at shore-based Navy libraries and have been requested by ship and submarine crews for years. “Navy Installations Command is constantly seeking to provide our proud sailors around the world with new tools and resources that can enrich their lives,” said the NLGP’s manager, Nellie Moffitt. “NeRD addresses this goal head-on, with a library of digital titles in a convenient and secure package that circumvents longstanding NLGP challenges in content storage. By partnering with Findaway World, we now have the ideal reading solution for the digital age.”

“Since we have the digital product available while sailors are on shore, we wanted to find a way to get digital accessibility while sailors are on ships,” said Nilya Carrato, program assistant for the library program, in a Navy statement. “They can keep 300 books, that would have taken up their entire library locker, in their sailors’ pockets now.”

The 300 titles loaded onto each NeRD were selected from the 108,000 titles that make up the NLGP. The Navy and Findaway World are starting the program with 385 NeRD devices, but envision more. Submarines will be the initial test, with each Navy submarine receiving five devices. NeRD augments the existing library access for sailors, who have access to a web-based digital library. “Since 2007, Findaway World has provided audiobook content to the men and women who serve our country,” said Mitch Krill, the co-founder and CEO of Findaway World, in a company press release. “We’re proud to partner again with Navy Installations Command and the U.S. Navy on this initiative and believe that NeRD will provide a unique and enriching eBook experience to the lives of officers and enlisted sailors.”

The Navy-selected list was devised to be as diverse as possible, with bestsellers, classics, professional development, and entertainment making up the 300 titles. Among the books on the list are most of the 18 titles that are on the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program. That list includes books such as Neptune’s Inferno, Monsoon, Wired for War, and 1812: The Navy’s War. Popular titles are also rumored to be included. A BBC News report on the program confirmed that The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones have made the cut.

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...