NeRDs at sea: Navy produces a secure, custom ebook

The secure Navy eReader Device will feature a digital library, but no Internet connectivity.

Navy NeRD ereader

The Navy has developed a new e-reader device that will allow Navy sailors on confined ships and submarines to more easily pass the time.

The Navy eReader Device, or NeRD, is a custom-made e-book device that functions similarly the Amazon Kindle or the Barnes & Noble Nook, with a couple of differences. The secure e-reader comes preloaded with a library of 300 titles, but unlike its commercial cousins, won’t have any Wi-Fi or cellular Internet connection capabilities.

The device is the result of a collaboration between the Navy General Library Program and Findaway World in order to provide a digital catalog of popular e-books to sailors. Findaway World has been providing audiobook content to the military since 2007.

The NeRD library will include a fixed selection of titles from a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, best-sellers, history books and classics, according to CNN. For instance, popular books such as “Game of Thrones” series, “Ender’s Game” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy will be included. The device’s 300-book selection is only a small fraction of the Navy’s digital library, which contains 108,000 titles.

The Navy is producing 365 devices at first, and is planning on distributing about five to each active submarine — Navy bookworms will have to share the devices. 

The NeRD, which might seem archaic compared to commercial e-readers, solves two problems that the Navy faces.

First, the e-reader allows the Navy to deal with an inherent challenge on almost all maritime vessels — the lack of space. Putting library collections onto a submarine is extremely difficult because of physical storage restrictions. The NeRD is able to consolidate an entire library into a small, mobile format.

The device is also secure – it has none of connective capabilities of today’s e-readers and cell phones. This is particularly important in today’s electronic warfare environment as a single, stray device broadcasting a signal could lead adversaries to Navy vessels. Other devices that can broadcast signals also can be hacked.

“Navy Installations Command is constantly seeking to provide our proud sailors around the world with new tools and resources that can enrich their lives,” Nellie Moffitt, Navy General Library Program manager, said. “NeRD addresses this goal head-on, with a library of digital titles in a convenient and secure package that circumvents longstanding NGLP challenges in content storage.”