October 24, 2014

U.S. Navy Launches NeRD, a Security Enhanced E-Reader

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Navy eReader DeviceThe U.S. Navy General Library Program (NGLP) last month announced the release of its new Navy e-Reader Device (NeRD), which comes preloaded with 300 titles including popular fiction, recent bestsellers, and content from the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program. The new e-ink readers were designed by preloaded digital content provider Findaway World (perhaps best known in the library world for its Playaway) and are the first devices to feature Findaway’s new “Lock” ereader security solution.

These preloaded devices do not have wifi connectivity or accessible data inputs or outputs, and are designed to be manipulation free. This design adheres to the Navy’s security protocols, which include restrictions on many types of personal electronic devices with rewritable media or recording capabilities on board ships. In an earlier interview during the request for information stage of the project in 2012, Nilya Carrato, program assistant for the NGLP told LJ that preloaded, manipulation-free devices would also help ensure that titles are not accidently deleted during long deployments, and that sailors would not use their personal credit cards to add content to the devices.

“I want to be able to protect the ebook, as well as our Sailors,” she said.

The Navy’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Services branch describes libraries as a “mission essential component,” and as LJ reported previously, NGLP is no stranger to ebook lending. The Navy has offered access to popular fiction and nonfiction titles to on-shore Navy personnel through OverDrive, EBSCO, Gale, and others since 2005. During deployments, however, access to print books, ebooks, and other media can vary significantly from ship to ship. Aircraft carriers offer a selection of print books and DVDs on par with many public branch libraries. At the other end of the spectrum, submarines face significant space constraints. A submarine’s library may be limited to a few cubic inches.

For that reason, submarines will be the first to receive NeRDs, with five sent to each of the active submarines in the Navy’s fleet.

“Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) is constantly looking for innovative ways [to] leverage the latest technologies to provide our Sailors and their families around the world with new tools and resources that can enrich their lives,” Nellie Moffitt, CNIC’s Navy General Library program manager, said in a statement. “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.”

The Lock e-reader devices share several characteristics with the company’s pre-loaded Playaway audiobook and Playaway View video solutions, Ralph Lazaro, VP of digital products for Findaway World, told LJ.

“We have a longstanding relationship with the Navy and other government agencies and military branches through our Playaway product,” Lazaro said. “At its core, Playaway is a pre-loaded, locked-down electronic device that’s secure, non-transferable, and lends itself well to circulation environments.”

Although Findaway’s Lock design was inspired by the Navy’s RFI and later request for proposal (RFP),  the company believes there will be demand for these pre-loaded, manipulation-free e-reader features from other organizations, including schools and public libraries.

“There’s a lot of places where sharing content to a user base is not simple, because of security requirements and device requirements,” Lazaro said. “We’ve been getting inquiries from other military branches from all over the world, where they have service men and women stationed in remote areas, they have space limitations, or they have someone who is on the go and constantly moving, and you can give them one device with hundreds of titles… And we’ve talked to school districts that … don’t want to have unrestricted Internet access, and they want to make sure that their content is encrypted and locked down, and is a very curated, focused list of titles.”

Even private sector companies, such as medical organizations, have expressed interest in Lock as a means of circulating their own restricted content, Lazaro added. In these potential scenarios, an organization would provide Findaway World with its restricted files, which would then be encrypted and loaded on the Lock devices by Findaway.

“When we created Playaway, it was a bit counterintuitive to preload content that was then static. But we’ve now created this marketplace for preloaded content on devices. Now we’re seeing the same demand for Playaway happen for ebooks,” he said. “At its core, it’s enabling content [delivery] in places where it’s otherwise challenging to give digital content to users.”

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

Comments

  1. I do not quite understand the reason why navy did not just order these military e-readers from real e-reader companies. Just let them produce the military version!

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