May 14, 2014
NeRD: The Navy’s eReader For Bored Sailors
It is a strange paradox of military life; the combination of both danger and boredom that make up so much of the time spent in the armed forces. But the US Navy is introducing NeRD, an eReader for sailors that aims to reduce the boredom without increasing the danger.
How could an eReader increase danger, one may ask. Any form of cellular or WiFi connection to the outside world presents a risk for hacking and tracking from unwanted sources, including enemy forces. This applies not only to the obvious devices such as tablets, smartphones and the like, but even includes Kindle. NeRD, however, has no such connectivity and can be used purely for reading.
It is preloaded with around 300 books and greatly reduces the space traditionally needed for sailors to be entertained by literature, even if some people still like to insist on the superiority of real, paper books. In the Navy, such highbrow luxuries may have to be removed. “I’m afraid I prefer to feel the turn of the pages and adore the smell of a book’s paper.” “Get in that cabin and be quiet or you’ll walk to the plank.” “Yes, sir.”
As CNN points out, “Yes, that NeRD name may stigmatize reading for some seamen and women” in what may be seen as a more physical than intellectual environment, but they also quote Nilya Carrato, program assistant for the Navy General Library Program, as saying, “I know the paperbacks (on Navy ships) get passed back and forth until they fall apart. We’re hoping the NeRD holds up a little better.” The first distribution will be five devices to each of the submarines in the active fleet, but personnel on surface vessels are already asking when they will get their share.
CNN says, “Each NeRD will offer a mix of fiction, nonfiction, best-sellers, classics and historical books selected by the Navy. Popular titles will include the Game of Thrones series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Ender’s Game, The Lord of the Rings, Stephen King’s The Stand, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. More literary-minded sailors will be able to read digital versions of classics by Shakespeare, Jane Austen, James Joyce, Walt Whitman and even Samuel Taylor Coleridge.”
I’m not sure why the earlier titles mentioned don’t count as literature, but either way, it is clear that the sailors will have a good, broad selection. It must be noted that one comment on the CNN report from someone who was apparently Navy personnel said “Most crew members who read, myself included, brought our own books…the most popular reading material was…adult magazines.” But no doubt there is a range of tastes on board and all should be catered for.
CNN also said, however, that there will be no Tom Clancy, of Hunt for Red October fame.
We wouldn’t want sailors’ nerves being set all on edge, so probably best to stick to nice, cozy reading like Game of Thrones.
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