In the last few years the United States Department of Defense and the various branches of the military have started making sweeping changes to promote digital reading. There are now e-readers provided for many of the servicemen in the navy and air force and dedicated e-book portals are provided to read books for free.
One of the companies who has made great in-roads with the armed forces is a company in Ohio called Findaway. They bid successfully on a number of contracts to provide the navy and air force with dedicated e-readers that do not have any kind of internet connection and are pre-loaded with hundreds of service guides and bestsellers from major publishers. The air force version is called the Aero and the Navy one is dubbed the Nerd. Thousands of these devices have been distributed to people in submarines and airmen stationed overseas.
Overdrive is the largest digital content provider for the vast majority of US libraries. 10 libraries last year had over a million downloads, so its a testament to their market presence. The company has developed exclusive content solutions for the Navy and Army where thousands of e-books and audiobook titles can be downloaded for free. There are curated reading lists from US Chief of Staff and others such as; See The World, Relaxation & Stress Management and of course new and notable books.
These two companies are basically providing most major army branches with digital content that serviceman can access for free. Of course, there are many government run bookstores that charge money and have selected reading lists and of course there are online destinations that include Amazon, Kobo and Google.
The big problem with most people stationed overseas, on aircraft carriers or submarines is that there is little to no internet access due to security risks. This makes buying e-books unfeasible and it is really only possible to read content you can had purchased before you got to your post.
Digital Reading is certainly not taking off in the military as fast as it had in the broader consumer segment. Print books continue to dominate and new titles have to be approved by a committee.
A few times a year an advisory group representing the Naval Academy, Naval War College, Naval Postgraduate School, Senior Enlisted Academy and Naval History and Heritage Command select titles they think would be applicable in a ship library. The Navy then ships out 1,150 collections of the top 18 titles considered “essential reading,” and two bonus books.
These books are also added into the digital Navy library called Knowledge Online, but it will require a program to be downloaded and cannot be used on Navy computers, you’ll need a personal computer.
It seems as though the US Air Force and Navy have really started to focus on digital content, but the other branches do not have a viable solution at all, including the US Marines.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.