Magazine article Information Today

E-Reading at Sea

Magazine article Information Today

E-Reading at Sea

Article excerpt

* Like many people who work long days, Jesse Goble wanted to spend his evenings relaxing with a good book. But unlike many of his bibliophilic peers, Goble is a former U.S. Navy electronic technician, and on deployment, the only books he could read were ones he brought with him on the ship. Once those ran out, he'd have to re-read them because it could be some time before he had the opportunity to buy more.

Luckily for Goble, he enjoys re-reading his favorite titles. And he was an early adopter of the Kindle, so it became standard practice for him to load plenty of titles onto it before heading out to sea. It saved him space in his bunk too-more books fit on the Kindle than in his luggage.

Goble could have visited his ship's library, but he says he rarely used it because his own Kindle collection had more titles, and he noticed that his colleagues would sometimes have trouble getting the books they requested. "If in your crew you have 20 people that are trying to read Dracula, and you only have five copies of Dracula, that means you have to wait," he says. There is one solution to this problem that the Navy had not yet implemented when Goble was serving: "[I]f you have 20 e-readers that all have Dracula plus other books on there, everybody gets what they want." Offering e-readers is becoming the Navy's standard practice, and it's going to give service members much better access to the titles they want to read.

The Navy General Library Program (NGLP), founded in 1919, is in charge of supplying the Navy with reading material. As part of the Navy's Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, under CNIC (Commander, Navy Installations Command), it caters to active duty, reservist, and retired members of the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, as well as to Department of the Navy civilian employees. It has stocked on-ship libraries unofficially since the 1800s, has offered a circulating digital library since 2005, and in spring 2014, it began providing the Navy's on-ship libraries with special e-readers full of curated content that can be loaned out to service members.

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"[M]aking sure there's enough in the library I think is a good idea just because your library space is limited, but if you cut down on the number of physical books you have, and you have an e-reader that can hold the entire library on one device, that's going to give you more options for the crew," says Goble.

A Longstanding Partnership

In spring 2007, the digital content delivery company Findaway World began to supply audiobooks to the U.S. military through its Play-away devices, which were preloaded with audiobooks and distributed to military library branches, beginning with the U.S. Army's. In 2008, Findaway began sending devices to troops on active duty in various countries. As of 2014, the company has shipped more than 1 million Playaways to service members in the armed forces.

The NGLP updated the libraries on Navy ships to include Playaways that featured audiobooks and foreign language learning. It got its feet wet with providing ebooks in 2007 by partnering with OverDrive to create an online lending library composed of special collections for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. It then began to consider creating an e-reader that could be circulated as part of ships' libraries and put out an RFP for ideas about a locked-down, read-only device in spring 2013. Nilya Carrato, the NGLP's program assistant, says that while "we were starting to figure out how to build this thing, Findaway responded with a couple of suggestions, and also that they would be interested in the project." Findaway was awarded the contract to create the device, and it began developing a secure e-reader that could have a catalog of content to "circumvent some of their content storage and security needs," says Kelly Lytle, Findaway's manager of digital partnerships.

Lytle sees an ebook partnership as a natural extension of Findaway's existing relationship with the Navy. …

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