US Navy develops world’s worst e-reader


Could it be a ploy to encourage security research? Make the e-reader so dreadful the sailors will be motivated to find ways to put books of their own choosing on it?

I know, I know - not bloody likely…


Getting a 404:Nope on the Permalink.

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So the Navy wants to give books to their submarine crews.

Actual books would require far too much space, so they went with electronic books. Ordinary electronic devices can be security threats, so they closed all the security holes.

Honestly, how is this the “world’s worst e-reader”? This does exactly what it’s supposed to do - offer submarine crews the chance to read at least some books without taking up space or creating security vulnerabilities. They would have few to no books at all to read otherwise, so I don’t see how this is anything but a massive step forward.

The military is very good about paying for only want it wants and needs. If they want a survival firearm for tank crews or pilots, they don’t just give them the standard issue battle rifle that a grunt on the ground gets - they give them something suited to their needs. They give them a compact, reliable, easy to use weapon with a high ammo count - and nevermind that the weapon has a short range or low stopping power compared to a battle rifle, as those attributes aren’t important for the weapon’s intended role.

The same is true of the books they give to submariners.

No camera? Why would they need a camera? No internet connectivity? Why would they need that, especially in a submarine? No removable storage and no means to update the contained data? That’s no worse than paper books, and it keeps the device secure!


Although it seems like there should be a way for them to allow the library to load titles that had been requested by the individual sailors if the library system has those titles as e-books. Possibly written onto flash memory so that it can be wiped, By using unique form factors for the chip, the connection, and encrypting the data, it would be difficult to load something unauthorized.

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Surely they can send the e-books back every now and again to have their firmware updated and new books uploaded in a controlled situation.


This seems like a really good design. It’s not an iPad, it’s a device designed to replace 300 books on a ship at sea.

In terms of bang for your buck, I bet the Navy can get 5 of these for less than the cost of the equivalent 300 book library.


They could have made one that held thousands of titles for just a few dollars more…but no.


I bet they didn’t.


True, but now only five sailors can be reading books. Previously upto 300 could have been reading.

Cost of the library has gone down, cost per reader has gone up, and accessibility is waaaay down.

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Since the Stuxnet, I am sure the Navy knows what they are up against. Regarding the low capacity, and inability to update, well, they could distribute more devices with other books inside. We are used to thinking that one device should carry everything we have, but given the constraints, there could be a halfway between a kindle and a full library. For example, a ship with 1000 of these devices could carry 300,000 books at a fraction of a real paper library. Of course, picking one device would mean picking 300 books at the same time…

I could see another use for these books and their locked state: Storing technical manuals. When I was a radio operator assigned to a specific rig part of my signed-for kit was a shit ton of technical manuals. I can’t begin to imagine how many technical manuals or operations manuals or protocol manuals a submarine has onboard.


It wouldn’t matter if there was 1 or 100, Sailors don’t read manuals; they learn how to work gear from those that know from experience. Manuals are there for inspection purposes only.

The question is how many people on a submarine are realistically going to be reading all at the same time?

Surely the Navy has conventional libraries on base? Would it really be such a security hole if the e books could be rewritten at one of these libraries? I could even see locking the book to the boat so it wouldn’t work except on board. I wonder which titles will still be in demand in 20 years?

An OHIO class SSBN has a stated crew of 155. I suspect that trying to share one NeRD between 30-odd sailors is going to be impractical. Even assuming half of them don’t want to read anything, one third are sleeping and one third are on watch, that’s still five people trying to use each NeRD at the same time. With a real library of real books, everyone on the boat can have two books in their locker.

On a carrier, you’d have over a thousand people trying to ‘share’ each reader. Yeah … good luck with that.

FWIW, I think that e-readers are a really great idea for that particular use-case. But I don’t think five per vessel is anywhere near enough, and I don’t think preventing uploads to it - by hardware design - is a good idea.

No camera? Fine.
No WiFi? Fine.
No new books, ever. Wait … what?

Like all military equipment, sooner or later they’ll be available to the public, and it will only be a matter of weeks before we see hacker posts of how to load whatever you want into it. If history is any indicator, they’ll probably find that when you pop the back off there’s a mini-USB port next to the battery compartment.


This device makes complete sense to me. Not allowing regular books though reeks of stupid.