(CNN) – For cybersecurity reasons, sailors on U.S. Navy vessels can’t always use smartphones and tablets. And in the cramped quarters of a submarine, there’s little room for shelves full of books.
So how is a bookworm sailor supposed to pass the time during those long hours at sea?
The Navy has a solution: The Navy eReader Device, or “NeRD” for short, a custom-made, secure e-reader that comes preloaded with a library of 300 titles. The device has no cellular connectivity or Wi-Fi, so there are no signals to betray its location or tempt enemy hackers.
Yes, that NeRD name may stigmatize reading for some seamen and women. But the Navy is hoping the new gadget will be a welcome companion for bored sailors.
“I know the paperbacks (on Navy ships) get passed back and forth until they fall apart,” said Nilya Carrato, program assistant for the Navy General Library Program. “We’re hoping the NeRD holds up a little better.”
The Navy will start by distributing five devices to each of the submarines in its active fleet, Carrato told CNN. Eventually, it plans to send NeRDs to all Navy vessels.
“I’ve gotten some e-mails from sailors on surface vessels who are very eager to know when they’ll get them,” Carrato said.
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, whose “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” would make a fitting read.
Contrary to some news reports, Carrato said the devices won’t contain any Tom Clancy novels, however. So if sailors want their “Hunt for Red October” fix, they’ll have to watch the movie adaptation on DVD.
The e-readers were developed for the Navy through a partnership with Findaway World, which provides digital devices and audiobook technology to the Pentagon. Publishing partners for the NeRD include Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and Random House.