Army eBook Targets Apple Users


The U.S. Army just released its first eBook for combat leaders, but it’s only available to iPad users for now.

 The Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., recently completed the interactive version of “Vanguard of Valor: Small Unit Actions in Afghanistan.” Originally published in hardcopy a year ago, this new Apple iBook format presents eight accounts of combat actions in Afghanistan using text, 3D digital terrain views, videos, and interactive tools such as maps and charts.

Currently the new eBook can only be downloaded onto the iPad, but CSI officials are working on a version for Android-based devices.

“This was to some degree a pilot project for us,” said Don Wright, chief of Research and Publications at CSI. “Can we do it? How long does it take? What’s the reaction with in the Army from solders and commanders? We are still sifting through all that now.”

CSI began looking for ways to produce interactive pubs last year, and decided on Apple’s iBooks Author application since it provided a free template for combining text, video and graphics into an appealing packaging, Wright said.

 “It is quite easy to make a book into a PDF; it’s quite different to make it interactive,” Wright said, describing the six-month effort. “Another reason we went with Apple … was we know that at least lots of officers have their own personal iPads, and they use them on a regular basis when they are students at command and general staff college and the captains course. We know this because we are hearing directly from their instructors.”

The original book is 206 pages, and the new interactive version is 375 megabytes, Wright said. “We compressed a lot of the media, so it didn’t take a lot of space on an individual’s iPad and was relatively quick to download,” he said.

CSI’s eBook is another step toward the senior leadership’s goal of searching for ways to make training and instruction more interactive. The Army launched an initiative a couple of years ago to issue smart phones to every soldier but such a large-scale effort has proven to be both technically and fiscally challenging, Army officials maintain.

Offering free eBooks and other interactive tools that soldiers can download may be a more logical first step, Wright said. “This is the kind of thing soldiers have been asking for,” he said. “This is what they expect now.”

CSI officials hope to have an Android version of the eBook out by the end of the year and plan to make other books interactive as well, Wright said.

So far, the eBook “just went over 2,500 downloads, and it has been out a couple of weeks now,” Wright said.

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