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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Matt Cox
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    Wow. The US army has a book writing department! I just wonder how many soldiers are using Angry Birds on those pads……

  • blight_
  • oblatt

    It must be demoralizing for the rearguard of defeat in Afghanistan to have to read books with titles like vanguard of valor.

  • jon doey

    lol – i love it…pretty soon the military will have BYOD for everyone!
    bring on cyber 911!
    brb – gonna go make some popcorn.

  • Jackson

    What an outstanding conceptual product aimed at our digital generation of soldiers. Well done!!

  • J4rh34d

    iPads are made where? Shouldn’t we have a more secure platform?


      Yes, Ipads are made in China. But the actual programming is done by software engineers at Apple. I agree that there is a risk for some espionage, but its kinda hard to know which iPads are going to the people, and which are going to the soldier.

  • Rick

    Why would they bother to target only iPads that are going to the military? Do you think that the pad belonging to a scientist working at Los Alamos or the CEO of a fortune 500 company or even just to a low level IT guy or secretary working for one of these people will have nothing that interests the Chinese government? It would be a massive flood of data to work through, but that is exactly why data-mining exists.

    In purely physical terms, it would be much easier to mass produce the chips (which are also made in China by Chinese) install them in everything and then just switch on only the ones you want to screen. The same sort of software that lets Microsoft know that your particular computer is licensed for and running just this one particular version of windows would work for the purpose.


      Eh, well that is true, you can add such a chip. But once again, you have to consider what effects such a chip would have on an iPad. Also, the chip would have to have some programming that can differentiate between a high-scoring Angry Birds game and a Top Secret document. That kind of technology is still a few years away, at best. The only other option is to have every single iPad be manually monitored. And, even with China’s colossal population, I doubt they can scrap up enough people for such a tall order. Finally, Apple knows what kind of flak it would get if it was found that the Chinese were implementing bugs into their devices. I am confident that Apple pulls random iPads from stores and scans them. Also, if you were to, say, break your iPad, and you gave it to Apple to fix, they would notice a weird computer chip inside. And then there would be a massive investigation, and so forth. So yes, China can put a chip into a computer, but its hardly practical, at least for now. It would be easier and quicker to just get iPad users to download a virus via a Trojan on the App Store.
      Really, if the government is worried about cyber-hacking (which they should, considering that much of modern military weapons are designed on computers, no blueprints) then why not create a completely separated, isolated network. Only government manufactured tech can connect to the network, and of course you have all your regular pass codes. It would be like having the government own its own private Internet. That, I think, should be the plan.

    • blight_

      Problem two is that a good network admin is going to notice lots of outgoing traffic to the same IP addresses, or if the traffic is going through anonymizers. If I see iPads trying to use the Tor network to dump tons of data it would be a signal to me that something fishy is going on.

      If the government had an inkling of some kind of automated worm, they could set out a honeypot and see which iPads start transmitting, but it’d requiring knowing beforehand what triggers were needed and that there was a penetration in the first place.