Len's co-founder is former Artillery Officer Ken Clark who helped develop the initial 'Kindles for Kandahar' into 'eBooks For Troops', expanding Len's idea into a worldwide non-profit organization dedicated to provided eReaders to Americans troops everywhere, at home and abroad. Included with the eReaders are reading lights and camouflage jackets for the Kindles, donated by M-Edge Accessories, and also Amazon gift cards that can be used to purchase eBooks. The first two Kindles were posted to the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan at the end of April.
Soldiers have little downtime, particularly when abroad on active duty, and that they do have is very prized and well used. When not on patrol or other forms of duty, troops must have some means of relaxation so that they are alert and ready when they have to be. Some watch TV when it is available and others play games, but reading has unsurprisingly always been a popular way to pass the time.
Troops have very little space for personal items and being able to pack hundreds of books into a small package lighter than the average magazine is of tremendous benefit to them. A Kindle 2, with its high storage capacity and Wireless downloading of eBooks, is the ideal reading platform for troops for whom even one book would be taking up a significant amount of space.
Distribution by Raffle
Due to the demand, Kindles in Afghanistan are distributed by free raffle, and rather than pass around the few physical books that are available round the entire camp, each being read by the same soldier several times over, troops can now pack 1500 books into a 10 ounce eReader. The Amazon gift vouchers enable them to select their own choice of reading material and download to their Kindle through the Wireless internet connection.
Kindles (must be K2) are either donated by the public or purchased with money obtained from donation or fundraising events, and then posted to the Army units where they are distributed either individually by means of a free draw, or for use as a shared resource. It is intended that eBooks For Troops will eventually be extended out to all branches of the armed forces. Says Army Chaplain Capt. Jim Mitchem at FOB Cobra in Iraq: "The lottery is working great causes some excitement each week as the name gets out."
In order to receive Kindles, an Army unit must be sponsored for the program through a sponsorship form published on the website, with reasons provided why that particular unit is a good candidate to receive the free Kindles.
Why the Kindle 2?
The Amazon Kindle was chosen by eBooks For Troops because it was believed to offer the best set of capabilities for troops. The Kindle 2 is specified because it is of the best design for field use, being slimmer and with a more secure back than the K1, and of a smaller profile than the DX. The firmware of the K2 is also still supported by Amazon unlike the K1 to which OS upgrades have not been applied.
There is also the benefit of economy of scale, where buying in bulk enables a lower price to be negotiated. This would not be the case were a mixture of models and manufacturers/distributors used. By including M-Edge Accessories in the venture, eBooks For Troops also have resource to the accessories that make eBook reading easier and safer for troops on active duty in the extremely hostile environment.