E-Books for Troops (EB4T) began with a single Facebook comment posted by Army Sgt. Andre Corbin on February 9, 2010. In response to a drawing for a free Kindle at the Reading Edge fan page, Andre wrote the following:
I am an active duty Army soldier getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan next month; it sure would be nice to have the K2 with me during the hours of down time – *hint hint*
Those two *hints* from Andre set in motion an effort to provide him with a Kindle before his one-year deployment from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.
Leaving Sgt. Corbin’s Kindle to chance would have meant long odds, so Reading Edge and Kindle Chronicles podcaster Len Edgerly e-mailed Patrick Mish, founder and CEO of M-Edge Accessories, whom Len had interviewed in January. Patrick and his team at M-Edge jumped at the request to donate a Kindle and accessories and contacted Andre to learn more about his story. This led to Len’s podcast interviews with Patrick and Andre on March 9 and the growing realization that Kindles and other e-readers are uniquely well-suited to the realities of soldiers’ service abroad.
Our troops have extreme limits on what they can take with them, and the benefit of good reading material during their off-time is compelling. Andre told Len of plans to load onto his Kindle two tomes on the history of Afghanistan, as well as an assortment of popular fiction. Here are some excerpts from Andre’s comments during the interview:
When soldiers deploy, they have a mandatory packing list of equipment/clothing which must be fitted into a rucksack and a duffel bag – and it takes good packing to get everything required stowed. Any personal items must fit into a backpack, that is basically a carry-on bag – not a lot of room.
When you only have about 1.5 cubic feet of space to pack personal items to last a year (or at least until care packages start arriving), you have to be very judicious in what you decide to bring.
Some people cram an X-box or other gaming system and not much else. Beef jerky, Twinkies, and other snackables are also common, since the closest 7-11 is a couple thousand miles away.
For me, a voracious reader who is addicted to the written word and regularly devours several novels/books a week, having the room for only a few books – even paperbacks tightly packed – could be a very frustrating dilemma.
Thank goodness for e-readers! Particularly the Kindle by Amazon since it is very much up-front and beyond its competitors with availability of titles and ease of wireless receipt. When you can carry 1,200 books in a device weighing ounces and smaller than a magazine, you are a happy camper. Or soldier.
After that interview, Len launched an initial effort called “Kindles for Kandahar“, to fund donations to provide SGT Corbin’s unit with additional Kindles. Ken Clark, one of Len’s listeners and a former Artillery officer in the U.S. Army, connected with Len and together they evolved the Kindles for Kandahar initiative into E-Books for Troops.
Len says, “I have saved the Facebook message that Ken sent me on March 7, because in my mind that’s the moment E-Books For Troops was born.” Ken wrote as follows:
This is such a tremendous idea. I am a former Army officer, and when I heard your interview last week I was nodding my head the whole way through – Kindles are just perfect for troops who are deployed. There’s so many ways to expand it even beyond an actual donation, i.e. pre-load x number of books on the Kindles before they get shipped to the soldiers, etc.
I would love to help out making this into a something larger and more expansive. Let me know if you are looking for folks to help with the initiative.
There followed more Facebook messages back and forth, a switch to email, a phonecall, and then near-daily communication between Len and Ken to set in motion a pilot project to distribute two Kindles at Sgt. Corbin’s base in Afghanistan and the creation of a nonprofit organization with tax-exempt status, E-Books for Troops.