Last October, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) made history by releasing the first ever free iBook version of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Now a free Kindle version of the FAR is available too, making it simpler than ever for acquisition professionals and business owners to always have access to the complex rules governing the federal government’s purchasing process – even when mobile service is knocked out by a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster.
“Basically, anyone who does or wants to conduct business with the government reads the FAR – it’s essential reading for federal contracting officers, business owners, and federal contractors,” said Dan Briest, Program Manager of Acquisition.gov in GSA’s Office of Acquisition Policy. “The idea for the Kindle and iBook versions came after we received multiple requests for a downloadable version of the FAR from employees who aren’t always working in a traditional office. Contracting must go on regardless of whether there’s a strong WiFi signal where you are.“
Not being able to access an online version of the FAR on a laptop because WiFi is down has always been a problem for acquisition professionals working in the field. This is especially true for a contingency contracting officer who is responding to a disaster area, addressing emergencies, or leading rescue missions. With the free e-book version on a phone or tablet, these specially trained volunteer first responders always have the FAR at their fingertips, no matter where their work takes them.
“Contingency contracting officers and other teams responding to assist in disaster relief need the FAR – but mobile signals are going to be down, so an online version won’t be of any use. However, they aren’t the only ones needing instant access to the FAR,” recounted Briest. “Not everyone is always working in a traditional wired office these days. The Department of Agriculture often has employees traveling to areas without internet and they still need to be able to look up regulations. These are the people who have been asking for a downloadable version of the FAR.“
The Kindle version of the FAR has the same functionality that’s incorporated into every Kindle book, which means readers can perform searches, write notes, and highlight or save the sections they use most often.
Why release the FAR in ebook form, rather than an app? GSA first considered offering the FAR as an app, but realized they already had all the information necessary to publish it as a free iBook. That decision, says Briest, saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. “That’s what it would have cost to develop a mobile app version of the FAR and keep updating it through the years. Both the new Kindle FAR and the previous iBook version are totally free. And will stay that way.”
Rule changes occur as often as once a month, so a hard copy of the FAR can be out of date almost as soon as it is printed. Ebook FAR owners will receive a notification each time there’s an update, with the new editions downloading, free, the next time they connect to WiFi. And the FAR is always available to download again from the cloud, should the user upgrade a tablet or phone, or delete their eBook in error.
For more information on how to get a free copy of the FAR on iBook or Kindle, visit https://www.acquisition.gov/mobileaccess.