Published by DavidB on Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Franklin eBookMan


The Franklin eBookMan was an E-Book reader and personal PDA, produced from 1999 through to 2002, under the Franklin Electronic Publishers brand. Franklin then sold the rights of the eBookMan to American company ECTACO Inc., who continued to produce and support their own version of the EBM handhelds through to 2011 (with a modified OS).

Some of the features that set the eBookMan apart from the other PDAs out on the market at the time where:

  • The unique design of a “secure but open” operating system.
  • A high resolutions screen, specifically designed for displaying text.
  • Capability of recording and playback of sound files.
  • Advanced hand writing recognition algorithm.
  • A vibrant online community of independent content publishers.

In the relatively short time that the eBookMan was in production, the online community of users and coders developed some really great software for this amazing handheld device. Not only was the eBookMan great for reading e-books and periodicals, but it was a very robust and entertaining PDA, thanks to the software talented developers produced. Franklin also made it very easy for independent publishers to produce high quality books and other reading material for the eBookMan.

Designed by Franklin Electronic’s Chief Technology Consultant, Peter Yianilos, the eBookMan won the first annual Frankfurt E-Book Technical Achievement award in 2000. One of the advancements that brought particular attention was the eBookMan’s “secure but open” operating system. A very unique and effective design; never fully duplicated, even today.

Franklin provide a detailed guide on how to create e-books using their own version of the SGML (Standard Generalize Markup Language) that they developed for the eBookMan, called FGML. They also freely distributed the Franklin CDK desktop suite that did the compling work. And for software developers, Franklin produced an SDK development suite as well as a special “developers” version of the eBookMan.

On these pages, my goal is to preserve as much of this content as possible, before what ever does remain completely vanishes into oblivion forever. Although the eBookMan and it’s programs may not be very relevant to today’s digital audience, I still feel that it’s worth preserving and archiving these programs for posterity and historical reference. Besides all of that, I just think they’re really cool devices, as well as the digital organizers Franklin was producing during this time period.

Some eBookMan Specifications

Size Weight Display Hardware Features
5.17” x 3.39” x 0.67” 6.5 oz. 240 x 200 pixel LCD · 16-level grayscale display · High-resolution backlit touch screen with special polarizers USB port · MultiMediaCard (MMC) port · Headphone jack · Speaker · Microphone · Backlight (except on EBM-900)
Accessories Operating System Power Source Memory
Stylus · Removable lid · Cradle with USB connector (serial cable available) eBookMan Operating System 2.0 on a 24-MHz 32-bit RISC CPU (Franklin proprietary ASIC) 2x AAA batteries · USB powered when plugged in to cradle 16 MB SDRAM (EBM-911) · 8 MB SDRAM (EBM-901 and EBM 900) · MMC expansion port
User Manual

If you happen to still have an eBookMan, or perhaps copies of some of the software that was made available, and you don’t see it here, please send me a copy of it so I can add it to the archives.

The Franklin eBookMan still lives… here!