Thoughts on the eBookman

Disclaimer: This is just one person's thoughts and ramblings. No harm, infringement, etc. is intended. I represent no one but myself.

Looking for a device to read on and you want to take it with you? Well, take a closer look at Franklin's eBookman.

eBookman - Programs screen eBookman - Backside view
Front and back views. (click for larger images)

Pictures | Comparison | Programs | Accessories | Tips & Tricks | Links | Battery Data | [eClean HTML - removed].


I first saw this device on CNet, which once aired on the Sci-Fi channel early in the morning. At that time I had been avidly reading what I could find on my PalmV. The eBookman's larger screen yet still small form factor appealed to me.

I had been looking hard at the Rocket eBook and SoftBook at the time. Aging eyes want larger text that they can read without having to "turn the page" every other sentence. Besides the price of the afore mentioned devices, at that time, I just couldn't see lugging around something of their size. If it doesn't fit in a coat pocket I probably won't take it with me.

Time passed and just as I was about to try to get a developer unit the eBookman hit the general market. Since the first day I got it [02/21/2001], I couldn't be happier. Well, okay, I could (as any gadget nut wants more), but I'm quite satisfied. My first unit even had the infamous battery problem (change batteries, lose OS). Franklin was outstanding in replacing it.

Update [11/24/02]: Per Franklin's Quarterly Report on Nov 14, 2002 research and development of the eBookman has stopped.
"Operating Expenses
Total operating expenses decreased by... The decrease resulted from the discontinuance of any current year research and development expenditures relating to the eBookMan product line..."

What does this mean? (Note: I don't speak for Franklin or anyone else, so take what I write at your own peril.) From what I gather it means (for now?) no operating system updates, no desktop software updates, no more bug fixes and no new features in Franklin produced applications, and no new units produced by Franklin. I doubt it means they will not honor warranties or the current desktop and operating system will disappear any time soon. However, I have added how to download the desktop and operating system so you can back it up to the tips.

Interestingly Franklin has licensed the eBookman technology to a company in the Philippines. Read it here.

As for me, I'm still quite happy with my unit and have a spare in storage. With the close-out prices available, check Costco and Office Max, you couldn't ask for a better deal now. Lots of folks, like me, got their REB-1100 units when they went on close-out sale and the original RocketBooks are still in demand.


Click here to view the eBookman along with a PalmV and a REB 1100. I moved them so this page would load faster and not burden those on dial-up.

How I think it compares:

First, realize my primary experience with handhelds has been with my PalmV and various other PalmOS devices my friends have. Only recently did I purchase a REB 1100 (RCA's Rocket eBook), but that was because it was at clearance prices and not because I was unhappy with the eBookman. Another thing of note is I require glasses as I am near sighted (can't see far away). However, it's so bad that I must be no farther away than 8" to comfortably read 10 point text without my glasses. Most hardcover books use 12 point and most paperbacks use 10 or even 8 point text.

As a reader, I think this is an outstanding device. I had been reading on my PalmV for some time before I got the eBookman. First it was just quick technical reference type documents and then it grew into stories and news. While traveling on business, especially cross-country, I could often go through several paperback books. Having them on a portable device had several advantages. However, with the Palm screen I always felt like I had to "turn the page" too often even on the smallest font. I tried the reader CSpotRun, which allowed me to view things in landscape mode (making the wide part of the screen the width instead of the height), but even though the line length and positioning was better I still had to "turn the page" often. CSpotRun also provided an auto-scroll setting, but this did not work well for me as I never could get it set to a speed I liked.

With the eBookman I am able to read comfortably for hours. Using the smallest font gave me a "page size" close to a paperback novel. The medium font is comfortable as well. Yet the largest font is almost too big in that I have to scroll more often (see the pictures). With the small font it is able to display as much text as the REB 1100, using it's normal font (see the pictures). The eBookman does provide a jog wheel, which makes it much easier to "turn the page". Also, if you are using MobiReader, you can simply tap the sides of the screen to accomplish the same thing. In another font comparison, while the REB 1100 does have nice large type it only has two settings - normal and large; granted it does have a much larger screen. The REB 1100 also provides large buttons for "turning the page", but my jury is still out whether they are any better or not.

All of this scrolling does matter, as there are several cases where you only want to hold the device in one hand. One being when you are keeping the other on your luggage to make sure it doesn't wander off (I dislike standing in a long line with nothing to do). Another case is if you are disabled and may only have the use of one hand. For this instance the eBookman's weight is also a plus. Compared to the REB 1100's weight, it should be easy to hold for any length of time. I've found my wrists getting tired holding the REB 1100 after a chapter or so.

As for the display of pictures, the eBookman does as well as the PalmV quality-wise. I was shocked when I first converted a document with pictures and looked at it on the REB 1100. After taking a second look, the REB 1100's display of pictures may be low quality but are adequate enough to deal with. I realize the lower picture quality does make for a much smaller file size (example: an HTML with pics converted to Mobi-format PRC is 241K and converted to RB format is 22K). However, I'd rather have a larger file size in order to get better picture display. In fact, MobiReader is able to handle pictures rather nicely. If the picture is too large it will scale it down in the document and allow you to zoom in on it as needed. There are examples of this and the picture quality on the picture page.

As a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), I do think the eBookman comes up short compared to the Palm (comparing supplied applications only, not 3rd party). The primary thing I feel lacking in the eBookman's PDA applications is categories. If you have many contacts, especially business-type contacts, being able to filter your address book is very handy. Now you can filter by writing in the supplied FIND area - say writing an "A" will only show contacts beginning with the letter "A"; which is handy and for the basic PIM (Personal Information Management) user it will suffice. However, if you are looking primarily for a PDA for business use you may want to look else where, ie a cheap PalmOS-like device, or get the eBookman only for reading.

The eBookman does have other features, such as being able to play's books (similar to books on tape) or MP3s (see programs below) or record voice memos. However, I don't use these applications so I don't feel I have a right to comment on them.

On battery life, I feel that it ranks close to my PalmV. See my battery data below. The feature I did prefer on the PalmV was it's rechargeable battery. For me that was easier than remembering to carry spares. The device that wins hands down here is the REB 1100. To be fair, though, one must realize the REB 1100 holds a much larger capacity battery.

For backlights, the REB 1100 has a powerful one. Typically I run my REB at 20% backlighting, but even then it is so bright I would hesitate to try to read with it on at night if you share your bed with a light-sensitive person. The eBookman's backlight is comparable to the PalmV and I do find it quite comfortable to read by. However, if you are going to do a lot of low-light reading with the eBookman I suggest investing in the AC adapter. All backlights place a heavy load on the batteries. Interestingly I have a hard time reading the REB 1100 in any lighting situation except bright sunlight without the backlight on. With the eBookman and PalmV I was able to read in even dusk-like lighting conditions.

MS Reader did not make it. Neither Franklin nor Microsoft are very forthcoming as to why. Personally I think it's Microsoft that withdrew from the agreement, but then I'm with the folks that think of them as a monopoly. When I purchased the eBookman I was not interested in MS Reader anyway, though many people were. In fact, I was very happy when MobiPocket ported their MobiReader to the eBookman as I preferred their reader on the PalmOS. MobiPocket's reader works with many other device OSes, such as EPOC32 and WinCE to name a few, unlike many other document formats, such as LIT. This means content created in their format can be read on a variety of devices without having to make it for each specific OS. In my opinion this is how e-books should be, especially if they are ever going to catch on, and a favorite publisher of mine, Baen, does produce e-books in Mobi format.

Programs it comes with (as of OS v2):

Franklin Reader - For displaying Franklin's FUB-formatted books. Now supports images.

MobiPocket's MobiReader & Web Companion - For displaying TXT, HTML, PDB (standard PalmDOC format), and PRC (Mobi format). The reader supports images, internal hyperlinks, and bookmarks. The Web Companion allows for downloading news and quick conversions of TXT and HTML files into the Mobi format (a compressed format).

Audible Player - Plays books bought from

MP3 Player - For playing converted MP3s.

Voice Recorder - For voice memos. Record & play. (need to check on conversion to desktop usable format as I don't use this program)

Address Book - For keeping addresses. Does not have categories like PalmOS's built-in one.

Calculator - Just your basic here.

DateBook - A datebook application for keeping appointments and such. I find it comparable to PalmOS's built-in one.

Memo - For keeping memos. Does not support categories like PalmOS's built-in one. (need to check on the size limit, if there is one, as PalmOS's built-in app had one)

To Do - For check lists. Does not support categories like PalmOS's built-in one.

See Links below for where to get other applications.


AC Adapter - As mentioned previously, if you are going to be using the backlight for long periods of time this would be a wise investment. The alternative is to use a USB cable hooked up to a running computer.

Serial Cradle - This is for folks either using older computers that do not have USB ports or for those running NT, which does not have USB support. Serial is very slow and I find it almost unbearable when loading or reloading the OS.

[more coming soon]

Tips and tricks:

Converting files for reading on the eBookman:

If the file is TXT or HTML, you don't have to convert it. However, converting it will often compress it (make it smaller).

Franklin provides a Content Developer's Kit, which allows you to make their FUB-type files. For the average user I don't recommend this route as it's rather involved at this point. You'll need to sign up in their developer's forum to access it.

MobiPocket provides two ways - via the Web Companion, now included, or Publisher. The Web Companion is fine for content contained in one file, where as the Publisher is able to handle multiple files and has other nice features. The personal edition of Publisher is free, but the Standard and Professional additions offer more features that will interest publishers. (Note for publishers: Mobi-formatted documents can be encrypted.) All Mobi-formatted PRC files can be read on a number of devices, which means you can share your files with PalmOS and PocketPC users to mention a few. I will note that while Mobi does retain most HTML formatting, it only understands very basic HTML code.

If you produce your HTML with any MS Office application you will most likely have a lot of work in cleaning up MS-proprietary HTML code (Office 2000 users see MS's site for an add-on to help clean it up). If you are only converting MS Office documents for your own use I would recommend getting MobiPocket's Office Companion. For cleaning up HTML from other sources I recommend HTML Tidy or you can try my program, eClean HTML [removed]. Both are freeware.

Fixing the black highlight problem in MobiReader Pro 4.5

Delete the MBP_global_configuration.mbp file. (Thanks to Ga�tan on the Yahoo group for this.)

Creating your own eNews channel for use with Mobi's Web Companion:

Quick & dirty steps:

  • Add Computer World to Mobi's Web Companion. (I'm sure there are others this simple, but...)
  • Find the Mobi Web Companion directory (if installed with the desktop download, look for a 'webcomp' directory under the Franklin one. In that, find the 'data' directory and make a copy of the files there to another directory.
    Example directory name: Test
  • Rename all the 'computer_world.*' files to something else.
    Example: test.enews, test.xsl, test.xml.
  • Open the *.enews file in an ASCII text editor, like Notepad.
  • About the 5th line down is 'xml-extraction='. Remove everything between the quotes and the quotes themselves.
  • Next line is 'xsl-rendering='. Replace the text between the quotes with the name of your *.xsl file.
    Example: xsl-rendering="test.xsl"
  • Next line is 'periodicity='. Change this if you want it to look for updates more or less often. For testing I use '1 min'. However, I've also found when testing the sync I need to delete the *.html and *.prc files in the directory.
  • Skip a couple of lines and change the text between the 'title' and '/title' tags. (Tags are enclosed with < & >, keep that part <grin>.)
  • A few more lines down is the 'SEC' part. In the 'website' tag, adjust 'max-levels=' to the number of levels deep you want to follow tags. Also change 'get-pics=' to 'no' if you don't want the pictures.
  • In the 'url' tag, next down, place the URL to the page you want to start drawing from. Example: You can specify a specific page, such as 'programs.html', to start from if you want.
  • Between the 'restrict-to' tags, place the site URL if you don't want links that go off-site followed.
    If you do want to follow off-site links, just remove this tag set entirely.
  • Save the *.enews file and open the *.xsl file.
  • About the 5th line down you'll see the 'title' tags again. Replace it with what you want.
  • About 8 lines further down you'll see 'LOGHOST'. Remove everything between the quotes in the 'url=' part.
  • Skip down a few more lines to the 'H1' tags and replace the text with what you want to show on the cover page. Also, remove the 'img scr=' tag or fix it if you want a picture to appear.
  • Technically I don't think you have to do anything else, but I also replace 'computerworld' in the 'DIV logas=' with something like 'test'.
  • Save the file and exit.
  • Open Mobi Web Companion. Select the File menu, Add Local File... and browse to your enews file. You are now ready to Sync.

Tip: Make a backup copy of your files, because if you ever right-click and pick Unsubscribe or use Force Update they get deleted.

An interesting site I found that lists mobile-friendly sites:
Not tons of links there, but some good sites to play with.

Site with eNews files:

USB notes:

In the past there were problems with VIA's chipset. If your motherboard uses this chipset, make sure you have the latest desktop. You can also try one of the other USB ports and/or plug in another USB "interrupt" device, such as a mouse.

USB hubs are also causing problems, both the unpowered and powered ones. I have a Belkin powered USB hub that works fine once the OS is on the eBookman. In order to install the OS I have to plug the eBookman directly into a USB port on the computer.

There was a report of a problem with a USB add-on card some time ago. This is a card you would install in an older computer that does not have USB ports or a USB header on the motherboard. It should be fixed now. However I haven't heard any confirming reports of a fix, but then I haven't heard of any more problems either.

Sync PIM data with Yahoo:

The eBookman Desktop comes with IntelliSync, but it can only sync with certain programs and the desktop has no interface like the Palm Desktop. Thanks to a smart Aussie, Rod, there is a way to sync your data with Yahoo (see message 370 in the Yahoo/eBookman group). This will allow you to manage your data from any computer with a web browser and an internet connection. There are many reasons to do this - easier entry/editing and having your data stored elsewhere to name the best ones. You'll need the eBookman Desktop with IntelliSync, a profile setup on Yahoo with the calendar and all enabled, and IntelliSync for Yahoo (found under Synchronize in Calendar Options). I have posted a link in the Yahoo eBookman group, Files section, under eBookman Software to the older version that works in case the new one does not (~ 5megs zipped).

  • First, install the eBookman Desktop with IntelliSync. Anytime you install or upgrade the eBookman Desktop, remember to get the one with IntelliSync. If you want to upgrade your eBookman Desktop, you will need to uninstall the current one and follow these instructions all over again.
  • Next, install the IntelliSync for Yahoo.
  • Now, double-click the IS4 Yahoo icon on your desktop. Enter your Yahoo name and password.
  • Next, open the eBookman Desktop and select the Setup Menu... IntelliSync.... Then select each PIM application and click Choose to select Yahoo to sync with. If you already have data entered with Yahoo, you will want to select Import the very first time you synchronize. The go back and set it Synchronize thereafter. Also, for each PIM application, select the Advanced... button to setup things like conflict resolution (I prefer to have it ask) and field mapping (I like to use the eBookman's Address Book's Custom 4 equal to Yahoo's Address Book's Category field because I use categories).

Before you sync you will need to connect to the internet. Many of us have found that it works best if the Yahoo Calendar web page is displayed in your web browser and it is not asking you to login. When ready, just click the Sync button in the eBookman Desktop. (Note: occasionally I have problems if I have WebWasher active during sync.)

Multiple Units

If you have multiple eBookmans it is possible to use one computer for all. Simply create a new directory in "Program Files\Franklin Electronic Publishers\eBookMan Desktop Manager". Name it so it is easily recognizable which unit is to use this folder. Then, in the Desktop, under the File menu select Change Sync Folder. It will automatically create the Audible, Contents, and Library directories under the new directory.

Remember to change the directory before syncing the unit to the correct one. This is required because the OS is keyed to the serial number of the unit.

Archiving the Desktop and Operating System

[Update 01/05/03: The method originally described here still required contact with Franklin's servers.]

If you want to backup the Desktop and Operating System install files to CD or other media, so that you do not need access to Franklin's web site at a later date, it is fairly simple.

  1. First download the Desktop Manager from their site, picking the option to Save instead of Run. The Desktop is not keyed to the eBookman and you can archive the file you downloaded without any extra steps. We assume the Desktop Manager is installed for the following steps.
  2. If you have previously downloaded the OS & Apps and/or have things in your sync folder and you want to back up a clean copy you will need to create another sync folder. If you don't want to go thru the following hassle skip everything here and just archive your "Contents" folder, which has the added benefit of also archiving your applications. Warning: This step requires you erase your eBookman, so do a sync or an MMC backup before continuing! To erase your eBookman remove any MMC card and perform a hard reset by holding the power button and pushing the reset button on the back or remove the batteries for a few minutes. Now create a new folder, assuming default install location for Desktop Manager, under C:\Program Files\Franklin Electronic Publishers\eBookMan Desktop Manager\. Now open the Desktop Manager, go to the "File" menu, and select "Change Sync Folder". Select the new folder you just created.
  3. Now, with the eBookman plugged in and turned on, go to the "Web" menu and select "Download OS/Applications". When it is done downloading click "Yes" to sync. This is the key as Franklin is again contacted and, as far as I can tell, the frnkebos.seb file is keyed to your eBookman. When it has finished syncing, you can now archive this sync folder's "Contents" subfolder. If you want to test it, either copy everything in the "Contents" folder to a new location or zip it (with the zip file placed in another location), hard reset, disconnect from the internet, and sync again.
  4. To change your sync folder back and get your original information back, remember to go to the "File" menu, to "Change Sync Folder", and select the "Data" folder (unless you have multiple eBookmans and have setup separate folders for them). Then you can sync again. Or you can hard reset and restore from your MMC.

Connection fails after OS is installed

When I run my USB cradle off a USB hub the OS will install but the eBookman will not reconnect to the desktop until I turn it off and back on. Of course this presents a message about a failure. While I haven't found a fix for it, what I do is wait for the "not connected" icon to appear on the eBookman while the Desktop Manager is saying "Waiting for OS to install". As soon as the "not connected" icon appears on the eBookman, about the 30 to 35 count on the computer, I turn it off and then back on. It then connects in time and the Desktop Manager proceeds with the sync.

Other available applications:

Places to get reading material:

Other links:

Battery Data:

This is the data that I have kept on the eBookman's battery usage. I haven't kept records for every set of batteries, but this should give you a good idea. Note that things like games do require more processor usage and therefore drain the batteries quicker. None of the following times were during backlight usage or non-use for more than 16 hours. Even though I get around 2 hours less with the NiMH I have grown to prefer them over throwing away alkalines.

  • [battery brand & type]
    • [set #] - [hr:min] <-[activity percentage]
  • Rayovac NiMH Rechargeable
    • #1 - 6:10 <-50/50
    • #2 - 5:20 <-games
    • #3 - 5:10 <-games
    • #4 - 5:05 <-games
    • #5 - 4:40 <-games
    • #6 - 6:25 <-50/50
    • #7 - 4:10 <-games 80 read 20
    • #8 - 5:20 <-games 70 read 30
    • #9 - 4:30 <-games 80 read 20
    • #10- 6:25 <-games 70 read 30
    • #11- 6:20 <-games 75 read 25
    • #12- 6:35 <-games 65 read 35
    • #13- 6:25 <-games 65 read 35
    • #14- 5:35 <-games 75 read 25
    • #15- 5:05 <-games 95 read 5
    • #16- 4:50 <-games
    • #17- 6:35 <-games 55 read 45
    • #18- 6:15 <-games 60 read 40
  • Rayovac Alkaline Rechargeable
    • #1 - 5:00 <-games
    • #2 - 5:00 <-games
    • #3 - 3:50 <-games 80 pda 20
    • #4 - 3:30 <-games
    • #5 - 5:00 <-games 80 read 20
    • #6 - 5:00 <-games
    • #7 - 4:15 <-games 80 read 20
    • #8 - 5:55 <-50/50
    • #9 - 4:35 <-games 75 read 35
    • #10- 5:00 <-games 60 read 40
    • #11- 4:45 <-games 75 read 35
    • #12- 4:40 <-games 75 read 35
    • #13- 2:10 <-games
    • #14- 2:40 <-games
    • #15- 3:10 <-games 75 read 35
    • #16- 2:20 <-games 80 read 20
    • #17- 4:10 <-games 20 read 80
  • Energizer Alkaline
    • #1 - 9:30 <-?
  • Energizer Titanium Alkaline
    • #1 - 8:55 <-games
    • #2 - 3:50 <-?
  • Duracell Ultra Alkaline
    • #1 - 10:30 <-?
    • #2 - 10:40 <-?
    • #3 - 8:50 <-games
  • Duracell (Plain) Alkaline
    • #1 - 8:45 <-?
    • #2 - 8:30 <-?
    • #3 - 8:15 <-games
    • #4 - 8:15 <-games
  • Rayovac Maximum Alkaline
    • #1 - 7:00 <-?
    • #2 - 8:10 <-?