The Electronic Labyrinth

Franklin Digital Book System

Franklin Electronic Publishers' Digital Book System (model DBS-1-1) is a small (5x3.25x0.5"), light (4 ounces), device with QWERTY keyboard and monochrome screen (40x160 resolution). It uses a 65C816 processor with 32 KB RAM. Thus, it has more in common with an organizer than either Sony's Data Discman or a portable PC. Though it has a notepad feature, it is designed for more or less passive reference work.

The digital books themselves are tiny ROM cards weighing less than half an ounce. Each can hold up to 45 MB of data; a player can read two at a time. The player comes packaged with the Merriam Webster Dictionary and Word Games. Additional titles include a variety of dictionaries, medical reference books, and guides to baseball, nutrition, cooking, and so on. Interestingly enough, one book provides the player with the functionality of an organizer--calendar, address book, world clock, etc.--but this must be purchased separately. This is a marketing decision clearly designed to increase after-market sales.

Though the Digital Book System package costs a reasonable $199, additional books are prohibitively expensive at $50-130. In addition, the tiny five-line display makes leisure reading impossible. This practically guarantees that the device will be used for reference works only. Nevertheless, according to Japan's Nihon Keizei Shimbun (quoted in Herther), over four million units have been sold (10).

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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