Founded as Franklin Computer Corporation in 1981, the company made general purpose personal computers. Its first products were Apple clones, but it later produced IBM-compatible machines as well. The company was founded by three Philadelphia-area computer professionals: Joel Shusterman, who had started one of the largest Apple dealerships in the Philadelphia area, and Russell Bower and R. Barry Borden, who were experienced in computer manufacturing and engineering. After some legal trouble with Apple and the massive price reduction in the personal computer market that cost Franklin their competitive advantage, the company switched to electronic books in 1986. By 1992, Franklin’s line of electronic books included more than 30 titles. In October of that year, Franklin released the Digital Book System (DBS) . This device would take interchangeable electronic book cartridges which would lower the production cost and lower the cost of individual electronic book. The systems had 2 cartridges slot. The system was an immediate success and Franklin released a second iteration of the product (DBS-2) in the fall of 1993. The new systems could access 200 megabytes of data, substantially more than the DBS-1, and could access 200 megabytes of data, substantially more than the DBS-1. It was also cheaper, retailing for approximately $130.
In 1995, the company decided to release a new product for it electronic book. The product called Bookman would be the new default platform for all new electronic book, while the DBS would be limited to medical titles. The plan was to completely phase out the DBS by 1998 with the release of a product that better served the medical marketplace.
The bookman released as planned in 1995, with a different approach. Instead of offering two cartridges slots, the system would offer only one, but would come bundled with one of the software available on cartridges. This, in conjunction with the release of various models of the systems, resulted in hundreds of different systems combination. In other ventures, Franklin licensed its Bookman technology to the electronic firm Brother International, which would begin including built-in Bookman slots in selected word processors in 1996. Until now, Bookman cartridges could only be accessed through Franklin’s handheld Bookman hardware, which retailed for between $50 and $130. Now, Bookman cartridges owners could use the product in a word processor with a larger screen.
Over the next few years, the Bookman would be released under many different models : 100, 145, 440, 550, 640, 770, 840, 950. Each model had a different form factors. Later Franklin released the Bookman Sidekick which didn’t come bundled with any software but instead had 2 cartridges slots like the DBS.
A Bookman II system that is backward compatible with the Bookman cartridge was later released. It was followed by the Bookman III system, but it doesn’t seem that any Bookman III cartridges were ever made. The system shipped with a Bookman II cartridges instead.
Although very successful for its time, the system was never designed to be a video game system, so today’s it is considered as a obscure piece of gaming history.
Although the Bookman was not a dedicated gaming device, most cartridges did include some type of games in it (word games for the most part). But some cartridges were dedicated game cartridges.
Dedicated Game Cartridges
So far, 5 dedicated game cartridges have been found. This is not a complete list. Other cartridges surely exist.
- Bible Questions (BQC-2021) – 24.99$ : 2500 questions & answers about the Bible
- Blackjack & Video Poker (BJP-2034)
- Crosswire Trivia Game (XGT-2043) – 24.99$ – Test your knowledge at different skill levels. Categories include pop culture, literature, history, science, general knowledge and more.
- Math Blaster Mystery (MBC-2036) – 34.99$ – Based on the best-selling computer software. Four games with animated graphics. Follow steps, weigh evidence, decipher codes and search for clues. For up to 4 players.
- Word Games (WGM-2037) – 19.99$ – 10 games include Anagrams, Jumble, Hangman, Word Blaster, Word Train, Word Deduction, Word Poker, Memory Challenge, Word Auction and Word Capture.
Non-dedicated Game Cartridges
The system also adds numerous cartridges that included some type of games. This is not a complete list. Other cartridges surely exist.
- Read With Me Bible (RMB-2030) – 39.99$ : Over 100 stories from the Old & New Testaments for children, The cartridge included animation, word games, Jacob’s Ladder, plus a 700+ word glossary.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus (MWD-2001) – 29.99$ : Over 274,000 definitions and 496,000 synonyms. Spell correction for over 83,000 words and challenging games.
- Spanish Master/Maestro Inglés (DBE-2020)
- Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Speaking Edition (SCD 2049) – Pronounces and Spell over 83,000 Words. 274.000 Definitions & Over 496,000 Synonyms. Play 3 Words Games,
- Speaking FUN-damental Dictionary (SED-20XX) – Elementary Dictionary Pronounces 50,000 Words. Provides 100,000 Definitions and Spelling Correction. Hundred of Illustrations and Animated Graphics. Plays 4 Fun Word Games.
- Wörterbuch Deutsch-Italienisch/Dizionario Italiano-Tedesco (BLD-2070)
- Great Documents of American History (GDS-2026)
- Advance Thesauru (ATH-20XX) – Over 500,000 Synonyms plus Antonyms. Instant Spelling Correction. Plays 3 Word Games.
The system also had cartridges that didn’t include any type of gameplay. This list is not complete and might actually include cartridges that do include at least a game.
- Total Baseball Encyclopedia (BLB-2039) – 29.99$
- Columbia Concise Encyclopedia (ENC-2046) – 69.99$
- New International Bible (NIV-2004) – 49.99$
- King James Bible (KJB-2003) -49.99$
- Diet and Nutrition Guide (SLM-20XX)
- Power Dictionary with Thesaurus (PDT-20XX)
- Pocket Quicken (PNQ-20XX)
- Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (BCC-20XX)
- Dizionario Inglese-Italiano Compatto (BQL-2066)
- Parker’s Wine Guide (???–20XX)
- Diccionario de la Lengua Espanola (DME-20XX)
h Professor Plus (DBD-20XX)
- Speaking Spelling Ace (SSA-20XX)
Bookman II Cartridges
There are also a few Bookman II cartridges. These are the same shape as the original Bookman, but we suspect this is for backward compatibility of the systems and not the cartridges themselves. Meaning that the Bookman II systems can probably accept both the Bookman and Bookman II type of cartridges, while a Bookman II cartridge would not be readable on a Bookman system.
- Professior d’Anglais Larousse (BFQ-3033)
- Professeur D’Anglais / French Professor (BQF-2025): Translate and spells 200,000 words. Build-in grammar guide. Plays 7 language learning word games.
- Deutsch/Spanisch Professor PLUS – Diccionario aleman-espanol PLUS (BDE-2043)
- Deutsch/English Professor PRO (LDE-XXXX)
- Voice Pad (VPD-2048) – 24.99$
- Memory Card Module 2MB Flash Card (BMC-2)
- Memory Card Module 2MB Flash Card (BMC-4)