The Changing Landscape for Guidebooks


Disney World Fantasyland Guide MASTER

Disney World Fantasyland Guide by Katherine Jacob

Publishing and Writing: Trends in the Guidebook Market

Since March, we’ve seen great changes in the Guidebook market, from Google’s announcement regarding the cessation of Frommer guidebooks to BBC’s sale of the Lonely Planet to NC2 Media. While a drop in print books comes as no surprise, the question is whether there is still a market for guidebooks at all. With user-generated content and travel apps, are travel guides, even in new digital formats, still read?

Guidebook Authors

Popular Guidebook writer, Rick Steves, addressed this issue in a recent blog post: “All of these review-based websites are certainly useful and informative, and I use them myself when traveling somewhere new. But I believe that — just as you wouldn’t want to get all of your news from amateur bloggers — casual online reviewers take a hit-or-miss approach that isn’t always an improvement on an experienced guidebook researcher with a trained eye. Most users reviewing hotels on TripAdvisor have experienced a few dozen hotels in their lives; a professional travel writer has inspected and evaluated hundreds, or even thousands.”

Guidebook Publishers

In a Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) article, Dan Askin interviewed a number of publishers regarding the guidebook industry. While developing digital, Clare Currie, the publishing director for DK Eyewitness Travel and Rough Guides, told SATW Traveler that: “Our current reality is that more people buy guides in print than they do in digital equivalents, so we’ll continue to respond to the market and deliver great content in the format demanded by our readers.” Currie stated that guidebook markets tend to be all over the map, from families to retirees, and that many people use guidebooks as a dependable traveling tool.

eBook Benefits for Travelers

While print books don’t require batteries, eBooks are very compact and lightweight. It’s the technology that gives travelers accessibility to more content and intuitive functionality that isn’t possible via a traditional book:

  • Direct links video and audio
  • Move from one page to another via content links
  • Access to external websites for further information or background research
  • Increasing image and font size
  • Changing the background colour for a reading base

Are Guidebooks still viable?

We see that the future is still here for guidebooks that are thorough and well researched by qualified writers – they will simply be further enhanced by new technology. We agree with Rick Steves’ take: “For another decade, travelers will be toting print editions of guidebooks. Slowly, print will be replaced by digital. There will be a battle between various electronic information services, including guidebooks. Many users will opt for GPS-driven, crowd-researched apps. But plenty of others will still use guidebooks in their futuristic digital format—probably souped up with streaming video and GPS features.”

Tell us…

Do you still use Guidebooks? Are they in print or digital format?




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