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Is the travel guidebook publisher dead soon?

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DEATH OF THE GUIDEBOOK
The BBC has apparently sold off its travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet, having been known to millions backpackers over the years as a steady travel companion through journeys along dusty highways in Indonesia and dangerous passes in the Andes.

lonely planet guidebooksNow, though, it’s all over – at least according to the Guardian’s reporter Kevin Rushby, who states that paper books haven’t anything to do with modern travel. In a rather funny column, he tells the story of one of his own travels back in the 80’s:

So what might be the side effects of guidebook death? Travellers still need information and digital technology can provide all that very easily. The urge to get out beyond the limits of knowledge is still there, it always was. Back in 1982, arriving dust-covered and hungry in Khartoum, I remember seeing a long-haired American outside the post office with a cloth on the ground covered in pieces of paper torn from a school exercise book. On them were written poems that he was selling to fuel his further travels, and next to them, also up for grabs, was a well-thumbed copy of Geoff’s book.I was both shocked and impressed.

Selling the guidebook seemed like the last act before becoming a true traveller, a person who relied on word-of-mouth and serendipity. It was an act of bravery that I could not hope to emulate. Of course the poet might still be there, but more likely is that he made his own great journey, one like nobody else’s. In the future, perhaps, we will see a young traveller outside the internet cafe and on the ground a piece of cloth with a few poems for sale, and next to them, a phone.

 

Rushby makes a good case, but he fails on one argument – using a smartphone abroad can be very expensive. It hasn’t anything to do with paper guidebooks, he might be right there in theory. But as long as phone carriers insist on charging insane amounts while surfing on the 3G network of a competitor, phones aren’t that handy after all while traveling, other then for sending texts.

So, until there’s a change in international roaming charges, the odds are good old brick-like paper books will continue to take up a considerable part of every backpacker’s luggage.

Not to say that they really should, though.

(Myself, by the way, prefer the Rough Guides before the Planet, but that’s another story.)

 

 

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The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.