Popular Guidebooks Go Digital

guidebooksFrommer’s has a new series of guidebooks out. Nothing new there; that’s what they do. Unique to Frommer’s new “Day by Day” series though is that they are digital guides, which allow users to search, bookmark and navigate through the content easily.

Enabled by Inkling (the interactive textbook people), the Frommer’s “Day by Day” digital books retail between $10 and $15, and are available as individual apps or within Inkling’s app. Travelers can purchase them once to use them on both their iPhone and iPad. They contain hundreds of maps and thousands of Retina Display-ready photos, which makes it easy to plan upcoming trips on the new iPad.

Said to be far more useful than paper guidebooks, the new Frommer’s digital books contain both indoor maps for locations like museums, as well as outdoor maps that point to interesting destinations in their respective locations.

Also unique is a crowd-sourcing function that brings some of the social elements from sites like TripAdvisor on top of Frommer’s professional travel guide data.

Frommer’s “Day by Day” paper pocket guides have been popular with travelers for years. Odds are “Day by Day” digital will be too.


[Flickr photo by Let Ideas Compete]

Travelers And Bloggers Get Together With New Web App

travelersTravelers planning a trip often turn to a trusted travel information source, one they may have used before and had good results. That source might be a guide book, web site or travel blog like this one where intrepid travelers scour the planet for experiences and information. A new web application now hopes to connects travelers with travel bloggers in what could be a very viable and relevant source of travel information.

At Uencounter.me, travelers and bloggers create a personalized virtual pin map to mark locations of interest. Travelers might mark places they want to visit. Bloggers mark places they have already visited and produced content about.

“Tens of thousands of travel blogs exist on the web and the Uencounter.me Team is excited to provide a venue that offers the bloggers a resource for additional exposure,” said CEO Leslyn Kantner in a release. “We feel they are a perfect complement to our platform.”

The nature of the application encourages interactions between users about pins on the map. For example, I signed up and began by placing a pin in my hometown. Immediately, other pins pop up on the board from bloggers who had been there and written about it. The information and location of those pins came with a date and other background information to quickly scan before going further.

Bloggers are able to add a link to their blogs on the description of each pin they place on the map and Uencounter.me offers bloggers a badge to place on their webpage so that readers can link directly to the bloggers map.

Another use: Businesses and organizations can drop pins for where their customers or group members are located.

Sharing Your Google Map as Public



Flickr photo by Adams K.

The Green Book: A Guidebook For The Age Of Segregation

Green Book, segregationIt’s hard to imagine nowadays when the only limitations to travel are money, time and health, but for much of America’s history a large segment of the population had trouble traveling just because of the color of their skin.

During the days of segregation, most hotels were off-limits to African-Americans, as were other facilities like restaurants, movie theaters and campgrounds. Those that did allow blacks to enter had strict rules of segregation. Stopping at the wrong restaurant could lead a black family to being insulted or worse.

Yet a rising black middle class had just as much hunger for travel as anyone else. The problem was: how does one travel safely? One answer was “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guidebook that listed hotels and restaurants open to black people. While it wasn’t the only such guidebook, it was one of the most popular and long lasting. It was started by Victor H. Green in 1936 as a guide just for New York City, but soon expanded to include the whole country and eventually Bermuda, Mexico and Canada.

I’d never heard of this book until I saw it mentioned on the excellent website I’m Black and I Travel. I downloaded a free PDF of the 1949 edition from the University of Michigan website and found it a fascinating read. The book introduces itself as a resource “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.”

Then come the listings. I took special note of places I used to live. Tucson, Arizona, only had one listing for a restaurant and no lodging mentioned. Columbia, Missouri, had a hotel and a tourist home, which was a private home that rented out spare rooms to travelers. The hotel has since disappeared and the land on which it stood is now taken up by an adult store and theater. The guesthouse is now a private residence. New York City, of course, had plenty of listings. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing and the Harlem listings are longer than the listings for many states.

%Gallery-153462%Another city that has a sizable listing is Tulsa, Oklahoma. Only 28 years before, the thriving black neighborhood of Greenwood had been burned to the ground and hundreds of black people killed by a white mob in the worst race riot in American history. By 1949, numerous black-owned businesses had literally sprung from the ashes and got into “The Green Book.”

The advertisements open up a different era too. How long has it been since hotels boasted they had hot water and radios in every room? Only two national companies advertised in this edition: Esso, which was a leader in selling franchises to African-Americans, and Ford Motor Company, which placed an ad for its very cool 1949 convertible. Green also advertised his own reservation bureau, noting that a shortage of beds for black travelers made it essential to plan ahead.

There are also a couple of articles, including one on what to see in Chicago, highlighting its large black neighborhood as well as more general interest sights. Another article talked about Robbins, Illinois, which was of interest to the black reader since it was a prosperous town owned almost entirely by black people. The guidebook notes that with “no prejudice and restrictions” the community was able to boom. The article finishes: “It is worth the trouble to go out and take a look at what an experiment of an exhibition of what Negroes working together can do. Indeed, it would not be a bad idea to pitch in and help.”

One thing that struck me most about this book was the absolute lack of rancor. The problem of segregation is noted, and in a couple of places Green hopes for it to end one day, but there are no angry tirades against the injustice that black people were suffering. If I had been black in 1949, I doubt I would have been so charitable.

“The Green Book” is a sobering reminder of a sad time in U.S. history, and also a reminder that things occasionally get better – not 100% better, but time has seen a major improvement. Green stopped publication after 1964 after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It is now a rare item and it’s not even clear if a copy exists for every edition. If you think you or your grandparents may have a copy tucked away in the attic, go check. It should be preserved.

Do you have memories of travel in the age of segregation? Tell us about them in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy University of Michigan]

Travel Expert Brings Local Flavor To Guidebooks, Video

guidebooksKnown worldwide as travel editor for CBS News, Peter Greenberg has traveled the planet bringing far away places into living rooms for decades. Now, Greenberg shares his expertise on destinations around the globe in his new “Like a Local” series of guidebooks, videos and travel tips that go on sale April 16.

Teaming with Michelin, Greenberg is releasing the series of “Like a Local” travel guides to Buenos Aires, Cuba, the Caribbean, New Orleans, and Miami that have must-see sights and activities, but also reveal insider tips on how to navigate the process of travel to get the best experience.

“Learn tips like how to avoid the touristy tango clubs in Buenos Aires and dance with the locals in a milonga,” says a release touting Greenberg’s endeavour. Telling “where to find street food stalls serving locally sourced seafood in the Bahamas; how to spend a day with Cuban tobacco farmers in Pinar del Rio” and more, the series looks to be a winner.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Greenberg in Amsterdam and found him as colorful and descriptive about travel as one might expect. Speaking of his recent PBS special, “Mexico:The Royal Tour,” Greenberg was as passionate about experiencing the country with Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderón as his guide, undertaking whale watching in Baja California, rappelling down the Cave of Swallows in San Luis Potosi and zip-lining through the jungles of Puerto Vallarta.

Bringing that level of up-close and personal experience to us via guidebooks, videos and tips, the project promises to be far more than the sum of it’s parts.

Packing for Travel Tips


[Image via Flickr user LollyKnit]

Comedic team of ‘Portlandia’ set to create an off-beat Portland, Oregon, guidebook


Are you bored of the usual travel guidebooks aimed at everyday tourists? If you’re interested in Portland, Oregon, and would rather learn about funny, fictional places that could exist rather than the Oregon Zoo and the Portland Art Museum, you should put “PORTLANDIA: A Guide for Visitors” on your shopping list. Set to debut in November of 2012, the book is being created by the team who brought you the hit comedy series “Portlandia,” starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, which takes you on an off-beat tour of Portland while poking fun at the city.

“It will be written like a Fodor’s or Lonely Planet guidebook, but full of fake, made-up, humorous stuff that could easily exist in a place like Portland, but doesn’t,” explains Ben Greenberg, the executive editor of Grand Central Publishing who will be producing the book. “Everything will be a bit off.”


To get an idea of the team’s humor and what to expect, check out the clip above from “Portlandia” on the Independent Film Channel (IFC).