The Death of Travel Books: More Digital Resources for Travelers

When preparing for any trip, I almost always weigh the advantages of bringing a second guidebook.  There’s no question that it’s wonderful to have another resource on what to see and do; the problem, however, is the bulky weight of so many heavy travel tomes. 

These days, however, it seems that more and more travelers are opting to lighten their load with zeros and ones instead.  A recent Reuters article discusses the growing trend of digital guidebooks and how some travel agencies are predicting the actual death of old-fashioned, ink-and-paper guidebooks.   

A number of different contenders are jumping into the game.  Although we’ve posted about a few of these before, the following is a brief and handy list, nowhere near complete, from the Reuters article:

The History Unwired project (which we’ve posted about before) uses global positioning hotspots to determine exactly where you are in Venice, Italy and then delivers pithy anecdotes and tourist information to your phone or PDA. 

Soundwalk combines “music, sound effects and interviews” to spice up walking tours throughout Manhattan, Paris, and Varanasi, India

Perhaps a more interesting spin on the walking tour is the addition of celebrity narrators to help keep your attention in case the city you’re visiting fails to do so.  Talkingsteet has hired Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler to wax eloquently about his hometown of Boston, and Sigourney Weaver to guide you through her hometown of New York.  Larry King also narrates a New York tour, but I’m afraid that listening to Larry all day might make me want to step directly into traffic. 

Lonely Planet, my favorite line of travel books, is banking on the hope that digital will not kill their publishing empire, but rather supplement it.  The company offers free podcasts, around 15 minutes each, which are intended to enhance your travel experience without detracting from the sales revenue of their printed guides.