It was with a heavy heart that I read the news
last week that Frommer's
guidebooks will cease to be printed. The guidebooks were purchased by Google last summer, and as of this year, the entire future list of titles will not be released. With the takeover of digital apps
, social media
, and user-generated content, we knew this was coming, but it still feels like the end of an era. It's become fashionable for any traveler (especially for writers, including our own bloggers
) to be dismissive of the printed guidebook, claiming they get all their tips "from locals on the road" or via social networks, possibly demurring to an occasional read of Lonely Planet. Let's dispense with the tired traveler vs. tourist argument; we can all benefit from practical info for navigating a new place, and no matter how "local" you go, there's nothing wrong with visiting the museums and attractions for which a destination is known. Even as an active member of the "new media," I mourn the death of guidebooks like that of a friend.
The greatest gift of the digital age to the traveler is online trip planning. I'd never want to go back to the days of travel agents and phone reservations. I've spent hours on the Internet booking flights, reading hotel reviews and soliciting advice and recommendations from friends, but guidebooks
have always been the heart of my pre-travel ritual. Each year, after we had narrowed down the destinations to a few (often places where American Airlines
coincided, back in the days where work travel generated a fair amount of status, miles and points for free vacations), my husband and I would spend a few hours at a bookstore, poring over the guidebooks for points of interest, relative costs of travel and local events that might happen during our travel dates. Back when I worked at Conde Nast Traveler
magazine, my desk was next to the research department, making me feel like a kid in a candy store. Shelf after shelf of guidebooks, atlases and travelogues gave me a keen eye for what features are the most useful in a printed travel companion.