Last week Lonely Planet, the world's largest publisher of travel guidebooks, announced it was laying off several dozen staff. A number of articles (Forbes and the Telegraph among them) suggested that the news may indicate the near-death of the print paper guidebook. The news came on top of last year's sale of the Frommer's guidebooks to Google, which then announced it planned to discontinue the print brand. Outraged, Arthur Frommer bought the brand back from Google and insisted he'd continue publishing in print.
Are travelers abandoning their guidebooks for their smart phones and tablets? Can Yelp and Trip Advisor replace the information carefully curated by experts in a guidebook? The Telegraph's non-scientific poll of 400+readers suggests that many travelers want to use guidebooks side-by-side with new technology. They're excellent for planning and they are practical in places where internet access may not be available or where rugged terrain or bad weather might ruin an expensive tablet.
Our Latin America Readers and World Readers are not traditional guidebooks, but they appeal to the smart traveler who likes to read up on a destination's history, culture, and politics before venturing there. Since we first published The Peru Reader in 1995, we have been offering people the chance to really understand a country before they visit it. Edited by expert scholars, each Reader contains hundreds of pieces, many translated into English for the first time. Readers are full of historical documents, poems, stories, memoir, comics, songs, recipes, and more. We don't think the desire for this kind of deep background will be lost any time soon. But since these books are heavy (The Mexico Reader comes in at 808 pages!), we know many travelers have to leave them at home when they actually voyage out. That's why since the publication of The Guatemala Reader in 2011, we have been offering the Readers as e-books as well as print books. Getting electronic permissions for all the pieces is no small feat for our editorial team, but we think it's well worth it.
This winter we're excited to be publishing The Chile Reader, edited by Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Thomas Miller Klubock, Nara B. Milanich, and Peter Winn, and The South Africa Reader, edited by Clifton Crais and Thomas V. McLendon. Both will be available as print and e-books. If you're planning a visit to either country, or if you just wish you could, we hope you'll pick up a copy.
Happy traveling, armchair or otherwise!