R.I.P. Lonely Planet

Apparently the publisher of the Lonely Planet series of guidebooks is going to cease making dead-tree versions of it content:

“The announcement of the ‘move to digital’ is harder to swallow given that Lonely Planet was regarded as an internet pioneer, launching its website in 1995 and establishing the Thorn Tree travel forum, considered a model online community until the BBC became concerned about unmoderated content and shut it down for a time.

It’s a moribund turn for a company that prided itself on being the down-to-earth guide for a generation of free-spirited travelers and vagabonds who set out without much more than a backpack, a Lonely Planet guide, and a lust for adventure.”

People losing their jobs sucks, but I don’t get the doom-and-gloom tone of this article.  I love me some travel guidebooks (I still pull out my Rough Guide Korea sometimes, even though I’ve been here for five years) but a jump to digital seems like the perfect move for the LP brand.

Then again, with sites like tripadvisor.com, the whole notion of a guide put together by four or five dedicated writers is probably past its prime.  Even in the backwaters of Laos and Cambodia it was beyond easy for me to book a decent rooms and find amazing restaurants just by using community-oriented travel sites.

I’d still be willing to plunk down, say, 10 bucks for a comprehensive country’s guide in digital form, if only for the condensed history and cultural and language sections that LP and RG are so good at.

But like newspapers, it’s hard to imagine a company paying full or even decent part-time salaries for information that can be fairly easily crowd-sourced for free.

What’s funny is that I just bought the LP Philippines.  And not surprisingly, it’s fantastic.

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4 Responses to R.I.P. Lonely Planet

  1. That’s too bad. I like reading guide books – not necessarily LP all the time, but still. I don’t think a digital version would be as fun to flip through and highlight as a real book.

  2. Mira says:

    I still guide books are here to stay. Although . . . now that we have smartphones and tablets, the case can be made that we can check the day’s itinerary each morning. But with a guide it’s all so much easier. I’m a fan of Michelin guides, DK Eyewitness guides, and Top Ten guides myself. And they do sell. I really don’t understand LP’s decision.

  3. Mira says:

    I meant “I think guide books are here to stay.”

  4. Sally says:

    There’s something to be said for knowing the writer of the content isn’t batshit crazy. You’re always running that risk just googling stuff on the internet.

    Maybe they could branch out and let people pick and choose what parts of the guidebook they want to pay for, like a pay-for-section e-book. No use paying for all of China when all you want is Shanghai, ya?

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