I'm currently in Asia and bought some books before I came, only to flog them on Amazon just a few weeks later. I've come here with basic knowledge, with further information gleaned from the Internet and word of mouth.
I don't really like Lonely Planet books and the style of their writing, and I don't particularly like the snobbery of Rough Guides which always seem to me to be aimed at people who think they're 'travelers' rather than tourists even though they still end up very much on the tourist trail.
What really annoys me though is the bias. These books aren't impartial. They are written by people who have been to these countries many times and in some cases they even live there. In both cases it's because they've fallen inove with a place and they write about their favourite venues as if everyone else will love the too. As a result, you can read up on these places and then leave feeling considerably underwhelmed.
I much prefer sites like this that have a range of opinions and given the rise of wifi and the mobile Internet, I ask you, has the guide book had it's day?
#1 Este has been a member since 12/2/2010. Posts: 5
Apologies for typos, I mean "fallen in love" and "with them" not "with the"
#2 Este has been a member since 12/2/2010. Posts: 5
One point to consider is that guidebooks provide a kind of safety net for many tourists. Even if you don't use the guide book every day and religiously i think people like the idea of having a guidebook there just in case they get in a situation they're not sure of or, perhaps they don't know where to go next. Even if the listings can be somewhat suspect, a lonely planet does provide information on a lot of places > what they actually are, what kind of sights/things to do are there...etc
I think the easy access to the internet will play an ever increasing role in travel but what happens if you arrive somewhere without internet or you're unsure how to get to the internet, it's dark, all you want to do is go to a hostel and crash out. You can just take out your guidebook and find out whats going on. You may have decided to go somewhere on a whim, without research and can't find the internet. There is also the issue that some people don't have an iPod/Phone or Laptop and if they do have one at home, they may not want to travel with it. It's good to get away from facebook and e-mail for a while so why bring all that with you? There are probably quite a lot of scenarios when i guidebook comes into it's own.
I'm not even a very big fan of guidebooks and tend to use the internet most of the time. I just thought the above was worth considering. I did find LP China to be invaluable for the month i was there.
I haven't seen a new edition of either book in a few years.
I used to like the fact that the guides were written by people who lived in and knew the countries well. It's exactly that first hand and in depth knowledge that attracts me to a guidebook. I like knowing what the writer liked or didn't about a place, I look for opinion.
The newer method of hiring writers is to get some recent university grads who can write a decent paragraph and to pay them small money to go around getting prices of hotels and bus station info.
I wish to know what the special foods are or what some helpfull phrases are or why a town is the way it is, the kinds of things that can only be learned through spending time.
When I compare info on forums or Wikitravel, to LP, Rough Guides, or Travelfish the reader based content comes up lacking. Some real gems, and also lots of uninformed stereotypes. A good writer never guesses, or extrapolates from what is already known. The info is often dated, but it's bankable.
There will always be a market for travel guide books (as long as we continue to have printed matter to hold in our hands). They answer a certain need, I think. The quality of writing and reportage varies widely, of course (i.e., Frommers vs. LP).
Typically, heading for somewhere I've never been before, I start with a guidebook that appeals to me and augment that with information from various websites and other sources. Among these is also travel literature (as opposed to guidebooks). People writing about "the kinds of things that can only be learned through spending time", as Somsai mentioned.