That’s a question a friend asked me recently as I was seen toting stacks of travel guides in preparation of my vacation. For that brief moment I had no answer. My friend espouses online resources through travel forums and even personal blogs of other travelers to plan her trips. True enough, I too rely on online resources ranging from trip planning and organization tools, to online hotel booking, social food review platforms to suss out the good stuff… so, why do I still borrow and read paper travel guidebooks?
Fundamentally, the information is reliable, albeit possibly outdated and only appealing to the mainstream. Travel guidebooks are mostly published yearly, and ranges from those catered to shoestring budgets and luxury travel. It is the first thing I reach for when going to a new country because it is a manageable amount of information- try Googling “things to do in New York City” and you can begin to understand my inability to deal with information deluge (bad librarian). I narrow down to some places and activities of interest, and then I turn to the web for peer-to-peer reviews, recommendations, and then some for my hipster tendencies for the obscure pop-up locales.
Worldwide, publishers have reported decline in travel guidebook sales, sparking discussions of whether the paper guidebook is dead (this and this), and what of the future of these publications. This discussion is not unlike that of e-books and p-books. For every travel guidebook there are probably about 100 travel blogs or more. I’m of the opinion that, like some shady self-published e-books, many blogs of this nature are an exercise in vanity. To rely wholly on information presented there is risky; folks too lazy to cross-reference should steer away. Call me oldschool, I still believe in editors and publishing houses.
Since I’m a librarian, I should promote our library resources. Our travel guidebooks are shelved and catalogued as a popular category recognizable from the airplane icon on the spine. Apart from travel guidebooks, we do house travelogues frequently found under the call number 910, in the General section, close to Geography. Gems from this section often include mountain climbing maps and guides (but mountaineering as a sport and activity is found in our Recreation popular category section), as well as candid travelogues such as Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?.
Why do you still read travel guidebooks? Share with us your views.