The travel publishing industry has known a lot of changes during the last decades. If the second half of the 20th century represented a booming period for the travel books, nowadays we are living in the digital era dominated by free online resources. Thus, sales on the traveling niche of the hard print market have constantly gone down, while the number of websites providing free travel guides has increased exponentially. Besides what the interested parties would argue, there are pros and cons to both types of travel information.
Researched and updated information
Publishing houses representatives use this argument in order to defend and advertise their products. Indeed, behind any reliable travel book there is at least one year of research. This includes traveling to the recommended holiday destinations, getting informed on the landmarks and things to do, living the traveler’s experience, checking the accommodation, dining and visiting options and prices as well as researching historical and cultural facts. Despite the positive aspect (comprehensive information), there is a downside to all this: the time spent with research and the months the publishing process takes. This can make even the latest edition be out of date.
On the other side, free travel guides published via blogs and personal websites do not require so much preparation time. As their posts usually focus on a narrow aspect, the research time is considerably shorter. Moreover, they can be published within a few minutes, once the content has been written.
There is no doubt that nowadays a website or iPhone app is more attractive to the general public than a hard cover book. Although this is not a positive phenomenon overall, manufacturers and distributors have to adapt themselves to the contemporary consumers’ demands. Some publishing houses have understood this trend a while ago and have doubled their efforts. They continue to issue hard print destination guides, but they have also built highly informative and media enriched websites for their digital clients.
Credibility of recommendations
At this point, opinions go both ways. There are those travelers whose trust goes towards the hard cover travel materials and there are also those who prefer to get their travel information from online resources. While the first group argues that travel books are written by experts, the latter one rely more on fellow travelers’ recommendations. Actually, both sides can be wrong.
First of all, free travel guides available online are often compiled by a team of specialists coming from different fields and having high profile backgrounds. Secondly, opinions expressed on forums and blog posts by the so-called fellow travelers can be a disguised positive or negative marketing technique.
Therefore, there is no straight answer to this dilemma. While we must admit the authority of hard print travel books and we certainly acknowledge the impressive research efforts behind their creation, we have to realize that free travel guides come with their share of advantages. They are available in an instant; they are media-enriched; they provide updated information at no charge; they don’t add weight to our backpack; they include personal experience actually lived by a fellow traveler.