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What is the Future of Printed Guidebooks?

I love reading guidebooks and use them extensively in trip planning and while on the road. However, they are a pain to travel with since they are bulky and weighty. In the past I have resorted to copying just the pages I needed or even cutting out the sections of the book that did not pertain to my trip, leaving the rest of it intact.

I am intrigued now by electronic media, both written and audio, as perhaps a solution to this printed guidebook issue. Especially with a smartphone and a laptop / iPad, there are many more options than just a few years ago. A case in point is the fact that Lonely Planet offers many guidebooks as pdf files. These can easily be downloaded and transferred to my iPhone, iPad and laptop. Although it is usually cheaper to buy the entire book, I can just download the chapters of the areas I will be seeing. All the information is then readily available, although I will most likely still print the map pages when I try this on my next trip.

There are also more and more mp3 audio files that can make taking a city walking tour or visiting a museum a much more memorable experience. Rick Steves is one of those who offers these for no cost and I plan to use them on some European trips I have planned in 2011.

I am still not sold on these electroinc alternaties as total replacements for the printed word but will be experimenting with them during future trips to determine how viable they are as guide alternatives. Curious to know if anyone else has any feedback in this area.