Guidebooks go mobile

iPhone running Google Maps. Photo: Marcin Wichary / Flickr Creative Commons

iPhone running Google Maps. Photo: Marcin Wichary / Flickr Creative Commons

Looks like the guidebooks are heading for the really small screen: mobile devices. With the soaring popularity of the iPhone and other smartphones, guidebook publishers are moving to take advantage of new platforms, as this AP article describes: Guidebooks adapt to mobile download era.

However, they are running into a common problem in the tech world: compatibility. Mobile networks may not offer the same availability of apps from country to country. The cost of roaming is also a major dealbreaker, which can cause sudden spikes in phone costs.

The guidebooks may also be playing catch-up to popular websites like WikiTravel, VirtualTourist, and others that already offer similar information online. Will guidebooks on mobiles find an audience?  Or are they doomed to be left behind?

Do you prefer to get your information from the printed page or an electronic screen? Or how do you mix the two?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | June 25, 2010
Category: Travel Guidebooks, Travel News, Travel Tech

5 Responses to “Guidebooks go mobile”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    It was only a matter of time. Some people do prefer the printed version because you can write on the pages or tear them out and keep them. This way you can pass your guidebook on to other travelers you meet while you travel. Of course, having a guidebook at your fingertips can seem more efficient. It’s a matter of preference…

  2. Jeff Pruett Says:

    I have a BlackBerry through ATT. They offer an unlimited international data planning with no roaming fees. I use that to put all my travel info on (Best BlackBerry app for travel? Worldmate!).
    I don’t tend to take a lot of printed material with me. Any internet computer can get me my saved documents.

  3. Dick Jordan Says:

    I took my iPhone 3Gs with me to Europe last September and downloaded the Kindle version of Rick Steve’s London guidebook to it. I also took along the print version of Rick’s book so I could determine the benefits of using each.

    Since the Wimbledon tennis tournament is going on as I type this comment, I’ll use terms from that sport to compare the electronic and print versions of that guidebook.

    Portability: Advantage iPhone

    Quickness in finding information: Advantage print version

    Links to Web sites: Game, set and match to iPhone

    Always at the ready: Advantage iPhone

    Purchase price: (including iPhone)Game, set and match to print version

    Replacement cost: Game, set and match to print version

    Readability: Advantage print version

    Battery life: Game, set and match to print version

    Championship trophy goes to: A tie. Each version has its own unique benefits. If you are only visiting London during your European trip, take both. If you’re hopscotching your way across the Continent, lugging several printed guidebooks will be a pain in your backpack, and taking mostly e-versions will be more practical.

    (For advice on taking your iPhone to Europe, see this post on my blog:

  4. Mark Tisdale Says:

    I’m not quite ready to move to an full fledged ebook guidebook just yet, but I do think the time is coming. I do carry my iphone with me. It’s awesome for email etc. where there’s wifi. I even updated my blog with it. But I don’t think I would enjoy trying to read a full guide on the small screen. Maybe something more iPad sized I’d consider it, but I really don’t want to tote anything that big with me. The phone is perfect because I keep it on me and don’t have to worry about leaving it behind. I see a lot of people in hostels with netbooks and that’s my first though on them, where are you keeping that during the day when you’re not in the hostel? I suspect for every person I saw dropping them in a safe, another was buried in a pack upstairs.

    The main thing I’d like on a phone while traveling is maps and getting around info. Map wise, if I have somewhere I want to go, I just take a screenshot of the map before I leave a wifi spot. And I have downloaded language apps so I can have some key phrases. So, I can see a market for maybe some very general guides, full maps that you don’t need a signal/wifi to get and key items you need – sort of a minimalist guide to X city/country/whatever.

    My big gripe with ebooks and the like still is I don’t want to buy something that is tied to a given reader. But I’d be less concerned with guidebooks, though, because likely in 10 years I’m not going to have it anymore anyway as it would be hopelessly out of date anyway.