Frommer's New EasyGuides: A Future for Print

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Over the past past year, there’s been a lot of musing among travelers and in the travel industry about whether the day of the printed travel guide is over, in the face of vast stores of on-line information and smartphone apps.

 

Certainly some people are betting against it—Google, which bought and then dumped Frommers.com and the Frommer’s guidebook line, for one. BBC sold Lonely Planet to a reclusive millionaire at a loss of over $100 million. And many of the remaining publishers have been either cutting back the number of offerings or concentrating on online guides and apps.

 

But the reports of the industry’s death may be premature. Frommer’s, now back in the hands of Arthur (who practically invented the mass guidebook category) and Pauline Frommer, is betting there’s a future in guidebooks that both look forward at what other resources are available and back to the fundamentals of what a guidebook does.

 

By that, I mean that a good guidebook provides a general background about a city or country or region, providing an overall view that enables travelers to flesh out a trip with additional information from online sources—often provided by the same publisher. That’s an important role, because there is so much information available on the web, and so much of it is pitching or selling particular products or ideas, that no novice traveler—and probably not many experienced ones—can make real sense of it without help.

 

The new Frommer series, published as “Arthur Frommer’s EasyGuides” (although edited by Pauline Frommer) are smaller, lighter, and cheaper than most have been lately. I’m sitting here with three recent Frommer Guides, the latter two both written by Margie Rynn, an American in Paris:

  • Paris 2010, 424 pages, lots of color pictures, heavy paper, and $19.99
  • Pauline Frommer’s Paris: spend less see more, 365 pages, $16.99
  • And the brand-new EasyGuide to Paris 2014, 256 pages, no color pictures, $10.95

 

The books are all the same size, varying only in thickness and weight. And it is a big difference; the 2010 Paris weighs nearly twice as much as the EasyGuide. I’ve pretty much given up carrying guidebooks; I use them for research before going and compile my own notes, but this one is pocketable, and will make the next trip with me.

 

Another important aspect of the new series—and one that’s clearly important in the Frommers’ plans, is a return to emphasizing budget options. Over the Wiley years, the Frommer books seemed further and further away from the original $5-a-day-everyone-can-travel concept. Pauline Frommer’s previous series placed more emphasis on the less-well-heeled, and the new books carry on that tradition. The Paris 2010 book’s shopping section focuses on high-end fashion, cosmetics and antiques; the new book has some of the same boutiques—but it also has a reasonably comprehensive to affordable chain fashion stores. The restaurant selections also follow the pattern; compared to the older book, there are far more inexpensive and moderate restaurants listed.

 

Despite its smaller size, the new book doesn’t seem to slight any category; it has up-to-date information on clubs and bars, hotels and restaurants (although it missed some of my favorites). Some of the best information is in useful shaded boxes sprinkled throughout the book—in the music section, a pullout on concerts in churches; in the shopping section a quick summary of what the different affordable chains carry; a quick advice piece on kids in restaurants including a list of kid-friendly restaurants, and so forth. For those used to an index in the back: Don't make my mistake and think there's none--it's integrated with the chapter headings at the front.

 

My general feel is that it is written in a lighter tone and with tighter editing—omitting extra words rather than any information. It will be useful to me (and I’ve been to Paris 7 or 8 times) and it would be the first book I’d offer a friend going for the first time. If the rest of the series lives up to this standard, guidebooks will be around a long time yet.

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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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Beautiful Rideau Lakes In Ontario Canada - and me living in borrowed clothes to enjoy it !

 

1-GetAttachment5...and that's me on the balcony looking out ! I said I liked Cold but that Canadian Cold is so cruel !!

 

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Like GarryRF, I'd rather be in wide open places.  But that said, I do love snippets of big cities.  A week at a time is about enough to satisfy my need for hustle and bustle for awhile.  

 

I know others can't live without the constant adrenaline rush of a city.  The beauty of a free world is that everyone can pick what they want.

Over the years I've posted many Budget Travel ideas to the Fommers Site.

But they were all ripped apart by people who've never tried them or would even consider them.

So I'm pleased to see the focus has been brought back to Europe on $5 a day - and up !

I know Paul - I'm just being a bad traveller !

It's like folks go to France and complain that Parisians don't smile!

But they do when they know you!

I just find big cities much the same.

Like Havana is the same as any other overgrown City in the Caribbean!

Crumbling Spanish Architecture. Dominican Republic is another good example.

I must be getting Claustrophobic Paul !

Give me the wide open spaces of Delaware State Park and I'm in heaven.

Some days I have the whole Park to myself.

Solitude and Nature. Paradise !

 

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1-CIMG1481         DELAWARE STATE PARK - OCTOBER

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Garry...I hope you'll give London a chance again sometime. Some of the things you're saying about London are a lot like the very popular (but totally untrue) things people say about us New Yorkers...

A review for London ?

Haven't been there for 40 years Paul.

Really don't like big Cities and the "too busy to care attitude of people who live there"

It's just my personal opinion.

On the Tube Train into London people don't make eye-contact or talk to strangers.

Here in Liverpool you'll be in conversation with 3 or 4 strangers and share a few laughs on the journey !

Someone falls on the street here ( and most of Northern England ) and folks rush to help.

London they step over you.

Rant over !!

But I do object when people review London and its prices and then equate that with England. I'd love to read it Paul and offer a comment or two. I can be impartial !

There were a lot of "kick the Brits" comments in the last England Frommers. My favourite quote was "In England even a boiled egg tastes of Mutton Fat" plus a few more!

 

I think the series will improve, GarryRF.  Unlike Wiley's and Google, who really are just business guys who weren't passionate about travel, Pauline and Arthur do care about the experience.  The quality of a guidebook depends largely on the author/researcher, but good editorial direction is very important.

 

Passion about something matters.  Clearly you have it about your home and your travels.  We hope our readers find this website has it, too.  We love travel related stuff!

I told Pauline Frommer that I was disappointed with the Frommers' England Guide.

She said I'd be Happy with the new Frommers' London (not England) so I wait with baited breath for a read of the new issue.

What great news to hear that a publisher recognizes the need for practical budget travel information.   I can spend ages on the Internet trying to work out a basic trip scheme.  When a location is new to me, I need that overview in hand.  It does me no good to read that the Paris' Luxembourg gardens are wonderful when I am trying to work out how long I can afford to be in Paris.   It does me no good to know that there are marvelous chambre d'hotes in the Ile de Cite when what I need is a couple of clear maps of the local transportation system .  In other words, I need a guidebook that guides, not sells.   Thanks to Frommer's for realizing that Indie travelers need useful information in hand.

That's a great review Paul, and I'm delighted to see Frommers guides back in the hands of the Frommers.

 

I like their simple "Day By Day" series and this reboot of their guidebooks sounds very helpful and useful.  I still like to travel with a guidebook in hand (though I research the trip beforehand).

 

Thanks for the thoughtful review.

I'm really excited part of the focus of these guides  is back to budget travel.And budget travel is more than about saving money.

I think during the Wiley ownership days of Frommers, they tried to be all things to all people,and had too many destination guides. More focused, quality ,and passion, is just what the Guidebooks need.

 

 

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