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Why the Return of Frommers Guidebooks is a Big Deal

Besides my review of Frommer's "France Color Complete Guide." permit me to share my own opinionated view of how monumental it is for the Frommers to get these guidebooks out.



After looking over the new France and Spain books, I had some advice for Pauline Frommer on what to include in future editions—I told her to include a little bio page about the Frommers, their history and what they are doing now. She responded very politely and told me that real estate in books is valuable. Basically, I took it as her saying there was no space for bragging—and that really sums up the Frommers well. There's to be no wasted space in a guidebook travelers need. The back story, though, of how these new Complete Guides came to be is incredible.


Arthur Frommer totally revolutionized travel to Europe for Americans. Not only were the "Europe on $5 a Day" and Frommers succeeding guidebooks helpful and useful, they also extolled the virtues of budget travel, and why the experience would be valuable. Meeting locals, staying where Europeans stay, going to locally-popular restaurants, and packing light are just some of the ideas that got into American travel culture because of Arthur. Frommer showed how European travel was possible for middle -class Americans and even poorer ones.


Throughout the years, Frommer's  changed ownership and expanded to various destinations around the world. But the  original budget focus and passion for travel was still there. Arthur's daughter, Pauline Frommer, inherited her father's passion for travel and his work ethic .She's a great writer and researcher in her own right and came out with a line of guidebooks of her own for Frommers while it was owned by John Wiley's.


Fast forward though to the last few years. Wiley's owned Frommers turned into a vastly different company then what Arthur had started . In my opinion, the budget focus was all but gone, and it seemed they no longer wanted to be in the travel guidebook business; the whole travel guidebook industry in general was hurting. It appeared to me that Wiley's was neglecting many aspects of the company: the website, guidebook updates, social media sites and more. That was the state it was in when Wiley sold Frommer's to Google. Google decided to not publish guidebooks anymore and just use the existing info in reviews on other Google sites. They also wanted the Frommer's followers on various social media sites.


And then, suddenly, it was announced the Frommers had bought back the company from Google last year, and this hard task of rebuilding would be ahead of them. It was basically starting over. User forum posts were gone, social media accounts had to be restarted,etc. And the guidebook business had to be reinvented. Within a short period though,some guidebooks were back and this fall they will have over 56 titles coming out. It's a remarkable return.


To see more about Arthur Frommer's remarkable influence on travel, see this interview with Britain's Daily Mail, where this picture of Arthur and baby Pauline appeared.


And to read the " Review of Latest "Frommers France Guide" click HERE



Images (4)
  • Pauline at the LA Travel Show
  • Arthur Frommer and Pauline
  • New France And Spain "Color Complete Guides": New
  • Europe on $5 Day

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A thought about guidebooks: They started, really, as travel diaries of people who had happened to travel somewhere, for one reason or another—but not just for travel. De Toqueville comes to mind, and others after. Of course, these books all had a point of view!


Many of the modern guidebook series don't really seem to have that, at least not a clear guiding philosophy. Rather, they tend to be comprehensive tomes—useful but not endearing. I always thought one of the best qualities of the original $5 a Day and its successors was what you've pointed out: the advocacy for travel as something open to all, or nearly all, and something that helped people grow, not just relax or "be there."


I've felt a return to some of that in the new Frommer EasyGuide series, where authors are recognized and their points of view are showing a bit...I hope this will also animate these new guides!

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

Last year a lot of people were lamenting the death of Frommers Guidebooks and the industry. Now that we have the Frommers  back  producing the guides , I  hope people will support them robustly.


Rick Steves had a nice piece on Facebook last year on how he thought the industry might change,but not go away . Time will tell .I , like PHeymont  stated above,want to see those points of view from authors and travelers.

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

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