Travel Guides In The Digital Age

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Since the world turned digital many things have changed. Music went from being stored on records to CD, film from VHS to DVD, and now television has gone from analogue to digital signal. Books, too, are beginning to succumb to the effects of technological progress, not least in the form of Kindle and its ilk – portable digital book devices which store downloaded books inside them.

However, the thing I wish to focus on is the validity of travel guides in the digital age. I don’t raise this point in relation to technology like Kindle, but rather as a point in relation to the nature of the internet. Today it is possible to get a huge amount of information from the internet, and perhaps one of the most freely available information sources on the web is on the topic of travel.

Every country wants to promote itself on the global marketplace to encourage tourism and this means more and more officially sponsored websites are popping up which provide all manner of detailed information for a visit to the locale. Japan provides one excellent example of exactly this sort of website. However, alongside these there are also unofficial, but equally detailed, guides being provided by those who wish to make money through advertising on their website. And then there is the Wiki Travel guide – the travel equivalent of Wikipedia.

Wherever you want to travel in the world you can find out about it on the internet at the press of a button. In minutes you can have all the fundamental knowledge you’ll need for visiting any place, anywhere, any time. So where does this leave the travel guide? Is it an outdated type of book?

Simply put, I say no. There are a host of reasons why a travel guide is still an excellent purchase. You may be able to get your information online, but can you vouch for its credibility as much as say, a Fodor’s or Dorling Kindersley guide book? Does it have the same authority? If comparing to a government sponsored site then there’s also the matter of, for want of a better phrase, government propaganda – all the over-hyping that will go into trying to sell you a place to visit.

Beyond this there is also the matter of having reference material available at all times. Checking up on where you want to go online is one thing, but what if you want to change plans mid-way through the day and don’t have another source of information to consult? This is just one practical reason to having a travel guide, but there are others. Knowing that the book is written by somebody who has actually been there, and that recommendations are on good authority, also comes in handy. And usually a travel guide provides a depth of information which you wouldn’t so easily be able to access on an immediate basis simply by searching the internet.

These are just some of the reasons that travel guides are as valuable as they ever were if you’re planning a trip abroad, and on this basis it looks as if this humble cornerstone of world-travel and holiday-making is firmly here to stay.
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