I’ve been writing travel guides for over thirty years now, and have had many little adventures during that time — some of which are recounted on these pages.
Now Comes the Biggest Adventure of All!
The entire world of travel guides is changing completely, almost overnight, from pages printed on paper to interactive digital files kept constantly up to date and delivered via the internet or cellular phone system to such hand-held devices as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader, Samsung’s Galaxy — and most notably for travelers, Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
Are these just a digitized version of traditional guidebooks? They could be, and unfortunately some are. But that’s missing the point. Those who create them are re-inventing the whole idea of travel guides to take advantage of exciting new possibilities. Here’s an example of how this might work:
Check This Out!
Let’s say you’re walking down the street in a strange city, not sure of what’s there, what to visit next, or even how to get to it. You simply pull out your handy i-Phone (or other such device), open the application (“app”) for that town, and browse. For every attraction there’s an interactive entry, complete with photos and a live Google map that can pinpoint the exact spot you want, fill the whole screen, and can be expanded into neighboring streets with the flick of a finger. Want to know what that museum has to offer? Just touch its name and all is revealed. Want to know still more? A touch on the screen over its website address opens that for your perusing.
Hungry? The guide suggests various restaurants. Touch their names and their files open. Another touch takes you to their website, where you can examine a menu, check prices, hours of operation, and more.
Want to know how to get to that out-of-town attraction without a car? It will tell you, and then connect to the correct schedules.
How did we ever do without this?
Recently I’ve begun investigating just how best to use this technology to present my travel information. Some early observations are:
A few months ago I purchased a Kindle, the model with both 3G and WiFi connectivity, and downloaded several travel guides into it. The Kindle is great because its e-ink screen is easy to read under almost all light conditions, the unit is lightweight and small enough to carry easily, and connects to the internet over both cellular and WiFi systems. Photos and maps, however, are in black-and-white only, and have a very limited range of tones. So far, the maps that I’ve seen on it are taken from the printed book versions of the guides, making them quite difficult to read. This could be overcome by creating special maps with larger type and more contrast. If I decide to put my guidebooks on the Kindle, I will certainly draw new maps. The reading material is sold by Amazon.
Recently I acquired an Apple iPod Touch, which is quite similar to their iPhone except that you can’t make calls from it, and its connectivity to the internet is by WiFi only. This is not a really serious drawback as once text and images are downloaded there is no need for a net connection. And it is much, much cheaper. The beauty of this device, and of the iPhone, is its tiny size. It can easily be carried in a shirt pocket, yet the text, photos, and maps are entirely readable. Apple’s iPad is a bit larger and heavier, but still easy to carry as you go about exploring. Travel guides and other books, plus music, are sold on Apple’s iTunes store. A good selection of recent travel guides is available online through Sutro Media. The photo on the left is of me holding my new toy as it displays a European travel website.
Now I must get to work! More will follow as things develop. Stay tuned.
SO, just what Little Adventure am I up to now in 2012? Why, just the most challenging one of them all! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT